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Cola No More: Grading the New Fruity Sparkling Drinks

Cola No More: Grading the New Fruity Sparkling Drinks

Photographs by Aaron Dyer for Bloomberg Businessweek; Freeman: Michael Harlan Turkell

The Judges
Andrea Chernus Registered dietitian, sports nutritionist, and co-author of Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance
Dave Dafoe Flavor scientist and founder of Flavorman, a flavor development beverage lab in Louisville; once created a fish taco soda
Peter Freeman Co-owner of Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain in New York; drinks three or four sodas daily

Glacéau Fruitwater Black Raspberry
On April 1, Coca-Cola presented Fruitwater, a zero-calorie, sparkling companion to Vitamin Water. It’s “enhanced with nutrients” such as B5, B6, zinc, and magnesium. Bottle: $1.25

Dafoe: “By far the best package. The bottle fits in your hand, and the label only covers the bottom, so you can see the color.”

Chernus: “The bubbles are nice. They’re very small.”

Chernus: “I’m not crazy about all this fortification. I don’t know why they picked these nutrients; you don’t actually need them.”

Freeman: “Tastes synthetic. This one was particularly unappealing once it had warmed up.”

Overall Grade: C+

Izze Sparkling Black Raspberry
Izze, acquired by PepsiCo in 2006, offers a 50-calorie line made with 25 percent fruit juice and sparkling water. It has no added nutrients. Bottle: $1.25

Chernus: “A great beverage. It’s 25 percent juice—it’s better for the nutrients to come naturally from food than to be fortified.”

Freeman: “I don’t like that you can’t put the top back on. A lot of people won’t buy this because there’s no twist off.”

Chernus: “Very bubbly. It’s very light and refreshing.”

Dafoe: “It’s really much too sour for me. And here’s a technical comment: It’s a black raspberry drink without any black raspberry in it!”

Overall Grade: C

V8 V-Fusion Sparkling Black Cherry Pomegranate
Last year, Campbell’s V8 introduced a new line of 60-calorie sparkling juice drinks that offer the benefits of “real vegetable and fruit juices.” Can: $1.13

Dafoe: “The graphics are very nice. When you look at it, you think: Fruity.”

Freeman: “Awesome. It was great. I was like, What the hell is in this?”

Chernus: “No added sugar, which is good, and no artificial colors or preservatives. It’s definitely a healthy drink.”

Freeman: “It has a very complex flavor profile. It’s grapey, but there’s a lot going on. I’d drink this again.”

Overall Grade: A-

Sparkling Ice Black Raspberry
Launched in 1992, TalkingRain’s zero-calorie vitamin-infused Sparkling Ice has taken off in the last three years. The company expects retail sales to reach $400 million in 2013. Bottle: $1.69

Freeman: “There’s some-thing very practical about the bottle. It’s slim. Space is tight in my apartment and in my bag.”

Dafoe: “About right. Most sodas lose carbonation over time, but this one seemed to have enough.”

Chernus: “It has the aura of healthfulness, but in reality, it’s 3 percent juice. I think that’s deceiving to consumers.”

Freeman: “In the pantheon of synthetic drinks, this one’s flavor was not that offensive. I did enjoy it—I bet it’s really good with vodka.”

Overall Grade: B

Steaz Zero Calorie Sparkling Green Tea Raspberry
This carbonated, fruity tea boasts B vitamins and antioxidants, with “zero calories, zero sugar, and zero carbs.” Bottle: $1.55

Freeman: “The karmic lotus thing on front would appeal to someone who just did some yoga, thinking, I’m gonna get myself a treat now.”

Dafoe: “Plenty of carbonation. Always expect to see more carbonation from glass than plastic bottles.”

Chernus: “They added unnecessary vitamins. But the sweeteners, Stevia and erythritol, are perfectly fine.”

Dafoe: “Really tastes like raspberry, which is my favorite flavor.”

Overall Grade: B+

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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