Starry Soda And Sierra Mist Are Not The Same Thing

The drink that most people know as Sierra Mist has always had a rocky brand identity. Distractify explains that it was originally created as a replacement for another soda called Slice, and through the years Sierra Mist remained in constant competition with other lemon-lime sodas like 7UP and Sprite but always fell short in terms of sales and popularity. This led Pepsi to change the product's name to "Mist Twst" in 2016, but then in 2018 turned it back to Sierra Mist. When the company announced in 2023 that Sierra Mist would be discontinued and Starry would be taking over, most customers believed Pepsi had just slapped another new name on the bottle.

In reality, Starry and Sierra Mist are different (though similar) products. Like Sierra Mist, Starry is a caffeine-free, lemon-lime-flavored soda, but its recipe is not the same. But, consumers seem to agree that the flavor is closer to Sprite than it is to Sierra Mist.

The biggest difference between Starry and Sierra Mist

Most of the ingredients listed on the Starry and Sierra Mist labels are identical. Both drinks contain citric acid, carbonated water, "natural flavor," and the same chemical preservatives. But while the source of sweetness in Sierra Mist is cane sugar, Starry uses high fructose corn syrup instead. You probably wouldn't expect this to make much of a difference, but, as Milk Street explains, sugar actually has a distinct flavor. High fructose corn syrup by contrast only adds sweetness but is otherwise flavorless, allowing the lemon-lime to shine through.

Starry's more pronounced lemon-lime flavor can also be credited to the higher amount of citric acid in the recipe. In Sierra Mist, it's listed as the fourth ingredient, but in Starry, it's bumped up to the third. Pepsi told CNN that compared to Sierra Mist, Starry has "higher citrus flavors that are true to fruit and more aromatic," which could likely mean that the composition of the "natural flavor" ingredient had also been modified.

Why Sierra Mist was replaced with Starry

The main reason Pepsi replaced Sierra Mist with Starry was that the former's popularity had been dropping steadily between 2018 and 2023. To get people excited to drink its lemon-lime soda again, Pepsi decided to focus its efforts on attracting a new, young demographic, or rather "a generation of irreverent optimists," according to its press release. The company seems to be courting a new audience through its modern logo, TikTok presence, and the Gen-Z-coded slogan, "Starry Hits Different".

As the 2016 name change to "Mist Twst" proved, however, a rebrand alone isn't often enough to attract a new customer base; the soda's recipe would have to be improved too, and that's exactly what Pepsi ended up doing. "There's a significant opportunity now to give people a choice in an area that's been dominated by one brand for years," the company wrote in its press release. In other words, Pepsi reworked the Sierra Mist recipe to be more like the leading brand, leveling the playing field for itself by giving customers a lemon-lime soda with a flavor already proven to be likable. So while Starry and Sierra Mist may not be the same thing, perhaps that's for the better.