Pepsi Cheetos Hit in Japan, U.S. Social Media

No plans yet for much-buzzed-about flavor mashup to come to United States

PLANO, Texas -- Although they are not available in the United States, Pepsi-flavored Cheetos are causing a stir on social media. The snacks, which hit shelves in Japan last month, will be sold there only for a limited time, Frito-Lay spokesperson Jeff Dahncke told USA Today. For the moment, at least, there are no plans to bring the chips to the United States, he said.

But the company is aware of the international food trend that has spread across retail shelves: flavor-mashing.

Mixing flavors like Cheetos and Pepsi "speaks to consumers' short attention spans," Lynn Dornblaser, new products guru at the research firm Mintel, told the newspaper. "Consumers all want something absolutely new that's never been seen before."

The food-industry term for how consumers respond to product mashes like Pepsi and Cheetos is "mouth surprise."

"The mouth doesn't anticipate the combo, which actually makes it more pleasurable to the brain," food scientist Steven Witherly, author of Why Humans Like Junk Food: The Inside Story on Why You Like Your Favorite Foods, told the paper "If something looks like a Cheeto but tastes like a Pepsi, it wakes up the brain."

The Impulsive Buy blog posted a product review for Pepsi-flavored Cheetos. It said that these Cheetos fizz in the mouth. "The first sensation, which I did not expect, was a very acidic bite," he reviewer said. "It tries to capture the citrus notes of Pepsi, but it's over the top. Too lemony. The sweeter cola flavor is there, but it's subtler and overpowered by the intense citrus."

But consumers don't need to go to Japan for weird flavor combos, USA Today said. Taco Bell has mashed three different flavored Doritos into its Taco shells. And Oreo keeps spinning out all kinds of odd Oreo flavor combos, including the most recent, Rainbow Sherbet Ice Cream Oreos--plopped into vanilla (not chocolate) Oreos. (In Japan, it sells Green Tea Oreos.)

In the evolving world of social media posts, tweets and snaps, it's all about products finding ways to garner attention, added Dornblaser. "There's something to be said about products that elicit an 'ew' response."

That is, if a product has a reasonable gross-out factor, there's also a reasonable chance that someone who tries it will post it on their Facebook page. Which is all the product makers really want, anyway.

Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo is a global food and beverage leader with net revenues of more than $65 billion and a product portfolio that includes 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in annual retail sales. Its main businesses are Pepsi, Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade and Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay.