Take A Trip Through The Pepper-Verse With These Alternatives To The Good Doctor
by Rudy Sanchez on 10/20/2022 | 7 Minute Read
Dr Pepper is one of the oldest and most beloved soda brands in the US. Created by pharmacist Charles Alderton and first served in 1885, Dr Pepper’s secret recipe consisting of 23 ingredients has quenched the thirst for something a little different from colas and fruit-flavored sodas.
But why are there so many “fake” Dr Peppers? Unlike cola or fruit flavors, there is no generic term for Dr Pepper’s taste. Alt-peppers can’t use a trademarked name to express their soda's identity. Because of that, they have to get creative in describing their private-label drink just enough to let consumers know that it’s an approximation of the original without stepping on anyone’s intellectual property.
The good doctor has inspired many impersonators among private labels and other soda brands thanks to its immense popularity. Due to the consolidation of retailers, many private-label alt-peppers have permanently retired, but there are still dozens of examples on store shelves.
Below, we've collected a few standout alt-peppers, and we've even introduced the OFFICIAL Dieline doctor's stethoscope rating system because someone had to do it, dammit.
Whoop Whoop! Juggalos, fans of Insane Clown Posse, have a fondness for the soda brand Faygo and are known to spray each other with its fizzy offerings at shows.
The label design fits Faygo’s packaging system well but isn’t even at the top of its class within the brand’s dozens of flavors, like the retro-cool Arctic Sun and Cotton Candy.
Dr. Bob is a private-label alt-pepper distributed in chains like Giant Food and Stop and Shop made by Ahold manufacturing. The current design is a bit abstract, with wavy lines and bubbles in a deep red palette.
Of course, naming a soda “Bob” seems like an odd choice, something not lost on the shitposters on iFunny, where the soda has been meme-fied. Still, Dr. Bob sounds like a chiropractor with a strip mall practice and is definitely not a real doctor. It’s also not a real pepper, so it tracks. Sorry, Bob.
Sodastream machines are a great way to reduce waste by making fizzy water at home. In addition to the gas dispensing machines, Sodastream offers concentrated flavor drops, including its alt-pepper, Dr. Pete.
This alt-doctor doesn’t have the most exciting pepper-inspired packaging, sticking to deep reds and Sodastream’s design system. But it does reduce single-use packaging, including plastic bottles. Dr. Pete also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by negating the transportation of water.
Dr. Pete feels like the right name for Sodastream’s alt-pepper; the sustainable pepper would 100% be named Pete.
Dr. Pibb/Pibb Xtra
In response to the popularity of Dr Pepper in the south, Coca-Cola introduced an alt-pepper that we now know as Pibb Xtra in 1972. Coca-Cola even went so far as to test the new soda in and around Dr Pepper’s Texas birthplace in Waco.
Coke originally called its alt-pepper “Peppo,” which they would later change thanks to a trademark infringement suit from Dr Pepper. Of course, Coca-Cola changed the name to Mr. Pibb, but the Atlanta-based soda company discontinued it in 2001, changing the formula to a spicier flavor and relaunching it as Pibb Xtra.
Pibb Xtra’s label design is bolder than Dr Pepper’s, reinforcing Pibb’s spicier and “extra” flavor.
Great Value, Walmart’s house brand, offers its own take on Dr Pepper called Dr Thunder. The color palette resembles Dr Pepper’s, and the wordmark contains a clever lightning bolt. The bolt, combined with the background burst, gives Dr Thunder much more dynamism than most of Great Value’s other packaging.
The best part of this alt-pepper is the name, which sounds like a Miami-based cosmetic surgeon or a pro wrestling character, and I’m here for it.
In the UK, supermarket chain Aldi switches things up for the title for its alt-pepper, going for a more pedagogical take. Professor Peppy’s label design shares very little resemblance to the original, and the background features splats of bright colors. The wordmark feels a bit scholarly too.
When soda brand Virgil’s set out to create its own version of Dr Pepper, it stuck to handcrafting its alt-pepper the same way it makes all its sodas; in small batches, using non-GMO ingredients, no artificial flavors, and naturally sweetened.
Packaging is pleasant, with smiling kids sitting across each on tree stumps in front of a barrel while being served big mugs of soda. Dr. Better’s packaging is similar to the rest of Virgil’s line of sodas and goes with brown as a primary color rather than a dark or cherry red like most alt-peppers.
The name makes sense for the brand, as Virgil’s positioned itself as a soda brand with better ingredients.
Kroger’s take on the doc goes from physician to physicist with a pun. The Fizzicist’s packaging doesn’t feature folks working out complex formulas on a giant blackboard or other science tropes but a black-and-white old western general store with a line of folks behind the counter. The logo uses a wonderful script type that adds more old-school cool.
The old-timey look also reinforces The Fizzicist’s real cane sugar recipe, just like they used to make soda in the old west.
Olipop makes better-for-you sodas featuring prebiotics purported to aid in digestive health. Olipop’s alt-pepper, Doctor Goodwin, might taste similar to the original pepper, but Olipop doesn’t keep its blend of ingredients a secret.
The label features metal bottle caps in the center and uses a dark red hue to signal its pepperiness. What's more, it nicely fits with the rest of the Olipop packaging system.
In 1991, Pepsi-affiliated bottler Southeastern Bottling Company of Arizona came up with a soda to compete with Dr Pepper. The resulting beverage lands between the original Dr and a cherry soda. The company named it “Doc Holiday” after the famous Tombstone lawman. However, they intentionally dropped the second “l” in Holiday to avoid potential lawsuits from the estate of the noted toothpuller and gunslinger.
The label is simplistic, but its Tombstone-themed design is also effective and pretty cool. A mustachioed man in a bowler hat features on the center of the front of the can with a long rifle underneath. The tagline, “have a real blast,” is fun and adds to the old west theme.
Doc Holiday is hard to find outside of southeastern Arizona, including online. The bottler has no website for itself or the soda, making it a super regional alt-pepper.
Shasta is a value-forward soda brand that offers an alternative to popular offerings from more prominent international brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Shasta also offers its take on Dr Pepper called Dr. Shasta.
Like other Shasta flavors, Dr Shasta’s label is wonderfully vintage, a mid-century-like throwback that beats the original in the looks department.
Rather than being vintage cool, dr. Perfy is the first alt-pepper and known soda to utilize an NFT on its label, combining the future with a classic taste.
The web 3.0-inspired dr. Perfy features Doodles #3966, owned by Perfy founder Vasa Martinez. The overall label design is fun and playful, a great approach to soda, which is supposed to be a treat. Like other Perfy flavors, dr. Perfy is a better-for-you alternative to traditional sodas, with only 20 calories and 4 grams of sugar.