Last Updated: 3/23/2012 9:27 AM
On the surface, the concept of Red Bull Total Zero is straightforward (a zero calorie energy drink ), but the question that will likely arise for most people who see this drink is “how is this different than Red Bull Sugar Free?” The answer, aside from Red Bull Sugar Free not being zero calorie on the nutrition panel, is what Red Bull calls a new “twist.” And after our sampling of the drink, we’d agree that this is a pretty accurate way to describe the extremely subtle differences in taste between the two drinks. It’s so subtle, in fact, that if you drink the two side by side (as we did during our sampling) your palate will get to the point where the two formulations are almost indistinguishable (and, as a side note, they are almost functionally identical -- Total Zero has 3mg more caffeine per 8oz). Still, the “twist” of a touch of citrus flavor does make a difference. Perhaps more important is the use of sucralose (in addition to aspartame and ace-k -- the two sweeteners found in Red Bull Sugar Free), which likely allows the caloric content of the drink to be under 5 calories (aspartame does have 2.5 calories per gram -- although we don’t know how much is in the drink) and, per FDA guidelines, rounded down to 0 for the nutrition panel. While it’s hard to imagine that someone who doesn’t like Red Bull or Red Bull Sugar Free will enjoy this product, it does seem like a nice alternative for drinkers who are loyal to the Red Bull brand but desire some variety. The same can be said about the drink’s packaging, which uses a greyish blue tone, the words “TOTAL ZERO,” and a yellow band around the top. Given the success of the word “zero” on diet beverages, the name makes sense, although “total zero” has a slight negative connotation to it. Otherwise, it seems like Red Bull is sticking with what works for their energy line -- clean, simple, and focusing on the now classic Red Bull brand. From our vantage point, this seems like a much easier and potentially successful use of the brand that it was on their failed “Simply Cola” or energy shot, with the core product being in exactly the same category that Red Bull has had all of its success. Overall, Red Bull Total Zero is a well executed addition to the lineup and, despite not bringing new innovation to the category, it feels like a highly marketable product in much the same way that Coke Zero has been successful alongside Diet Coke.