Bubbling About Water

Who wants a fizzy flavored water?

The year is flying fast. It is already June, and we haven't done a water article for 2019 yet as we've done in years past. As a relatively new contributor to this website, we are not steeped in the history here, but it seems like an article on this subject should be an annual (at least) occurrence.

We had intended to start this article with a review of "Zero Water," that brand with the annoyingly clean-cut young lady instructing her father in the nuances of water filter selection, extolling the virtues of water produced by the Zero brand of water filters. But, at the Amazon price of $28.82, we cannot justify the expense of procuring one for testing - knowing that it would only be used once, and then become a dust gatherer in some remote corner, so we decided to look elsewhere for water subjects.

Doing the necessary research, in our first DuckDuckGo search (Google having become anathema), we were greeted with an article on sparkling water. Brands of cola and the counterpart flavors (Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew, etc.) are now so outré as to be unspeakable, and another edition of our previous subjects of water and its outrageous expense would only produce more examples of the same overpriced genre.

In the area of marketing consumer products, each niche into which products fit is referred to as a "category" - and today's category of concern is "flavored effervescent water."  Completely unfamiliar with the category, off to Publix we trekked to obtain samples.

So we arrived at the store, expecting to find 4 or 5 brands for our search; to our amazement, there was an array of them stretching along one side of an aisle for about 30 feet, 5 shelves high. A few brands were expanded into flavors, presenting 8 or 10 for selection, and the number of brands was surprising. For a category to occupy that much shelf space in a store, it must be very popular.

The particular Publix store where we went to shop is medium-sized for the chain, and this bewildering variety is probably doubled or trebled at the larger stores. The grocery type existed when we wrote our first article on bottled water, but the number of selections that were available at that time made this category unremarkable. It has clearly grown and matured since then.

As a compromise to keep this article to a sane size, we selected a small group of flavors of different brands as our representative sample. Prices ranged from $0.34 to $0.99 for all but 2, which were $1.99 and $2.79 respectively. We felt that the selection was a fair representation of the category, and we were pleased to see that pricing sanity seemed to rule in a way it had not in the bottled water categories explored before (and still doesn't – spot-checking brands indicates that prices are still ludicrous for bottled non-carbonated water).

There was a complete lack of correspondence of flavors between brands. Our intent had been to compare different brands of the same flavor, but this proved to be an impossible task. The flavors we picked seemed to be representative of fruit flavors, but who knows? This availability of flavors makes the taste of the different brands into a much more subjective effort, and gives us less basis for comparison.  Caveat emptor - and in we plunged!


Bubly, owned by PepsiCo, comes in an unpretentious 12 ounce can with a standard pull tab. Our selection was Strawberry. The Nutrition Facts lists all categories as 0. The first label that we have studied, however, it will probably not be the only one of our test beverages with no nutrition whatsoever.

The first taste is a not unpleasant burst of flavor that only the manufacturer would regard as appropriately described by the label. Having eaten thousands of strawberries, this writer can confidently say that not one of them bore the slightest resemblance to the flavor of Strawberry Bubly. But, bubbly it is, and in spades - we suspect we will be belching for a week.

"Finishing", as the aftertaste is described in winetasting, is a rather bitter, somewhat cloying taste like many artificial sweeteners, although nothing about the flavor itself would be regarded as sweet. The bitterness is far better than the saccharine sweetness which is the lingering finish of most strawberry flavorings for sodas, but that's the best that can be said - this flavor resembles nothing found in nature.

Conclusion: 1 / 5.

La Croix

Lacroix is in the 12 ounce can with a pull tab; our selection is Cran-Raspberry. Again, the Nutrition Facts lists all categories as 0.

And we spot a trend developing: very highly carbonated liquid swith only a vague acquaintance with flavor. This variety has a slightly more robust taste, but the words "cranberry" and "raspberry" did not pop into the mind. The initial taste reminded us of acetone somehow, but subsequent sips lost that flavor tinge, and merely tasted of bitterness with a hint of something acidic. It was nothing we would ever accuse a defenseless raspberry bush of having fostered.

Conclusion: 1 / 5.


Dasani is in a 12 ounce can also, but the proportions are an attempt at elegance: narrower and taller than the typical. Our selection is Raspberry Lemonade. In the Nutrition Facts, we find our first deviation from zeros: the sodium category, listed as 2% (Daily Value). Dasani is a product of the Coca-Cola Company.

The can proclaims their raspberry lemonade sparkling water beverage "naturally flavored." There is no reason to doubt the statement, since a clear hint of petroleum is present, and there is no doubt that petroleum is a naturally occurring flavor since no one would flavor anything petroleum on purpose. Having gotten a mouthful of gasoline many times in our mis-spent younger years, we do not wish to relive those experiences even if they were to bring back memories of those times.

Conclusion: 1 / 5.


Perrier water came in a can the same diameter as the Dasani can, but holding 8.45 ounces as opposed to the 12 ounces above. Thus, the can is shorter, but still taller than a standard 12 ounce can. Our selection is Grapefruit, and Nutrition Facts indicate all zeros except for 4% calcium.  Surely that's an improvement over sodium!

This beverage is the first of the group that has a drinkable flavor: lightly acidic with a pleasant tang and no cloying aftertaste. It is still vastly over-carbonated, but the ensuing belching is at least not terribly unpleasant.

Conclusion: 2 / 5.

Sparkling Ice

Sparkling Ice comes in a tall thin plastic bottle the approximate diameter of the Perrier and the Dasani. This liquid has a pleasing aroma which evidences itself when the bottle cap is loosened. Our selection is Black Cherry; the Nutrition Facts show all zeros in the required categories, but with 10% indicated for all of the listed vitamins and other nutrients. The label proudly claims "antioxidants and vitamins" without specifying quantities or particulars, and with zero sugar.

This brand is the first of the group that we might consider purchasing for actual use. The aroma is pleasant, the flavor is in keeping with the coloration and is not overpowering. It is a little too sweet, but not too bad; carbonation is well-controlled and pleasant. There is very little aftertaste, and it is fitting with the overall flavor of the beverage.

One caeat: heretofore, all beverages have been clear and non-staining. This one, being colored in keeping with the chosen flavor, might present a problem in the staining department, but we did not test that.

Conclusion: 3 / 5.


Bai arrives in a large plastic bottle which loudly proclaims "antioxidant infusion," which raises this writer's wariness quotient. The color is a translucent pinkish, but not shockingly so. Our selection is São Paulo Strawberry Lemonade. Nutrition Facts are all zero with the exception of 2% carbohydrates.

Of the group, this one has the most pronounced flavor, but is pleasant and not overpowering. And it does taste of strawberry lemonade, sort of. But then again, the beverages that we have sampled (ever) of the strawberry persuasion bore no resemblance to the taste of actual strawberries. The aftertaste is pleasant and not cloying.

The color of this beverage might produce a light stain, but we didn't test.

Conclusion: 3.5 / 5. This water was the best of the batch, but still was not worth the money and presented flavor/carbonation issues that were unwelcome.  At $1.99, bai was - that's right! - not a good buy.

Dishonorable Mention: Vita Coco

The preconceived notion that this writer had of the whole category was actually fulfilled by one of its members: Vita Coco. Expensive at $2.79, clumsy to handle in its container (bag?), flavor that defies description, and a belch factor that is worthy of a whole dissertation, this beverage is an outright gift to those of us who write about these things.

The label informs us that it is "not from concentrate." The flavor name is peach mango, which would be produced by concentrating what? Peaches and mangoes we suppose, except that there is no essence of either to be found. Nutrition facts are all zero with 2% sodium, 8% carbohydrates, a whopping 13% potassium, and 15 g of sugar.

And we are still belching from the few sips we took when we sampled the beverage yesterday.  The stuff is still with us, and has become an unwelcome guest in our system. There's no doubt it is the Vita Coco to blame, because of the singularity of the taste, whatever it might actually be. We are not pleased.

All of this is contained in a squidgy bag-like container that shows limes, a yellow blob in a mango-like shell and an unidentifiable green shape with a white core from which protrudes a red straw and a yellow one under a palm tree. Label artwork is not known for its precision, but these unidentifiable objects go right along with all the belching.

The indeterminate flavor of this "cocoa water" was not terribly oppressive, and the concoction had no aftertaste to speak of, but all those lacks are made up for by the fact that it is very expensive.

Conclusion: 0 / 5.  It would have been 1 / 5, but we knocked 1 point off for belching all night.

In comparison to our previous write-ups on still (non-effervescent) water, all of these varieties of carbonated flavored water were downright bargains in the overall water category, with the possible exceptions of the Sparkling Ice at $1.00, the Bai at $1.99, and that noxious belch-inducing brew Vita Coco. All the rest were $0.50 or less per can.

The containers held 12 ounces for the Bubly, Lacroix, and Dasani, 8.45 ounces for the Perrier. 18 ounces for the Bai, and 17 ounces for the Sparkling Ice.  The prize, however goes to the Vita Coco: at $2.79 you can belch to your delight if not far beyond. We doubt that your heart will be delighted under any circumstance involving that brew.

These beverages were all disappointing, and this writer would not waste his money on any of them - though would contentedly consume the Sparkling Ice if offered him for free. And the Vita Coco is an absolute menace: no one should be subjected to the physical torture brought on by that stuff. We will indulge ourselves in a Diet Dr. Pepper if it is required for us to have a carbonated beverage. But we much prefer Budweiser, with which to drown both the flavors and the sorrows they induced.

Thomas Anderson is a multi-state registered architect and an ex-Air Force electronic technician, who is a keen observer of the human condition.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Thomas Anderson or other articles on Business.
Reader Comments

Allow me to toss in Crystal Geyser, medium carbonation, 6 flavors, a hint of the flavors, the Lime has 2% sodium and the mandatory 0% of anything else, except for dihydrogen monoxide. Stuff isn't too bad.

July 7, 2019 10:55 PM
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