Soda’s Sweet Spot
Keep your laws of my soda. If the state can regulate the size of a soft drink, just think about what they could do to cocktails. Or perhaps the grams of saturated fat anyone could be served at a restaurant. Life would be so sad if New York took my deep fried Buffalo burger away from me. Granted it’s a very special treat and I only have one every eighteen months or so, but I would miss it terribly.
Still, I understand where regulators come from. Something must be done.
Recently I was at the mall and observed an alarming interaction between a small girl and someone who appeared to be her grandmother. The adult casually handed the girl a giant cup of soda. How giant? It was about the size of her forearm and four times as wide around. My guess is that it must have been 32 ounces of soda.
And far from being amazed by her newfound bounty of liquid candy, the little girl blithely slipped the straw in her mouth and started sucking as she walked. It was clearly apparent that this was not a special treat for either of them. No smiles were cracked. There was no noticeable joy. This was an everyday act of hydration.
Now there is no reason to think that this skinny little girl is on the fast track to obesity. But at the same time, this normalizing of soda as something to drink whenever you are thirsty, could indeed cause long term problems. Maybe not now. But perhaps later as her metabolism slows down. And if not for her, then for others like her.
Fear not, the soda industry is working on solutions.
Thanks to chef Ric Orlando’s twitter feed, I found this article. It apparently made his blood boil, although he wasn’t quite so clear on the specifics. Here’s the topic sentence to the news story, “Coke and Pepsi are chasing after the sweet spot: a soda with no calories, no artificial sweeteners and no funny aftertaste.”
For the record, the soda companies do not find high fructose corn syrup to be an artificial sweetener. Neither does the FDA.
But the idea is that if soda manufacturers can create a beverage that won’t make you fat, and tastes great, without being filled with questionable artificial ingredients, maybe the government will lay off banning their products and cutting into their profits.
Except one cannot ignore the reports that diet soda makes you fat. And the uncertain safety of natural plant based sweeteners in large quantities is also concerning. Which leads me to believe soda companies are barking up the wrong tree.
As someone who is used to tilting at windmills, I recognize the pathology.
You want to know the funniest part? Instead of traveling the world looking for exotic natural ingredients to make their sodas sweet, like miracle fruit, the answer to their problems is much easier.
Soda doesn’t have to be calorie neutral to be an accepted part of the American diet.
Bear with me for a moment, while I lay this out. A twelve ounce can of Coke has 140 calories. That’s over nine teaspoons of sugar per can. If you dissolved that much sugar into twelve ounces of water, it would be undrinkable. The only reason Coke is palatable is because the sugar is balanced by phosphoric acid.
Think about lemonade. If it’s too sweet, you can do two things. You can add more lemon, which just like phosphoric acid, cuts the sweetness. Alternatively, you can add more water which dilutes the flavor.
Or you could have used less sugar in the first place.
The answer is as simple as making a line of sodas that is simply less sweet. Don’t call it Coke. Call it Coke Dry. Use real cane sugar instead of the high fructose corn syrup. I suspect a 70 calorie can of Coke Dry would be plenty sweet. And if 70 isn’t a good number for marketing, package it in eight ounce bottles and make the claim that it is less than 50 calories.
It would have none of the nasty off flavors from non-sugar sweeteners. It would satisfy those who want people to consume fewer calories through soft drinks. Dieters would have a lower calorie product that would not sabotage their diets. Everybody wins.
And I bet it would be refreshing as all get out.
People will tell you they want a delicious soda with no calories. They will also tell you they want cars that fly. And they never told anyone they wanted iPods. People are awful at knowing what they want or what will make them happy. The marketing people at the soda companies need to get their heads out of their focus groups and look at what’s happening around them.
They need a way out from being a high fructose corn syrup delivery device. And a less sweet version of their product made with real sugar, could be just the answer. But please remember to avoid legislating the high octane stuff away. Because next they may come after something you like. So let’s be tolerant, and push for better alternatives.