Have you noticed America’s obsession with flavored sparkling water and clear sodas? Research company Mintel estimated that retail sales of seltzer in the United States more than doubled from 2013 to 2018. As a designer of new products and experiences, I’m always tracking emerging technology trends.  Now that I’m working with one of the largest beer manufacturers, beverage trends are also on the radar.

So, I thought that I might share my real-time taste test assessment of a new brand of soda, or “pop” as they call it in my home town of Cleveland, Ohio.  Tonight, I’m about to crack open a cold can of Zevia® ORANGE soda.  I haven’t had an orange pop in years.  The bright orange anodized can with white graphics brings forth a flashback from my youth.  When I was a young buck, I loved the Denver Broncos.  Principally because the team’s mascot is a white bucking horse silhouetted on bright orange.  And, in the 1970’s and 80’s, the Bronco’s defensive line was known to put the squeeze on any big play.  Their defense was affectionally called the “Orange Crush Defense” by loyal fans.  It was fitting to consume many cans of Orange Crush branded soda on game day.  This artificially flavored, brightly colored beverage was well integrated into my candy-colored, New Wave upbringing.  By the time I reached my teenage years, I lost all interest in football and was into Mountain Dew and BMX.  By the time Grunge music took over, I was drinking craft beers and making healthier food choices.  Today, there’s usually coffee or kombucha in my Hydro Flask.  I rarely drink soda and when I do, it’s usually as a mixer. 

When Zevia surfaced with a zero-calorie soda that contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners, I was brand curious. How good might a water-clear, caffeine free, zero-calorie soda be?  I’m about to take my first sip and thought I’d blog about it in real-time….here it goes.  

Interesting….the Zevia taste sensation I’m having is neither sweet or saccharine…and yet I’m having enough memory recall to suggest that they have achieved that ‘Orange Crush’ taste sensation, without replicating the exact taste.  Zevia’s ORANGE® soda taste doesn’t have that dense, syrupy mouth feel of the Orange Crush that I remember.  Zevia ORANGE® tastes more like a crushed-up citrus-flavored baby aspirin dissolved in one of those super gassy sparkling waters from Europe.  I know that sounds horrible, but it’s really not a bad thing.   Truth be told, I don’t love it, but I find myself wanting more of it – why is that?  Perhaps because baby aspirins were formulated to taste good, and administered by mom, followed by a loving touch to the forehead to check for fever.  For me, the hint of aspirin taste is anchored to memories of love, recovery and home.  If this sounds weird or abstract to you, you should read ‘The Cultural Code’ by French Author Clotaire Rapaille.  His book exposes much of what’s going on behind the branded curtain and he brilliantly explains why we buy as we do: https://www.amazon.com/Culture-Code-Ingenious-Understand-People/dp/0767920570

My conclusion is that I think Zevia really has created a whole new thing, with a nice nod to the old thing.  Granted, carbonated beverages are probably not the best choice for your health, but at least it’s naturally-flavored and uses the plant-based sweetener stevia.  I don’t feel guilty drinking it and I’m just about finished with my first can.  Now I just need to find someone who delivers gluten-free pizza after midnight. 

Until next time, thanks for letting me be Frank