Top Secret Marketing Data

I shall soon be fired for sharing this hot and confidential psychographic information which I just noticed on a document here at work, but it’s worth it to finally educate you on the difference between all the “single-serve juice and tea drinks.”

SoBe: Fun, crazy, in-your-face, extreme. New age, hard-core drink for people who don’t play around.

Snapple: Quirky, down-to-earth, kitschy. Fun drink that everyone can relate to and enjoy.

Mistic: Bold, urban, street corner. Hip, psychedelic drink for today’s youth.

Arizona: Southwest American, desert. Healthy, earthy juice for everyone.

Nantucket Nectars: Easy-going, casual, “Ben & Jerry’s” approach. For regular people who enjoy natural goodness.

Bebida de Mango

Hey dude. I was out sick yesterday, which is why you didn’t get the normal 10 emails from me. Not that you noticed. I was pretty much drinking o.j. and ginger ale all the live-long day. Now I’m back at the office, and there’s no o.j. or ginger ale in the machine here. But we did happen to have this weird little bottle of mexican mango juice in the fridge, so I brought that in today. Check it out, I haven’t even tasted it yet: I’m live blogging this shit up in here!

Okay, so, this bottle of mango juice. I’m sure I’d never find a pic of it on the interweb, so I’ll paint a word picture. The first thing you notice about it is that this is a very tiny bottle. 8.45 fl. Oz / 250 ml). I’m guessing there are maybe 3 actual sips of juice in this thing? Who is the target demo? Whom could this possible sate? I ask.

On the other hand, the juice looks like it might be fairly viscous. Or very non-viscous? Which is thick and syrupy? That one. Now, as in 10th grade, I suck at chemistry. Okay here goes.

Hold on, screw cap back on and shake up for good measure. Okay.

Hold on, this is definitely viscous. You should see the bubbles struggling to rise to the top. What if this drink is actually that alien sea monster from The Abyss? Okay here goes.

Holy sucky.

Now I see that the ingrediments are “treated water, mango pulp” then a bunch of chemicals. But here goes with one more teensy sip. I retract what I said earlier about the portion size. If anything, a Monopoly thimble would have sufficed.
This, I don’t get it. I love mango, why does this suck so bad? I sense the presense of a dirt additive or something. Okay one more sip.

I would definitely throw up if I continued to drink this. I’m throwing it out. I estimate that I drank about 1 fl. Oz. On the nutrition information it says this is 1 serving, but I estimate there are about 300.

Also I said this was mexican because it was in the mexican section at the supermercado and the title is in spanish. But the label clearly states “Product of the United Arab Emirates.” What the fudge.

I am certain that if you ever need to make yourself throw up, Bebida de Mango from the United Arab Emirates is hot-swappable with Syrup of Ipecac.

Ack! I almost spilled it all over my desk. Hereby banished to the waste basket. The end.

Steak & Shake Hot Fudge Shake

If you ever read my emails you would know that lately I’ve been all hopped up to sample this new hot fudge shake at Steak & Shake.

(Since you don’t have Steak & Shake out your way, the background is that they make pretty decent shakes (chocolate/vanilla/strawberry/mocha/choc mint/banana/probably others I’m forgetting) and now for an extra 39 cents they will pour hot fudge on top.)

Oh man. Even just thinking about it sets my soul a-quiver. This is totally marketed towards people like me, who love hot fudge sundaes, but hate the attendant mess. If it can’t be sipped or ingested through a straw, I’m not super-interested.

So anyways I finally got around to sampling a hot fudge shake today. I went for mocha. It was just okay. They used maybe 1/4 the amount of hot fudge I personally would have used, had I been creating this in my own kitchen. But maybe that’s just a personal preference thing. And the hot fudge was kind of thin, not at all ridiculously thick and gooey and Dairy Queenish like I was picturing in my mind.

In summation, the Hot Fudge Shake is one of those things, like Vanilla Eggnog Coke, that will probably always taste best in the drawing board of my mind. It is a place where oulandish beverage concoctions frolic gaily in the fields of the Lord, and you respond to my emails in a timely fashion.

Snapple What-a-Melon

So just now I was in the office kitchen, about to buy another g-d damned Sunkist from the vending machine when I see an unfamiliar label amongst the two rows that are devoted to Snapple. The bottle is turned away so I can’t quite make out all the details and I’m leaning in close trying to see what was what. Some wage ape comes in to wash marketing blood off his hands and says “Hi Josh!!” and I say: “Shut up! SHUT UP!!! MY BRAIN CANNOT HANDLE BOTH A NEW SNAPPLE FLAVOR AND YOUR CEASELESS CHIT-CHAT!!!!!” Finally I make out the name: What-a-Melon. What-a-Melon. I am not lying. It’s Watermelon Snapple. It is mentioned nowhere on the Snapple site. A cursory search turns up only a handful of results, all on teenagers’ weblogs. What is the deal.

So I gave a shot in the name of science. And while I would never consciously choose to drink Snapple What-a-Melon again, and in fact I probably won’t even finish this bottle, and in fact feel a little sick, I have to admit it’s much more subtle and refreshing than expected. I’d assumed it would taste like liquid Watermelon Bubblicious, that keystone of my youth, all super-sugary and thick, but in fact it tastes more like actual watermelon juice, i.e., mostly water. And, of course, that sweet elixir known as high fructose corn syrup. Like Lou Reed said: “It’s my wife and it’s my life.”

On Grenadine

Maybe you already knew this — though I still maintain that your “Professor of Mixology” diploma was made in PrintShop — but I just learned that grenadine is pomegranate syrup. Here’s me, last night, unable to sleep, staring at the glow-in-the-dark naked ladies taped to the ceiling: “…” Because I was speechless in wonder. All those Shirley Temples that got me through third grade? Powered by pomegranate. I feel like my whole life has been a lie up to and including right now.

Lorina Sparkling Lemonade

A few weeks ago I’m in a co-worker’s office and see this sexy-looking bottle on her desk and I’m totally eyeballing it lewdly and she says, “Oh yeah, Lorina Sparkling Lemonade! This is my favorite drink!” And I admired the tasteful label design and mentioned, you know, off the cuff, that I happened to “work” for the “preeminent beverage-related website” and “really knew my shit” and she said: “Here, take it! Try it! I have another bottle right here to enjoy. But you must tell me when your review is online so I can read it!” So I chugged it down and was all: Eh. Kind of like Orangina (you ever pronounce “Orangina” like “vagina”? Just to pass the time?) except with the carbonation cranked up too many notches. I left one last swallow in the bottle here on my desk so, when the time came for me to write about it, I could refresh my memory (and myself!), but it’s been weeks and I’m sure it’s very warm and flat and backwashed, but OK I will go ahead because that is my commitment to you: Hm! Not bad! Subtle lemon flavor! So my recommendation is crack it open and let it sit for like a month. Lorina needs to age.

Pepsi Vanilla

Oh man. I had to go get some blood drawn this morning, so they could check on my cholesterol. This is the big one. When they checked it a year ago, the numbers were bad, and when then rechecked it six months ago, they numbers were WORSE, so this morning was put up or shut up time. Today was the day where they test my commitment to life on this planet. Sure, I lost some weight like my doctor ordered, but have I been exercising more? Besides the one hand? Not so much. So we’ll see.

But when you get bloodwork done you have to fast from like midnight the night before, so I was fairly ravenous when I got out of there, and did what pretty much anyone who was starving and woozy from loss of blood would do at 8 AM: I stumbled next door to the Mobil station and bought a Pepsi Vanilla.

DO NOT TELL MY DOCTOR, SHE WILL KILL ME. Soda and juices—yea, my very lifeblood—are forbidden for people trying to lower their cholesterol. But hello? I need to give the people what they want? I mean I am literally not doing this for my health. That’s the dedication. That’s the extra mile, right there.

So, Pepsi Vanilla. It’s good. It’s even slightly better than Vanilla Coke. The vanilla additive that Coke uses is too obviously fake and chemical-ish, and to me it always tastes like Coke + Fakeout Vanilla Material, rather than a cohesive, homogenous beverage. Pepsi Vanilla tastes more blended to me. The flavors don’t pick apart as easily.

So this round goes to Pepsi, although I am totally with you on the “Coke has more cred than Pepsi” tip, but between this and Pepsi Blue, I have to say that Pepsi is really putting it down fairly consistently lately. They are in there. They are scrappy. They are both bobbing and weaving. What has Coke done for me lately? Not much. They need to watch they back, that’s all I’m saying.

Them there’s the positives, but unfortunately (Pepsi. Sad little Pepsi. When will you ever learn?) we have some heavy negatives as well, namely a little something known as package design.

Good lord, is this bottle ugly. All it’s missing is a tag. I was actually embarrassed to be seen in public with it. How do they expect this beverage to succeed if men live in fear that a hot chick will see them drinking it? I was like hiding it under my jacket, sipping it out of a paper bag. Better they think I’m an alcoholic, I thought.

Actually what it really reminded me of was elementary school. Every morning at breakfast I’d have my Count Chocula or my Fruity Pebbles, and my mom would always want me to drink all the milk in the bowl, as though the nutritional value of the now-pink milk counterbalanced the transparent evil of the sugar-saturated cereal I demanded. But of course the milk is no fun once the cereal’s gone, so I never drank it. And then when I wasn’t looking, my mom would pour the disregarded cereal milk into my thermos and pack it into my lunch box to take to school. So at lunch time, I’d be sitting there eating my little sandwich, kids all around me screaming about cooties and anti-cootie spray and who likes who and who used to like who but doesn’t anymore, and I’d go to take a sip of my juice and realize that my mom had again foisted my cereal water on me. And by this time the milk was lukewarm from sitting in my locker all morning, plus there were a few very soggy bits of cereal remnants to contend with, all of which made for one heck of a disgusting beverage. And I’d sit there, panicked, thinking: “Oh my god. What if the other kids realize that my mom is making me drink my leftover cereal milk. Everyone else has really cool juice boxes with bendy straws. If they find out they will make me sit at the other end of the table, with Malcolm.” And at that point I would fake an illness, throw my lunch in the trash, and spend the rest of the day in the nurse’s office. Because you do not want to sit with Malcolm. That kid always smelled like he’d never once wiped his ass.

These are the memories that came cascading down around me as I drank my Pepsi Vanilla at 8 AM this morning in the parking lot of the Mobil station. Wonderful, another beverage that sends me sobbing to my therapist. Maybe I should just do what my doctor tells me and get off the sauce.

AriZona Herbal Tonic

Somebody wrote us a while ago and said something like “hey turkeys howsabout shuffling some props toward the unimpeachable flavor of AriZona green tea w/ginseng and honey” and at first I thought: What the hell is up with the interCapping? I’m assuming that capital Z is in there to help differentiate between the beverage company and the great U.S. state, sort of like The Charlatans UK, some sort of out-of-court arrangement, maybe. Then I thought: What the hell is up with AriZona’s website? Is that thing spewed from the darkest bowels of Frontpage or what. And then I thought: I do like that green tea with the honey. Very smooth and subtle, and a kind of classy wraparound label as opposed to the garishness of your beloved cactus drink.

So yesterday I picked up one of the AriZona Herbal Tonics, since I’d never given those a shot. Those are the ones that supposedly improve your Energy, Health, Memory, or Stress (maybe soothe rather than improve on that last one) and are made up to look like those olde tyme cure-all tonics sold to rubes in backwater towns and consisting mostly of ethyl alcohol? And that works for me, because a) you know I like the olde tyme look, and b) I think it’s nice that they analyzed the whole energy drink boom, the whole concept of a beverage being somehow nourishing to the spirit or intellect or mood, and said: “Hey, that sounds like snake oil. Let’s run with that.”

And in fact, the Memory Health Tonic makes no claims at all to help with your memory or anything else. It just says “Memory Health Tonic” and then has a picture of an Einsteinesque scientist working out a complicated math formula next to his crowded table of chemistry equipment — the key attribute of any successful scientist being of course his/her ability to remember things. To sum up, I appreciate this drink’s packaging approach from soup to nuts.

And the flavor? It’s sort of like if they mixed the green-tea-with-honey with the orange-mango from Nantucket Nectars. Which is probably what they did. So kind of diluted, but not diluted with water. I shrank back in terror at its milky color when I first cracked open the lid — its stylish blue bottle disguising its true color till then — but the terror semi-subsided when I started knocking back this sweet elixir.

I noticed no improvement to my memory, exactly as AriZona didn’t promise. Which is probably for the best, since you and I well know there are great swathes of my life that I’d just as soon forget and yes I’m talking about the EPCOT years.

Clearly Canadian Cherry

You probably won’t believe this, but back in high school I was a seltzer sort of guy. I know, I know, it’s hard to imagine me — me! of all people! — being one of those walking stereotypes, swilling seltzer, wearing a mink stole, sporting a Prince Albert, growing out my pinkie nail, listening to Kraftwerk and Sheena Easton, driving a Dodge truck … I mean, it’s embarrassing to think back on, but you know, everyone was into that “look” at the time. But even I couldn’t stomach straight seltzer water and had to fake it with flavored waters, which worked out because I had a Price Club card at the time and could pick up entire cases of New York Seltzer and Clearly Canadian.

Unfortunately, these cases were variety packs, so even though I could drink Black Cherry New York Seltzer exclusively, all day all night, there came a time when I had to suffer through Orange or Blueberry. Luckily, these were teeny tiny glass bottles, so at least anything unpleasant was over with quickly.

Clearly Canadian was always my second-choice seltzer, probably because it was closer to soda water than soda pop, Q.E.D. kind of bitter when you get right down to it. But CC has survived into contemporary times while NYS has not, so I picked up a bottle of good old Cherry Clearly Canadian this weekend, letting the sparkling waves of nostalgia wash over me.

Because even though the new bottle design is all fancy-pants, with each flavor sporting a different retro pattern (The Halftone! The Lava Lamp! The Wacky Grid!), the taste is exactly the same: that vague, bitter cherry, distantly medicinal.

So yeah I wasn’t all “there is an early 1960s-style orgy in my mouth and basically everyone is invited” but I still judge it as a Positive Drinking Experience because I felt smooth, sophisticated, and mature while drinking it. This was not an Extreme soda, it was not an unnaturally bright fluorescent color, it did not taste like there was a chemical spill down at Old Man Johnson’s Pop Shoppe. CCC was mild, subtle, elegant — just like the great nation of Canadia itself. And as I sipped it calmly and quietly — not my usual chug-and-gargle, burbling and spewing and shrieking — I found myself laughing, gently, affectionately, at the old selzter-drinking Josh of yore, injecting heroin into his eyes, playing croquet, and befouling himself in the way that only the young, and young at heart, truly can.

SoBe Cranberry-Grapefruit

I pretty much never ever drink SoBe juices. This bias is mainly the result of their lame-ass package design. The bottles are clunky, inelegant behemoths which are no fun to look at or hold. The lizard logo looks like a picture you’d see on the wall of the world’s dorkiest tattoo artist. The brushed metal bottle cap is a nod to Rosie the Riveter? I guess? And besides all of which, if I could get past the package design, which I cannot, most of the juices come in really disgusting colors based on the vomit rainbow of tan, pink, white, yellow, and brownish-green.

But my brother was in town the other day and he swore up and down that the Cranberry-Grapefruit beverage was all that and then some, so fine, whatever, I plunked down the buck-fifty and wheeled the huge-ass bottle out on a dolly.

One sip.

I figured this would be the puckeriest juice ever, what with cranberries plus grapefruits. But it wasn’t. I tasted a fair share of grapefruit, but nothing in the way of cranberry. So I turned the bottle over to read the ingredients. Sure enough, way down on the list, there was cranberry juice, right next to….cochineal extract!

Down, down the drain it goes! Swim away, little SoBe juice lizards! I send you back to the hellmouth from which you spawned.

In conclusion: if you can tell from the package design that the people running the company are a bunch of fucking idiots, then keep in mind that those same idiots are the ones mixing the ingredients.