I Taste Tested 14 Off-Brand Sodas to Find the Best Ones

Updated: Jan. 17, 2024

What Coke copycat is most like the Real Thing? And what about Mountain Dew, Sprite and Dr Pepper doppelgangers? To find out, we sampled all the off-brand sodas we could find.

The most popular brands of soda—Coke, Mountain Dew, Dr Pepper, Sprite—are popular for a reason. But that hasn’t stopped competitors from developing off-brand sodas that try to mimic the originals.

Some of those variations are pretty tasty and develop followings in their own right, like Pepsi or Mello Yello. But others just aren’t as good, like the zillions of Dr Pepper knockoffs that use some loopy variation of “Dr Whoever” in their name.

Here’s a look at four famous soda brands that rule the school, plus reviews of some of the off-brand sodas that compete with them. You might want to save the Dr Thunder for recipes that use soda pop.

Off-Brand Colas

We compared copycat drinks to Coca-Cola for this test, leaving its close competitor Pepsi for another day. (But you can check out our surprising Coke vs. Pepsi taste test, or find out the real difference between Pepsi and Coke.)

Here are the off-brand colas in order of most like Coke to least like Coke.

Signature Select Cola from Safeway

Photo3[4] Off Brand Soda.Gael Cooper for Taste of Home

Regular Coke is a legend for a reason, with its peppery bite and goes-with-everything flavor. The cola from Safeway came the closest to the much-hyped “Real Thing.” It’s a nice blend of peppery, smooth and sweet without even a hint of bitter.

365 Cola from Whole Foods

Off Brand SodaGael Cooper for Taste of Home

Whole Foods has a health-food reputation, but the Amazon-owned grocery chain does stock a few of its own sugary off-brand drinks. This cola was more than acceptable, with a bit of a tang and almost a smoky edge to it.

Big K Cola from Kroger

Off Brand Soda.Gael Cooper for Taste of Home

Big K’s slogan is “sip boldly,” but I found it a little too peppery for real chugging potential. It’s bubbly and smooth, with a hint of vanilla.

Sam’s Cola from Walmart

Off Brand SodaGael Cooper for Taste of Home

Sam’s looks like Coke and smells like Coke, but something was lacking in the taste. I wondered if it had been watered down, since it almost tasted like a mix of club soda and Coke. You probably wouldn’t notice a huge difference on a hot, thirsty day, but it was still my least favorite.

Off-Brand Dr Pepper

Dr Pepper is a maverick soda. What is it supposed to taste like? And what was with the 1960s push to drink hot Dr Pepper? If you’re a true Dr Pepper fan, you probably won’t like any of these substitutes as much as the actual stuff. But this off-brand soda category does win for the most hilariously named knockoffs.

Here are the off-brand Dr Pepper wannabes in order of most like Dr Pepper to least like Dr Pepper.

Dr K from Kroger

 Off Brand SodaGael Cooper for Taste of Home

The first two-liter bottle of Dr K I bought was flat from the start, so I went back to buy a new one. And opening the new one, I wondered if it, too, was flat: Very few bubbles emerged, and there’s no bubbly, almost-makes-you-cough taste. Still, Dr K was mellow and enjoyable, making it my favorite of the Dr Pepper knockoffs.

Signature Select Dr. Dynamite from Safeway

Off Brand Soda.Gael Cooper for Taste of Home

I like to imagine a table full of beverage execs coming up with the copycat names for these. Dr. Dynamite is perhaps the funniest, bringing to mind a mad scientist with a 1970s disco flair. Clear the dance floor for…Doc-tor DY-NO-MITE! This goofily named soda was light and fruity, with a fresh taste, but didn’t satisfy like Dr K.

Dr Thunder from Walmart

Off Brand SodaGael Cooper for Taste of Home

Walmart named its off-brand Dr Pepper “Dr Thunder,” which pairs nicely with its Mountain Dew copycat “Mountain Lightning.” Dr Thunder has a vaguely floral scent and a smooth flavor that unnerved me a little with a slight hint of cough syrup. Maybe they were trying too literally for the “doctor” connection.

Off-Brand Lemon-Lime Sodas

Sprite and its copycats were my least favorite category of this taste test. Sprite itself has a nose-tickling citrus taste that’s the opposite of the colas. But none of the copycats wowed me.

Here are the off-brand sodas standing in for Spite, in order of most like Sprite to least like Sprite.

Signature Select Lemon-Lime Soda from Safeway

Off Brand Soda.Gael Cooper for Taste of Home

Safeway’s version of Sprite was the best, with a sweet smell and smooth taste. I might even choose it over regular Sprite, which tends to remind me of sick days spent home from school. The Safeway people probably don’t want me to mention being sick in such close proximity to their drink review. To be fair, this off-brand soda was the best of a “meh” field. Pair this up with our favorite off-brand foods.

Twist Up from Walmart

Off Brand SodaGael Cooper for Taste of Home

Walmart’s Twist Up plays off the name of another lemon-lime soda, Bubble Up, which is made by the Dad’s Root Beer folks. Its sunny, lemon-meets-lime label was the best of the entire test. But the actual drink was only OK, like slightly peppery citrus water.

365 Lemon-Lime Soda from Whole Foods

Off Brand Soda.Gael Cooper for Taste of Home

Whole Foods only had cola and lemon-lime off-brand sodas, not Mountain Dew or Dr Pepper variations, at least at the two locations I visited. This one smelled the most spicy of all the Sprite variants, but the drink itself lacked a real citrus tang, or much sweetness.

Big K Lemon-Lime Soda from Kroger

Off Brand Soda.Gael Cooper for Taste of Home

Lemons and limes are pretty aggressively flavored fruits. Then why is Kroger’s lemon-lime soda so blah? It lacks a-peel.

Off-Brand Mountain Dew

I can’t help but love Mountain Dew, with its sweet, bright taste and commercials featuring young glossy-haired people who always seem to be splashing into rural swimming holes. Some of the off-brand versions did a passable job at copying this weird and wild flavor.

Here are the off-brand Mountain Dew drinks that we sampled, in order of most like Mountain Dew to least like Mountain Dew.

Big K Citrus Drop from Kroger

 Off Brand Soda.Gael Cooper for Taste of Home

Give Kroger credit for not using the word “mountain” in the drink title. Name aside, this was the best generic version of Mountain Dew, thanks to a sweet smell, a hint of Juicy Fruit gum taste and a fresh punch of citrus.

Mountain Lightning from Walmart

 Off Brand SodaGael Cooper for Taste of Home

Mountain Lightning sounds like something the Dukes of Hazzard crew would cook up in a still out back. It has almost an orangey taste to it, which I appreciated. But overall it lacks the smoothness of Mountain Dew.

Signature Mountain Breeze from Safeway

Off Brand Soda.Gael Cooper for Taste of Home

Mountain Breeze didn’t smell fresh as a mountain breeze should. Instead, an overwhelming artificial aroma drifted out of the can. The drink itself was fine, but a bit bland, and just not as good a copy as the others. We’ve also found the best off-brand Doritos for you.

Next Up: Our name-brand vs. generic cereal taste test.