We Tried Pepsi's New Sierra Mist Replacement, Starry, And It Was Fine

Sierra Mist always seemed like a bit of an also-ran in the lemon-lime soda market. Sure, it might have sold better than 7UP, according to Newsweek, but the soda got trounced by Sprite, which was about six times more popular than Sierra Mist in terms of sales volume (via Today). The brand, which launched in 1999, per CNN, just didn't have the long history and pedigree that its two main competitors did.

Perhaps that's why PepsiCo (Sierra Mist's parent company) has decided to ditch the Sierra Mist brand name and launch Starry, a new lemon-lime soda. The company hopes that this new product will help capture some market share from Keurig Dr Pepper (which owns 7UP) and especially from Sprite's parent company, Coca-Cola. According to the press release announcing Starry, the lemon-lime soda market has been growing in recent years, and Pepsi wants to get a chunk of that expanding pie.

Sierra Mist had a lot of fans, and replacing it with a different soda is bound to ruffle some feathers. We received cans of regular and zero-sugar Starry so we could taste them and see whether the new product justifies killing off Sierra Mist. Keep on reading to see what we thought.

What's in Starry?

Starry has a pretty standard ingredient list for a lemon-lime soda. The regular version contains carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, natural flavor, and several preservatives. The zero-sugar variety has basically the same ingredients except instead of corn syrup, it has a cocktail of three low-calorie sweeteners: aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose.

You might notice that a couple ingredients that are often in soda are not present in either version of Starry: food coloring and artificial flavors. That might please some people who are trying to avoid these ingredients for health reasons. There is some evidence to suggest that food dye may be linked to child hyperactivity or reproductive issues in adults, per Atlas Obscura. Starry is also caffeine-free, so you can drink it at any time of day without worrying that it will keep you up (unless sugar makes you hyper, of course).

That's not to say that Starry is all-natural or healthy. As we mentioned, it's loaded with preservatives, and there are other ingredients in it that you might be suspicious of. It's still soda, after all.

Starry nutrition facts

Full-sugar Starry has 150 calories per 12-ounce can. Pretty much all of those calories come from sugar: One can contains 39 grams of sugar, all of which are in the form of added sugar. That works out to 78% of the recommended maximum daily intake of 50 grams of added sugars, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drink has a negligible amount of sodium: 35 milligrams or 1% of your daily value.

Zero-sugar Starry is calorie-free and has the same amount of sodium as regular Starry. It also contains 120 milligrams of potassium. That sounds nice, but it's only 2% of your daily value, so it's not exactly a replacement for eating bananas in terms of getting your recommended potassium intake.

No matter which variety of Starry you choose, there are some health concerns associated with it. High fructose corn syrup can encourage lipogenesis in your body, leading to health problems like obesity, fatty liver, and diabetes. Because of this, it may be worse for your health than standard cane sugar (via Dr. Hyman). While zero-sugar Starry's lack of calories might make it seem like a healthier alternative, the jury's still out on the sweetener aspartame. Research on whether it helps people lose weight has been inconclusive, and it has been linked to cancer in animal studies (though not in humans, per WebMD).

Where is Starry available, and how much is it?

According to a PepsiCo press release, Starry was launched to American retailers nationwide on January 11, 2023. That means that if you live in the U.S., there's a good chance it's available at your local grocery or convenience store right now.

We checked our nearest grocery store's website and found that 12-packs of Starry cans cost $7.99, which works out to around $0.66 a can (via Fry's). If you buy three 12-packs, it costs $13, bringing the price per pack down to $4.33. In terms of other retailers, you can buy Starry online from Walmart, but as of now, it was only available for delivery in our area, not in-store. Walmart does offer more options: you can get a six-pack of mini cans for $3.98 or a 12-pack of 20-ounce bottles for $42.99. These prices are steeper than from Fry's, but we imagine the price will go down once you can shop in-store. There's a product locator tool on Starry's website if you want to find it in your neck of the woods.

Pepsi clearly hopes that Starry will gain a major foothold in the soft drink market, so we don't see it being discontinued anytime soon unless it's a massive flop. Sierra Mist didn't meet PepsiCo's expectations, and it still stuck around for a couple of decades.

How does Starry compare to other lemon-lime sodas?

Per PepsiCo, "Starry hits different," so it's supposed to stand out from its lemon-lime competition. A representative from the company toldĀ Today that Starry contains "higher citrus flavors that are true to fruit and more aromatic which delivers a more balanced, cleaner, crisp finish than Sierra Mist." To us, that sounds like it's supposed to be less sweet, syrupy, and artificial-tasting than its predecessor.

Reviews from social media have been mixed. One Twitter user said, "new Pepsi replacement for Sierra Mist is def a lot better, much more like Sprite." However, other people who have tried it think it's basically Sierra Mist in a new bottle, with one reviewer Tweeting that it's even sweeter than Sierra Mist was.

Sprite has basically the same ingredient list as Starry. It does have 10 fewer calories and one less gram of sugar per can, but that's not a huge difference. The same goes for 7UP.

The verdict: How does Starry taste?

Starry greets you with a juicy citrus candy aroma when you pour it into a glass. The zero-sugar variety has a noticeably sharper and more lemony smell. You can pick up notes of lemon and lime oil. The taste is generic citrus, with lemon and lime notes but also other flavors that reminded us of Mountain Dew or Fresca. It's not very acidic and, to our taste, a little too sweet. It's not as bright and refreshing as 7UP or Sprite. However, it does seem to be a little less syrupy and cloying than Sierra Mist was. The zero-sugar version tastes almost exactly the same as the normal variety, but it has a thinner texture and a slight artificial sweetener aftertaste.

Ultimately, Starry is a perfectly pleasant beverage, but it didn't knock our socks off. We don't think it's going to win many converts from Sprite, but it will probably do okay in the marketplace. In other words, it's just Sierra Mist, but a little bit different.