After a long, hard battle, Pepsi has declared itself the winner of the highly coveted title of “best soft drink to eat with pizza.” And there’s science to back it up! At least, according to Pepsi. I was doubtful at first, too, but I actually think there may be a nugget (or slice?) of truth to Pepsi’s broad claim.
Here’s a fact I just learned: Pepsi may take a backseat to its rivals at fast-food burger chains, but it absolutely dominates when it comes to pizza. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Pepsi CMO Todd Kaplan said, “The perfect pairing [of pizza and Pepsi] is served at over 70% of national pizza locations across the country.” If true, that would mean that of the over 75,000 pizza shops in the US, roughly 52,600 serve Pepsi (I did some math for y’all because that’s how much I care).
But where does science come in? It actually relates to the science of pairing wine with food. Acidic wine is said to go well with fatty foods like cheese, butter, and olive oil (the acid cuts through the fat), as well as with acidic foods like tomato sauce and ceviche (otherwise the acidic food can make the drink taste flat). In this case, it actually makes sense that a more acidic/citrusy soda like Pepsi would pair well with pizza, which is both rich and oily (cheese) and acidic (tomato sauce). So maybe it really is science? As Kaplan explained, “Pepsi provides a bite of acidity that’s the perfect complement to the tomato sauce and cheese—two main ingredients of pizza.”
Personally, I’m not picky when it comes to cola. Restaurants can put any variety of syrupy, fizzy brown liquid in front of me and I’ll drink it without even knowing the difference. But maybe it’s time for me to do a blind taste test to put these scientific claims to the test. Because while I may not be able to always trust my taste buds, I may be able to trust them more than Pepsi’s literal head of marketing.