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Tilting at Windmills

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January 8, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

SODA BLOGGING....Over at Begging to Differ, Greg has a rundown of all the different kinds of Diet Coke. Here's his top pick:

  1. Coke Light. Only available internationally, but man is that stuff good. Its taste is similar to regular Mexican Coke, which has a strong flavor and is made from cane sugar. On a trip that Allison and I took to Mexico a few years back, we drank this stuff almost non-stop. As I understand it, Coca-Cola first tried to market Diet Coke internationally, but it flopped. People thought it was only for those trying to lose weight. Coke Light, on the other hand, could be marketed like light beer.

So what's the deal here? Does Coke Light taste better than American Diet Coke because they can still use cyclamates overseas? It turns out that's not it:

Fans of the drink often express a strong preference for the continental European formula over the British-American version, as it tastes far closer to regular Coke. This is because the Diet Coke formula is based upon the New Coke formulation and Coca-Cola Light, now being sold in the U.S. as Coca-Cola Zero, is based on the Coca-Cola Classic formula.

So Coke Light is Coke Zero? Why then does Greg rank Coke Light #1 and Coke Zero #6 ("not bad, but there's something slightly empty to its flavor")? I think Greg needs to perform a blind taste test. For what it's worth, though, this 1999 article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle confirms that when Coke Light was introduced overseas it kicked Diet Coke's butt pretty spectacularly. That Ace-K stuff must be sweetener gold.

Still, I have a question: how could Diet Coke (introduced in 1983) be based on the New Coke formulation (introduced in 1985)? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that New Coke was based on the Diet Coke formulation?

And while we're at it, what's up with cyclamates, anyway? The FDA pretty much admitted that the cyclamate ban was stupid more than 15 years ago, and since Republicans are supposed to be the ones opposed to "junk science" and overregulation of all sorts, repealing the ban would be right up their alley. What's more, it would win them the votes of the nation's grateful diet soda drinkers, surely one of the largest untapped voting blocs in the country. So what's the holdup?

Kevin Drum 3:57 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (79)

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Comments

The bit in "Blink" about taste-tests is pretty shocking. E.g., put down three glasses, two with, say, Pepsi, and one with Coke, and the vast majority of people can't tell you which two have the same thing in them.

IMO, Coke Zero rocks. :-)

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on January 8, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

First?

1) Repups haven't got the time to worry about Colaholics. They've got bigger fish to fry.

2) Europeans simply are smarter than amurricans. Culturally we go way back when, as opposed to the 'murricans who only go back to then. So of course we've got better taste.

;-)

I think they've tuned the (local) reciepe lately, though. 5 years ago Coke Lights really did suck in comparison with Pepsi Max, nowadays it doesn't. It simply doesn't taste as synthetic anymore.

Go figure.

Regards.

Posted by: Ole on January 8, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Diet Coke with Splenda is amazing. It's better than Coke, in my opinion. Naturally, it's hard to find, short of supermarkets with a Wall O' Soda that carry every possible variant.

Posted by: A. Signalstation on January 8, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

So Coke Light is Coke Zero? Why then does Greg rank Coke Light #1 and Coke Zero #6 ("not bad, but there's something slightly empty to its flavor")? I think Greg needs to perform a blind taste test.

As I've thought about this kind of issue, I think I have a different point of view.

Yes, Coke Light may chemcically be the same as Coke Zero. But's it's OK nonetheless to prefer Coke Light, precisely because it goes under a different name, in different packaging, with a different reputation and aura. And it's OK to prefer such things simply because we root for them. If we root for the Redskins instead of the Patriots, does that make us bad in some way, even if in every important respect the two teams are the same, or indeed even if in every important respect the Patriots are better? No. It's just an accepted, mostly unanalyzable preference.

It's likewise with sodas and foods of all kinds. In any case, even if there IS a chemical difference, the preferences for one type over another are so fraught with random subjectivities that they are hardly worth elevating to some sort of exalted position. Why shouldn't the desire to root for one over the other have equal footing in these comparisons? Why is a kind of placebo effect in taste preferences a bad thing?

Posted by: frankly0 on January 8, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, why wouldn't this administration repeal a ban on an artificial sweetener that would compete with Rumsfeld's vested interested in Aspartame?

I'm guessing the answer is similar to why, after 911, a bunch of Texas oil men didn't make a Manhattan Project-style effort to move this nation off of its dependency on oil.

Drug pushers don't care about your wellbeing and they certain don't want to cure your addiction - they just want to be the ones to sell you your fix.

Posted by: Augustus on January 8, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

the real drug pushes are the sugar mafia.

they are the sole reason that sweeteners get banned for trumped up reasons.

Posted by: sampo on January 8, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Tom DeLay goes down last night. The talking heads today were probably all over it, and many bloggers (such as myself) don't watch TV often and so miss the Sunday shows as a matter of course.

And so Kevin wants to talk about tennis GOATs and frickin' *soda pop* ???

WTF Cares! ARRRGGHH !!!! Consumerism is the problem! Empty distractions based on (as frankly put it well) totally MEANINGLESS subjective preferences are a cultural neomarxist's wet dream! Adornoites are snickering loudly at you, Kevin. And thanks, btw, for lending legitimacy to a form of social critique that postmodernism was supposed to have killed since the Wall fell.

Sheeshkabibble !

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 8, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Let's forget John "Junk Science" Stossel for a minute and consider Republican positions on:

Stem cell research, global warming, mad cow disease, strategic missle defense testing, testing Big Pharma drugs, physiological and psychological effects of abortion, even what an aluminum tube can and can't be used for.

Exactly which Replublican positions in the last five years have escaped the realm of Junk Science?

Posted by: Tinfins on January 8, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand why soft drink makers don't offer a cane sugar alternative in the United States. I can no longer drink high fructose corn syrup and can't drink soda; one of the joys of travel now is being able to drink soda again. (I won't do diet drinks.)

Posted by: Saam Barrager on January 8, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

My problem with Splenda-sweetened drinks is that they make whatever I'm eating at the time taste sweet, too. On their own they are definitely more sugar-like than Aspartame, however.

It's been decades, but at least back when Cyclamate was available it had a definite aftertaste to me. Saccharine was worse -- it had a bit of bitterness to it -- but I'm not so sure that Cyclamate would become popular even if it were available. But people definitely seem to taste different sweeteners differently, so I could be utterly mistaken on this.

Posted by: modus potus on January 8, 2006 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

I think rmck1 needs a hug.

Posted by: modus potus on January 8, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Diet sodas make you fat---latest results just in.
The mechanism is unclear, but some artificial sweeteners affect insulin levels, and this may be at fault.

Posted by: marky on January 8, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

modus potus:

More like a product of two cups of coffee (no freakin' sugar) on an empty stomach :) I realize my above post did more than merely skirt the edge of frothing incoherence.

But seriously -- it would have been nice to have had a thread that linked a variety of reactions to DeLay's denouement in the leadership.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 8, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

What's up with this "soda" crap? It's "pop," bitches.

Posted by: Drew Miller on January 8, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Drew Miller:

I realize the regional differences, but I like "soda pop" because it connotes the stone pureility of the product, its marketing and its devoted consumers :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 8, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Cyclamates? yeecchhhhhh...... I could never drink diet soda until they replaced that shit.

Posted by: doesn't matter on January 8, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that New Coke was based on the Diet Coke formulation?

That's more or less exactly it. When Coke switched up formulas in 85, Pepsi was pulling ahead of regular Coca Cola, but Diet Coke was selling like hotcakes. So when they reformulated regular Coke to try and catch up, they took the Diet Coke taste, which people seemed to like, and made a sugared version that tasted as much like it as possible. This became New Coke.

Posted by: Milind on January 8, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Re: Drew Miller's comment

I grew up in Arizona, and went to college in Indiana. Just about the first question anyone asked me when I arrived at school was what I called it, pop or soda. The odd location of IN -- part north, part south, part midwest, part rust belt -- led to quite the debate, evidently. (After that, they asked me how I pronounced words like roof and watch.)

I always called it all "Coke", as in "What kind of Coke do you have?" I've been told that the only people who do that are from Atlanta. I have no idea where I got it. Now that I'm aware of how weird that is, I say soda.

I keep trying the new sugar-free versions of Coke and find them all undrinkable. I can drink non-cola diet drinks -- especially citrus ones, like Fresca -- but all the cola ones taste terrible to be. I liked TAB, however, and still do when I find it. Turns out saccharine agrees with my taste buds where the others do not.

Posted by: snarktini on January 8, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

You *can* stil get cane sugar sodas in the US. A lot of those hippy dippy organic sodas use them, and whenever I get a burrito at my loca mexican joint, I pick up a Jarritos-brand tamarind soda--tastes like apple!

Posted by: max on January 8, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Augustus is the only one who got King George W. the First right and you guys are still arguing about the something he distracted you with.

Posted by: murmeister on January 8, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

between this and the tennis post I'm beginning to wonder about you...is nothing else going on in the world?

Posted by: supersaurus on January 8, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

As it turns out I just returned from Mexico. I can say categorically that US Coca-Cola is shit. It's because of the high fructose corn syrup, which is a liquid sweetener that leaves a coating in your mouthnot refreshing at all. I've had some imported Dutch Coca-Cola and it's definitely more acidic than North American Coke, but the Mexican Coca-Cola with actual sugar tastes really, really good. If anyone wants to experience a close approximation to Mexican Coca-Cola, get your hands on Passover Coke. It's made without HFCS to meet the Jewish dietary restrictions and is available in grocery stores during Passover. You may have to ask for it.

I'm tempted to believe the whole New Coke boondoggle really was a conspiratorial slight-of-hand to switch over to HFCS without people complaining (remove good product, introduce crap, re-introduce cheaper not-as-good product), because directly switching to HFCS would have been met with resistance.

Personally I have high hopes for Coca-Cola Blak, the new Coke/coffee blend. But knowing Coca-Cola they'll ruin it with aspartame.

Posted by: Puppethead on January 8, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

I always called it all "Coke", as in "What kind of Coke do you have?" I've been told that the only people who do that are from Atlanta.

That quirk extends up the I-85 corridor from Atlanta through the Greenville-Spartanburg area of SC.

Posted by: Daryl Cobranchi on January 8, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Why are all you people drinking this shit? None of it tastes good. :D

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 8, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Stevia has been used for years as a sweetener. However, due to then Senator D'Amato and his influence with the FDA, it was banned in 91 from being used as a food additive. Following the vote, several of the FDA folks went to work for NutraSweet.
In 95, FEA changed it's course somewhat and now allows Stevia to used as a diet supplement, if so marked.
You can grow Stevia for your own use.

Have to agree about the non-threads of DeLay - Kevin did post only JUST ONE at 12:47 PM yesterday and there are only 223 comments at this time. Why hasn't Kevin posted more and more and more DeLay threads, perhaps one each and every hour. Or perhaps someone could start their own DeLay WebLog site.

Posted by: stupid git on January 8, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Supersaurus: It's a weekend! Lighten up!

Posted by: Kevin Drum on January 8, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Is this thread a joke? I mean... rating diet Cokes?

Have we become so be-numbed by the Bush Administration Scandal of the Month--that now seems to be the Scandal of the Week--that we have retreated into the most nutrition-free topic conceivable -- rating diet Cokes?

I am appalled!

Oh, BTW, I prefer Diet Coke with Lime, but I haven't tried the Splenda variant yet. I will, of course.

Yes, appalled!


Posted by: The Dad on January 8, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Short comments:

Europeans simply are smarter than amurricans. Culturally we go way back when, as opposed to the 'murricans who only go back to then. So of course we've got better taste.

Lutefisk. 'Nuff said.

And why are we drinking all this corn syrup crap instead of good old sucrose?

Archer Daniels Midland. Same reason we have ethanol in our gasoline.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 8, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

One of the great things about regular Diet Coke is that it stays fizzy for hours, while Diet Pepsi goes flat in minutes if you don't pour it in a glass.

That said, the Splenda incarnation of Pepsi One tastes better than all of these.

Posted by: Brendan Getzell on January 8, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

All the fake sugars are bad for you. It takes twice as much of the fake sugar to get the same sweetness from sugar. Thus, most people who drink diet drinks, drink twice as many as those who drink non-diet drinks. If I'm going to kill myself with pop, I'm at least going to do it with the real thing.

Posted by: Mazurka on January 8, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Geez Kevin...Why don't you talk about Pombo and Doolittle? I can't believe that you aren't talking 2 California GOP congressmen that if Lara Roslin was prez, they'd be thrown out the air lock. Pombo the Venal and Doolittle the fool. LATimes

Posted by: Artemis on January 8, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Anything with Splenda is better than the same diet drink with another sweetner, even better than the non-diet version of the drink with corn syrup, in my opinion. And, btw, Mazurka, when cooking with Splenda, you can substitute the same amount of it for recipes calling for sugar (i.e., one tsp of Splenda = one tsp of sugar).

And it builds strong bodies 12 different ways (just kidding).

Posted by: DevilDog on January 8, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

OK, looks like we need to review here....

Blog Commenter Rule #1: DON'T TELL THE BLOGGER WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT.

If you feel some subject is not being adequately discussed here, start your own blog. It takes about five minutes.

This is Kevin's sandbox, and Kevin will write what he damn well feels like writing. Take it or leave it.

Posted by: Thlayli on January 8, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

In Britain we have diet-coke when I travel in Europe you get coke-light, I cannnot say that I have noticed any difference other than packaging. The have started selling flavoured colas here as well vanilla, lemon & lime but in typical coke fashion are too tight to use real flavourings so the later two smell and taste like toilet cleaner whilst the former tastes like value-brand icecream. Cherry coke is no longer sold probably as no one could palate the vile artificial flavour used. There are a few places that make there own flavoured cokes using ordinary or diet coke plus real ingredients, the taste is a revelation; coke with real cherries is divine.

Posted by: Tim on January 8, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

Artificial sweeteners are far, far sweeter than sugar. They put filler into retail-packaged splenda, so that it can be substituted 1 for 1.

Aspartame (Nutrasweet) is 180 times sweeter than sugar and sucralose (Splenda) is 600 times sweeter than sugar.

I wish they'd bring back pop with sugar in it. RC Cola had sugar longer than the big two, but even they went over to the corn-syrup dark side years ago. Their website lists a premium version called Royal Crown Draft cola, made with sugar, but I've never seen it.

Normal pop tastes syrupy, diet pop tastes funny, and they're all terribly unhealthy. I can't figure out why people drink so much.

Posted by: Mark Gilbert on January 8, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans don't care about cyclamates because their governing approach isn't about things like deregulation--it's about doing people favors.

The cyclamate producers went out of business, and all the companies that used to use it started using something else. So, there's no one asking them to do a favor by allowing cyclamate. So they don't care.

Posted by: theorajones on January 8, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

You're exactly right. Diet Coke came before New Coke. Since the taste of Diet Coke was light years ahead of, say, Tab, it exploded in popularity. The Coke brain trust took this to mean that Regular Coke should be reformulated to taste like Diet Coke only with high fructose corn syrup instead of aspartame. Hilarity ensued. Read the Wikipedia article on New Coke to see exactly how to go about getting it so wrong. Interestingly, the Coke CEO in charge of this fiasco, Roberto Goizueta, now lends his name to the business school at Emory. One wonders why they would name it after the author of the biggest commercial flop in history.

What's up with cyclamates is threefold: (1) To many people, they have a very nasty aftertaste, worse than saccharine. (2) They are the least sweet of all the recently developed intense sweeteners and using more increases your costs. (3) Cyclamate was discovered in 1937 and so is off patent. Margins would consequently be tiny so there is no incentive for anyone to do the necessary lobbying. Splenda has way higher margins whether you purchase it as a sweetener or a laxative. Bonus trivia point: Though sweet, cyclamate is chemically a salt (of cyclohexanesulfamic acid).

Posted by: Paul J. Camp on January 8, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

Thlayli:
I trust that you were reminding others of Blog Commenter Rule #1, and that my outrage [@ 5:40 p.m.] was made transparently false by my own hypocrisy. Yeah, my humor is dry -- so dry that it's practically dust. In the winds of the ethernet, I'm utterly humorless, I'm afraid.

To All Else:
An earlier comment noted that some artificial sweeteners mess with ones insulin levels, stimulating hunger despite the lack of caloric content. I've heard this before, and my question is this: Which artificial sweeteners do this?

Finally, I DID try Diet Coke with Splenda tonight and found it utterly bland with the standard chemical aftertaste. I won't be buying any more, and will continue as before with my Diet Coke with Lime. Yum.

Posted by: The Dad on January 8, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

One of the great things about regular Diet Coke is that it stays fizzy for hours, while Diet Pepsi goes flat in minutes if you don't pour it in a glass.

That said, the Splenda incarnation of Pepsi One tastes better than all of these.
Posted by: Brendan Getzell on January 8, 2006 at 5:58 PM

Right on about Pepsi One, Brendan.

Ironically, while I find Diet Coke tastes superior to Diet Pepsi, I find Pepsi's flavored and other versions are better than Coke's. And that includes Coke Zero and Diet Coke with Splenda, neither of which taste as good as Pepsi One.

Posted by: Vincent on January 8, 2006 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

While I use real lemons and real limes to make diet coke palatable, I find diet coke with lime to be slightly better or maybe worse than drinking straight from the gasoline nozzle.

Posted by: jerry on January 8, 2006 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Who gives a s**t?

This is what goes as a leading left-wing blog these days?
Unless you can persuade me that greedy capitalist interests are involved, and are somehow either undermining our security in exchange for profits or are screwing over the working man while paying themselves millions in bonuses, I don't care.

Posted by: Jimbo on January 8, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

So, do you prefer Diet Bush or Bush Zero?

Posted by: parrot on January 8, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

"I find diet coke with lime to be slightly better or maybe worse than drinking straight from the gasoline nozzle."

So which is it? How can I rebut your position if you take both sides of the gasoline nozzle debate?

Posted by: The Dad on January 8, 2006 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I like Bush, just not the person.

Posted by: murmeister on January 8, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Were cyclamates marketed under a brand name in the supermarket? Does anybody know? Just wondering. I remember when saccharine was banned (and then it was reauthorized, no?), but don't have any recollection about cyclamates.

Posted by: Murphy on January 8, 2006 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

Murphy,
Cyclamates are sooo 70's. Anyone born after Reagan pulled the wool over America's eyes... er.... was elected, wouldn't have experienced the wonders of those wondrous drops of chemical sweetener.

Posted by: The Dad on January 8, 2006 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

Verrrry interesting . Does this mean Canadian health food stores will be supplying dread stevia to U.S. consumers ? I always heard home-made pop made with fruit juice made commercial products seem awfully lame.

Posted by: opit on January 8, 2006 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

I can't stand most of the diet colas, but I like Coke Zero. It tastes almost like conventional US Coke to me, or enough that I hardly miss it.

Regarding Coke with Sugar: I've heard that Kosher stores will carry Coke with sugar (rather than HFCS) during Passover due to dietary restrictions of some sects of Judiasm.

I tried to find it last Passover, but had no luck.

Posted by: Airmon on January 9, 2006 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Repeat of a question posed hours ago: Anyone know which artificial sweeteners cause ones insulin levels to react as though the sweetener wasn't quite so artificial?

Posted by: The Dad on January 9, 2006 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

I wish Diet Rite had caffeine.

Posted by: ahem on January 9, 2006 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I'll revise that: I wish that the local grocery sold Diet RC, which is Diet Rite with caffeine.

Posted by: ahem on January 9, 2006 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

Google cyclamates and "memory loss"

Posted by: Brian Boru on January 9, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Google cyclamates and "memory loss"

Posted by: Brian Boru on January 9, 2006 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

I don't understand why soft drink makers don't offer a cane sugar alternative in the United States. I can no longer drink high fructose corn syrup and can't drink soda; one of the joys of travel now is being able to drink soda again. (I won't do diet drinks.)

You need this website BAD:

http://www.sodapopstop.com/home.cfm

If you don't live in the Los Angeles area, they ship. They not only carry Mexican Coke, they carry all kinds of sugar-sweetened sodas.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 9, 2006 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

I think Coke Zero is pretty good too, I was surprised. And I hate Diet Coke.

Best is Vanilla Coke though, but they don't put it in their machines anymore. :-(

Posted by: Jonesy on January 9, 2006 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK
Still, I have a question: how could Diet Coke (introduced in 1983) be based on the New Coke formulation (introduced in 1985)? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that New Coke was based on the Diet Coke formulation?

While apparently its not the case (assuming the explanation upthread is correct) with Diet/New Coke, its quite possible (witness, recently, many cold remedies) for a product to change formulas without changing names. Thus, it could have been the case that Diet Coke was reformulated after New Coke was developed and patterned after New Coke, even though the New Coke product name was introduced first.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK
I don't understand why soft drink makers don't offer a cane sugar alternative in the United States.

Because cane sugar is, as I understand, more expensive than corn syrup (there is lots of corn grown in the US, and lots of it ends up as corn syrup) in the US, and because the additional costs of maintaining the additional cane sugar vs. corn syrup product lines aren't justified by the expected additional sales.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

The story I heard while working on Coke Light and then the launch of caffeine-free Diet Coke in Japan more than a decade ago was that "Coke Light" started out as an alternate naming for Diet Coke for use in places, e.g., Japan and Europe, where dieting was not the issue it had become in the States. Unfortunately, Japanese consumers hated the taste of aspartame (the cyclamate people are talking about), and initially the product bombed. Then some genius came up with the idea of adding a bit of sugar to the formula, so that instead of zero calories per can, Coke Light would have 12 (still a hell of a lot less than Classic Coke's 200 calories per can). The new formula did very well, indeed. In contrast, Caffeine Free Diet Coke got the usual just-launched spike as people tried it. Then it bombed, too. Japanese consumers still didn't like the taste of unadulterated aspartame.

Posted by: John McCreery on January 9, 2006 at 3:46 AM | PERMALINK

Say hello to diabetes, fools.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on January 9, 2006 at 4:37 AM | PERMALINK

I loved TAB. Being a teenager and all, its bitterness appealed to me and made me feel all grown up, too mature for that little kiddies' Coke. When they banned saccharine, I was as sad as Gilda Radner and her chorus of JAPs.

Pepsi Light was nice (and I hate Pepsi). It was sold for a while in the '70s, test marketed in Pennsylvania, and I think the Steelers sang their jingle. It was half fake sweetener, half sugar, with some lemon. I've been loath to try the new Diet Coke with lime, because, well, it's Diet Coke.

And Diet Coke is, like y'all said, New Coke with nastier chemicals. Diet Dr Pepper was quite tasty, but after the news came out about the nasty side effects of NutraSweet, I just swore off anything diet, and figured I'd go ahead and take my chances with the real thing.

Only to find in the last year or so that it's all sweetened with HFCS, which was developed in Japanese labs in the early '80s, and is much more calorie-laden than actual sugar. At least that's what Alton Brown says, and he knows everything.

Nonetheless, I'm a Dr Pepper junkie now. And I tried Coke Zero last summer, because they were handing out samples outside the Bob Dylan concert at our farm league baseball stadium, and it tasted like ass.

Posted by: hamletta on January 9, 2006 at 4:50 AM | PERMALINK

Make mine a corona, no lime please. Thank you.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 9, 2006 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

Don't laugh, but members of my family held a Coke-tasting over the Christmas break. The contenders were from the US, Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and Finland. (All gathered several months before and then refrigerated until the tasting).

The US and Canada were easily identified because of their unfortunate use of high fructose corn syrup - cloying sweet in an unpleasant way. All of the European samples were better, but differed in their degree of carbonation and intensity of flavoring - with the Swiss and the Danish being the blandest. The English sample was better than I expected, but that's probably because we served it cold, rather than at the lukewarm temperature the English seem to prefer.

Our historical favorite, the Icelandic, was rated the best, because of its combination of robust flavor and carbonation. (For the full Icelandic experience, drink it ice-cold along with a Prince Polo chocolate wafer bar from Poland, the way the teenagers in Reyjavik drink their Coke).

Posted by: Platypus on January 9, 2006 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Who cares?! Don't waste your money on sugar water! It's a scam!

Posted by: JRI on January 9, 2006 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

An unresearched thought/suspicion about why no cyclamates:

Splenda: New, successfully branded, proprietary.
cyclamates: old, anonymous, probably public domain? Yesterday's cheat-sweet.

I confess to missing original-formulation Jolt, which came with "all the sugar and twice the caffeine." The last samples I tasted were made with corn syrup and didn't really measure up to the standard of memory.

Posted by: david ware on January 9, 2006 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Diet Coke is sold as Coke Light in Germany because the term 'diet' there means something specific - just as the term 'organic' means more than just 'grown' here in the US. I'm not 100% sure what the restrictions on the term actually are (whether it has to be sold in special stores, undergo FDA-type approval or what) but it's just one of those regulatory oddities.

I believe the formulation is the same everywhere, though I don't drink diet anything (and try to avoid HFCS as much as possible)

Posted by: mecki on January 9, 2006 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

The best-tasting stuff is Pepsi Edge. It's a pseudo-diet drink since it has real sugar, but only about 1/2 of the usual amount. It tastes better in my opinion anyway, and is better for you (this whole grotesque sugaring of everything is so destructive - but "That's what people like." ) Too bad it's hard to find.

PS - I dig having some non-political topics in here sometimes.

Posted by: Neil' on January 9, 2006 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Pepsi Blue was the worst. It had kinda a watered down fake 'berry' flavor of some kind.

And I've always thought that Gatorade tasted like snot.

But I must correct the genius who stated that artificial sweeteners require MORE product than sugar to attain the same sweetness. Artificial sweeteners are much more 'sweet' than sugar, so a tiny bit can be as 'sweet' with tiny calories.

Obviously opinions differ about the quality of the different 'sweets,' but you people whining about health risks should grow up a little. I've been drinking all the chemical sweeteners for years with absolutely no effects.

Obviously opinions differ about the quality of the different 'sweets,' but you people whining about health risks should grow up a little. I've been drinking all the chemical sweeteners for years with absolutely no effects.

Obviously opinions differ about the quality of the different 'sweets,' but you people whining about health risks should grow up a little. I've been drinking all the chemical sweeteners for years with absolutely no effects.

Posted by: Tripp on January 9, 2006 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who is interested in the Pop vs. Soda vs. Coke debate needs to go to:

www.PopvsSoda.com

And you'll see all the answers in glorious color.

Posted by: Lou on January 9, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Its taste is similar to regular Mexican Coke, which has a strong flavor and is made from cane sugar.

My God... I haven't had a Coke made with REAL sugar in years. I'm not talking about this high-fructose corn syrup stuff... I mean REAL sugar. That's it! I'm goin' to Mexico!!!

Posted by: E. Nonee Moose on January 9, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, probably already been said, but I don't think coke light is coke zero. I think coke zero tastes like ass, and coke light is fantastic. You can sometimes find it at little euro-bistro places and really, the difference between coke light and all other low-cal cokes is amazing. It doesn't taste diet-y at all.

Posted by: The Tim on January 9, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Obligatory SCOTUS nominee hearings tie-in:

Did we ever find out who put that pubic hair on Clarence's Coke?

Posted by: Barry Freed on January 9, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and btw, you folks seriously consider yourselves political junkies? Bwahaha, pwned!

Posted by: Barry Freed on January 9, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Diet schmiet. All those chemical sweetners taste like, surprise, chemicals.

High fructose corn syrup was recently reported to increase appetite, so the snack food manufacturers would continue to use it even if sugar weren't so artifically expensive.

You can bet Coke wouldn't use sugar in Mexico if HFCS were cheaper. It's only here in the good old US of A, where the sugar lobby keeps tariffs high on imported cane sugar so they can sell their own sugar at that artifically supported high price, that the foul tasting, unhealthy HFCS has become the "non-artificial" sweetner.

Bring back sugar! Import Mexican Coke! I'm another who is thankful to live where there are enough Mexican-Americans that the stores sell Jarritos sodas.

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 9, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

There's a new Coke flavor out -- black cherry vanilla. (Perhaps Coke was inspired by Dr Pepper, which has had a cherry vanilla version out for some time.) I tried the diet version Monday, and found I liked it -- and I'm normally not all that fond of flavored versions of Diet Coke.

While we're discussing soda (or pop for you midwesterners -- go put it in a sack at the grocer's, while the rest of us will take it home in a bag), let me bring up two flavors from the past. In the early nineties, there was something called Diet Crystal Pepsi, which had a little different flavor than traditional cola. I thought it was great; apparently I was the only one. And about that time, there was also a caffeinated 7up product called Diet 7up Gold, which had sort of a gingery flavor. Again not bad, again unpopular. (Both Crystal Pepsi and 7up Gold also came in sugared versions.)

Posted by: Vincent on January 10, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I looked at a number of online sources about the New Coke vs. Diet Coke lineage, and I couldn't get a satisfactory consensus answer.

The one thing that is certain is that both are essentially the same formula, just with different sweeteners, which isn't the same base formula as Classic. It's also claimed that the New Coke formula was "stumbled upon", either long before the introduction of Diet or after it became an enormous hit. I think it's likely that a sugar-based Diet formulation was one of hundreds of candidates, or that if they liked the Diet formulation, they tried it with sugar -- long before they decided they needed a New Coke.

But which actually came first, if it isn't documented in one of the print books about Coca-Cola, is probably known today only to the researchers in the flavor labs.

Posted by: Dan Hartung on January 10, 2006 at 3:47 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: dating on January 11, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company, Ms. xxx. We appreciate your interest in our brands.

Coke Light is similar to Diet Coke. Coke light and Diet Coke are both low-calorie soft drinks, and we offer diet products for the segment of the population that prefers low-calorie carbonated beverages.

In certain countries, the word "diet" is not used to describe low-calorie foods and beverages. In these countries, we offer Coke light. The sweetener blend used for Coke light is formulated for each country based on consumer preference.

Coca-Cola Zero is for people who want real Coca-Cola classic taste with zero calories. A new brand for consumers who have a predisposition for cola, but haven't found an acceptable zero calorie option yet.

We hope this clears up any confusion regarding these products. Please let us know if you have any questions in the future.

Steven
The Coca-Cola Company
Industry and Consumer Affairs

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