Pitch Black II: Pepsi's market research travesty

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I?m a consumer whore. I won?t argue with that. I?ll buy pretty much anything if it?s shiny, extreme, new, or improved. I have severe gadget lust and I gobble down energy drinks like a good consumer should. I even bought more than fifty dollars? worth of Mountain Dew and Pepsi in the hope that I?d win an Xbox 360 in their giveaway.

But even I have limits. Recently, Pepsi released a limited-edition offshoot of Mountain Dew called Pitch Black II. Yes, it?s a sequel. Last year saw the short-lived release of Mountain Dew Pitch Black, a grape-flavored variant of the venerable ambiguously citrus, caffeine-packed yellow soda.

Pitch Black tasted like an unholy alliance of grape soda and Dew that should never have graced the Earth. It tasted like someone had spiked the Mountain Dew supply vats with Dimetapp. The soda was off the market in a few months and no one really said anything. Mountain Dew Pitch Black went out with a whimper ? a mediocre, grape-flavored whimper.

I thought I had heard the end of this lackluster Dew. I was wrong. When Star Wars Episode III came out in May, 7-Eleven launched the Darth Dew Slurpee, a purple slurpee based on Pitch Black. Not only was this a lame tie-in to start with, but it tasted even worse than the soda itself. Imagine sucking cough medicine mixed with slightly bitter slush through a straw and you?d have a pretty good idea what we were dealing with.

The madness doesn?t stop there, though. Oh, no. Not satisfied with one relatively unpopular grape beverage, Pepsi decided to continue the story. Pitch Black II, which hit stores in late August, reformulated the soda with a ?sour bite,? a fact it proudly proclaims on the drink?s gaudy metallic foil packaging.

According to Pepsi?s market research: ?Sour flavors are big right now with teens and young adults, so we added a sour bite to Mountain Dew Pitch Black II.? Sour flavors are big right now? What does that even mean!? It?s not like people are actively seeking out food products with sour tastes. Sure, I mean, everybody loves Sour Patch Kids and green apples. But beyond that, are we really eating anything abnormally sour?

Clearly something is wrong in Pepsi?s Mountain Dew marketing arm. On one hand, the brand has been marketing itself to the ?extreme? youth demographic for ages ? first with extreme sports like skateboarding, and now by associating themselves strongly with gaming, especially Microsoft?s Xbox (made easier by the nuclear green color scheme that the products share).

On the other hand, Mountain Dew keeps hemorrhaging off these alternate flavors, some of which have very little to do with the original Dew. Code Red was introduced a few years ago and has actually managed to stay on the market since then. Live Wire, an orange Dew variant, comes back every summer but then vanishes off the face of the Earth when September rolls around. And now we have Pitch Black, which has shorn off almost all of its Mountain Dew roots and is just an odd, almost black, grape soda.

It would be one thing if these limited editions were at least worth drinking, but in the case of Pitch Black II it?s just not fun to drink. It makes your mouth feel weird. It tastes like a grape Jolly Rancher had a baby with rotten Skittles and bathed it in carbonic acid. I didn?t even think Skittles could get rotten, but apparently Mountain Dew found a way. It?s really quite mind-boggling, when you think about it.

Pitch Black II isn?t really refreshing. It seems like the entire drink has no purpose other than a publicity stunt, but that would be crazy, right? I mean, who has ever heard of a huge international corporation pulling publicity stunts for the hell of it?

Please, Mountain Dew. Stop the insanity. We don?t need a hojillion different limited edition variations. Plain old yellow is just fine. It?s not like there are people collecting each drink and painstakingly preserving their limited-run Code Live Black 17 Mountain Dew Extreme Edition. It?s a freaking soda. They?re a dollar. Get over yourselves.