Earlier this week, in advance of our BevNET sales and marketing call, I dialed in from my satellite office in NYC, the one with my oft-mentioned shelf of failed brands. Two of my compatriots were already on line, and they were discussing and raving about a new lemonade brand that was sent in to the office. It was a low -calorie drink that was terrific and they felt would be a winner. They marveled that one could not taste the sweetener that was obviously in the drink. It got me to thinking about my sense memory of sweeteners.
Over the years, as brand marketers would stop by, extolling this or that terrific-but-no-calorie taste, I would objectively – and sometimes harshly – give my opinion that they were delusional. Not that I had such a discerning palate, but these drinks just weren’t the same as their full- bodied counterparts. In my early years, the only drink that tasted as good as the original was Diet Dr Pepper. Try as so many marketers did, the masking of the diet taste remained elusive. To the industry it was the Holy Grail – make a fantastic tasting beverage while keeping the calories down. Back then it just wasn’t happening.
As the years progressed and more options were added to the formulations, there was hope that we’d break through. I thought back to the first sweetener I encountered. My mother was a frequent user of saccharine, really the first on the scene. I always marveled that she would drop three of those suckers into a tiny cup of Chinese tea. I shudder at the thought of that today. Thankfully, saccharine was retired before the full harmfulness could have a greater impact than it did. I regress.
Today we formulate using a plethora of sweeteners. Between Stevia, Ace-K, sucralose, erythritol, aspartame and monkfruit, we have a rainbow of selections. They are all formidable choices for beverage marketers to trip the lite fantastic. The variables and combinations of these options have created a new generation of drinks that are good tasting, fit with the criteria of healthy and low calorie and are part of our social fabric. Simply put, the marketers are doing a much better job of creating pleasant tasting beverages.
I always categorized drinks as the full bodied and diet types and was pretty snobbish about my selection. Now there is a blurring of the lines between these drinks. When I reach into my office refrigerator I just grab what’s in front of me. That’s a good thing. Kudos to the marketers who have put democracy in my beverages.