According to basic high school chemistry, which I managed to somehow retain despite frequent non-approved nap breaks during 10th grade, a single gram of carbohydrates contains exactly four calories*.
*3.9 if you want to get all technical about it.
According to even simpler preschool math, I have also managed to remember (although in this case, I credit school-sponsored naps) one plus one equals two and four plus four equals eight. So with two grams of total carbohydrates, it’s perfectly reasonable to think the eight calories per can of the new 7 Up, and Sunkist low-calorie sodas would take on names like 7 Up Eight or Sunkist Eight. Likewise, you might think the folks at RootBeer.com would piggyback “Twelve” onto the end of the name for their new low calorie, three carbohydrate version of A&W Root Beer.
Except they didn’t, mostly on account of the FDA having this whole rounding thing going when it comes to calories, but also because saying you’re an “eight” is like wearing a pin that sports how moderately above average but not spectacular you are.
It makes sense when you think about it. I mean, when was the last time you bragged to your friends about scoring that “eight” at the bar or walked into an interview touting the fact that you earned the equivalent of a B- grade point average? Face it. An eight is like losing in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. It’s not horrible, but nobody really cares or remembers. And 12? Don’t even get me started on 12. Hyperbole might be all well and good for cartoons, but when it comes to superlatives in my food, I can see right through that marketing fallacy.
So we’re left with rounding up on two new sodas and rounding down on one new soda to get us to the magic ten calories which give the new 7 Up Ten, Sunkist Ten, and A&W Ten sodas their names.
It’s not the first time a “Ten” soda has been released. Aside from their calorie (or lack thereof) content, the only thing the new flavors of “Ten” sodas have in common with the previously released Dr. Pepper Ten is that they’re owned by the same company. Otherwise, I would have pegged them as the last sodas to get an upgrade in flavor. Popular Coke or Pepsi products, or something otherwise legendary and iconic? I could see that. Who wouldn’t kill for a Cheerwine 10? But 7 Up, A&W, and Sunkist? This is like the cast of characters that come back for reality shows like Rachel Vs. Guy Celebrity Cooks. But considering this is the most play 7 Up has gotten since Spot Goes to Hollywood hit the Sega Saturn and the most love any flavor of orange soda has gotten since Kel Mitchell went all PG-13 on that bottle in All That, well, I guess it was time for something different.
I started with 7 Up Ten because that seemed like the soda that could be the least offensive of the three. Or as I like to say, boring. Go figure, boring is exactly how it tasted. It has your characteristic diet soda body in that it didn’t leave any syrupy sensation going down, and it lacked the “bite” or harshness which something like Sprite Zero or Diet Sierra Mist has. The carbonation meter on 7 Up is still on the wimpy side, while the taste lacks any zing or pizzazz or other onomatopoeic word you would use to describe soda. It’s terribly typical, and almost indiscernible from Diet 7 Up. I was not a fan.
Next, I moved on to Sunkist Ten because the taste of 7 Up Ten left me feeling pretty plain about my soda drinking and because I thought it would help my self-esteem to be kist by the orange sun of celestial citrus goodness. Of course, I’ve had Diet Sunkist plenty of times in my life and have found it to be about as dull and exciting as getting kist by a grey sun peeking through the fog on a cloudy day.
Sunkist Ten, for some reason completely unexplainable to me, has a much greater intensity and brighter orange flavor than Diet Sunkist, putting it closer to our image of an actual sun kisting you. The carbonation walks the line of being just enough to give you a few quiet burps but not enough to make embarrass you at the office lunch meeting, while the sharper flavor of the orange and citrus do a much better job at covering up the harsh aftertaste of aspartame. Quite frankly, it’s about damn time we got low calorie orange soda that didn’t suck, and would give me cause to consider why someone like Kel Mitchell would kist it back.
With two flavors of ten sodas down (that’s 16 calories, for those keeping track) I moved on to A&W Ten, which prides itself on having aged vanilla flavor. I’m going to have to take their word for it because I don’t think I’ve ever had aged vanilla before, unless you count the pint of nine-month expired Ben and Jerry’s I once bought at a thrift grocery store.
I thought the taste was a moderate improvement over regular Diet A&W, with the actual liquid having a bit more body and the vanilla and sassafras flavor coming across as sharper and better defined. It’s a good low calorie root beer, although it’s still not nearly as good as Barq’s Zero, which has a serious bite and no calories, but is only available through Coke Freestyle machines. I don’t think they sell those in 12-packs though, so I consider A&W Ten an acceptable substitute for the time being.
The cynic in me wants to back up the assertion that making sodas out of two of the most hated ingredients – high fructose corn syrup and aspartame – isn’t going to please anyone in the regular soda vs. diet soda debate, and if I was going off of 7 Up Ten alone, I’d probably just tell you to buy regular Diet 7 Up or 7 Up depending on your preference.
But as I lifelong diet soda drinker who occasionally dabbles in the empty sugar rush of HFCS-sweetened beverages, I can say there’s a real improvement of flavor and body in both Sunkist and A&W Ten that makes them highly preferable to their zero calorie predecessors.
(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 7Up Ten – 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 45 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbs, 2 grams of sugars, and 0 grams of protein. A&W Root Beer Ten – 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 80 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbs, 2 grams of sugars, and 0 grams of protein. Sunkist Ten – 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 130 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbs, 2 grams of sugars, and 0 grams of protein.)
Item: 7 Up Ten, A&W Root Beer Ten, Sunkist Ten
Purchased Price: 25 cents each
Size: 12 ounce cans
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 3 out of 10 (7 Up Ten)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (A&W Ten)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Sunkist Ten)
Pros: Low calorie. Sunkist Ten is like being kist by the sun without the risk of skin cancer. Aged Vanilla in A&W Ten actually tastes more defined and sharper than in diet version. Busting out the Sega Saturn references. School sponsored naps.
Cons: None have heavy bite and carbonation that will get you through the first half of burping the alphabet. 7 Up Ten tastes just like Diet 7 Up. Contains a whole bunch of chemicals that the internet says will give me cancer. Still have Diet Soda body, and not the body you get from abstaining from regular soda, if you know what I mean.