The folks at Avery’s Beverages in New Britain know a thing or two about attracting kids to drink their sodas, and their parents to buy them.
1. Give the drinks crazy, gross sounding names. (Swamp Juice, Toxic Slime, Dog Drool, Bug Barf…)
2. Add bright, fun colors, but keep the ingredients natural (real cane sugar and naturally pure well water).
3. Top them off with a bottle cap announcing them as “totally gross soda,” and add this tagline to the front: “It’s SODAsgusting.”
Boom. Sold. Appealing to the 10 year old in all of us, the Central Connecticut soda makers came up with the totally gross soda line inspired by kids’ concoctions created during its make your own soda program. Participants take a tour of Avery’s factory, then mix their own flavors in the mixing room, and take home three bottles of their handmade soda as well as an official soda maker’s apron.
Avery’s electric blue hued Toxic Slime flavor was the clear, hands down winner of Eastern Home & Travel’s decidedly nonscientific, but super fun kids’ all natural soda taste test. A selection of sparkling sodas manufactured on the East Coast were offered, one by one, to a panel of five kids, boys and a girl ages 4 through 12, with discerning tastes.
The other sodas barely stood a chance against the blue raspberry orange flavored Toxic Slime. The testers practically jumped out of their seats, exclaiming about the color, and laughing about the label. After one sip, unanimous thumb sup sprung up from all.
The moms were pleasantly surprised about Avery’s as well. Despite its questionable appearance and suspect name, Toxic Slime comes from one of the oldest soda bottling companies in New England, and is made inside an old, red barn. Avery’s sodas are handcrafted in small batches, using methods and recipes handed down through several generations. The company believes in glass bottle packaging to preserve its old fashioned flavor.
Speaking of old fashioned flavor, the testers also highly enjoyed the classic draft style root beer from Foxon Park Beverages in East Haven, Conn. The company, founded in 1922 by an Italian immigrant, uses the same recipes today to brew up unique flavors such as Iron Brew (a drink famous in Scotland), Gassosa (a lemonflavored Italian soda), as well as birch beer and the kid favorite root beer. The company prides itself on its natural ingredients, such as real cane sugar. And the kids and their moms agreed that the flavor was authentic.
Hailing from Pennsylvania, the Reading Draft Soda company made the kids’ next favorite flavor, grape smoothie. This is one of the newer flavors offered by the soda company that has “hand drafted” its birch beer, sarsaparilla, vanilla cream and root beer since 1921.
Pure cane sugar, paired with other natural ingredients, and Reading Draft’s slow carbonation process are the secrets to the company’s great tasting success. Though the kids may not appreciate the intricate process involved in getting the grape smoothie’s smooth flavor, the moms were interested to find out that while most larger soda manufacturers flash carbonate their beverages, Reading Draft takes its time. Carbon dioxide is introduced to the product under low pressure, producing very small bubbles, which stay in the liquid longer, making it taste better.
Cheerwine had a fun name on its side, and that, paired with its cherry flavor resulted in positive reviews from the kids. Created in 1917 in Salisbury, N.C., by a general store owner, it has become known as the “nectar of North Carolina.” Today, the creator’s grandson runs the Cheerwine company, and generations of North Carolinians seek out the sparkling beverage.
The only canned beverage in our tasting, Steaz sparkling green tea, produced in Doylestown, Pa., was also the only calorie free option. Made with stevia extract and all natural flavors, the Steaz blood orange flavor was loved by moms and kids alike. Though the company has only been around for a little more than a decade, its popularity is growing. Steaz focuses on sourcing socially responsible ingredients and is proud of its organic and fair trade certifications.
Another relative newcomer to the soda scene, Spindrift, did not impress as readily. The company’s lemonade flavor was almost too natural tasting, with the kids declaring it “sour” and “yucky smelling.” Moms detected mango and pineapple flavors and agreed it wasn’t your average soda. But that, perhaps, is the point of the new soda company, located in Charlestown, Mass. Billing itself as “a fresh take on soda,” Spindrift is trying to reintroduce soda to the masses, whose taste buds are clouded by unnatural ingredients and high fructose corn syrup. The side of the Spindrift bottle literally attempts to speak to its drinker: “I’m sorry – we’ve gotten off track. Let’s start again. I’m a soda. I’m made of sparkling water and crushed fruit. Simple, light, refreshing. Give me a second chance, please?” Unfortunately, the kids weren’t willing, one giving this nail-in-the-coffin review: “It tastes like a healthy soda.”
Try a Soda!