REVIEW: Sparkling Ice Starburst Flavors

Who among us hasn’t been sitting around eating a fistful of Starburst when the thought suddenly occurred — “This candy is great and all, but what I’d really like to be doing is drinking it”? Well, friends, the good people at Sparkling Ice have read your mind (don’t ask why they were there to begin with; you don’t want to know) and are here with a solution: new Starburst-flavored Sparkling Ice.

If you don’t know Sparkling Ice, it is the primary product offering from Washington State’s Talking Rain beverage company, which started in 1987 and had roughly $500 million in retail sales in 2019. (I couldn’t find more recent sales figures; its website DOES have an extensive FAQ section, however, with real think pieces like, “Why did strawberry kiwi turn pink?” “Is the color safe?” “Is Sparkling Ice vegan?” and “Is it normal to have sediment floating in my Sparkling Ice?”)

And if you don’t know Starburst… that’s just weird.

So, does the low-calorie drink accurately capture its chewy sugar cube inspiration? As an avid fan of regular Sparkling Ice products, I was eager to find out.


This was the first one I had, and it was the worst. The taste was somewhere between “citrus aspirin” and an orange-Flintstone vitamin that’d been dusted with a heaping of artificial sweetener. The very first part of the drink made me go, “Hey, this tastes like an orange Starburst,” but everything after made me want to rinse my mouth out with paint thinner. Here’s the deal with artificial sweetener — I have no issue with it. Regular Sparkling Ice has it, and I’m a staunchly Zero/Diet guy when it comes to soda. But this was SO bad that it reminded me of being young and first trying Diet Coke, back when it just tasted like poison to a palate honed on only the finest real sugar cane (or, you know, high fructose corn syrup). In any case, I had no desire to drink more than two sips of this.


Though my first thought when I poured this one into the glass was, “Welp, this looks a little like urine,” I had it immediately after Orange, so, you know, there was nowhere to go but up. It managed to taste like its namesake flavor all the way through and had a fraction of the Sucralose taste, which earned it a second-place finish overall.


It tasted like a cherry Starburst, but it also managed to fall somewhere in the middle of the prior two in terms of the artificial sweetener taste. I also caught subtle cough syrup notes, which didn’t help my enjoyment. (Come to think of it, the actual cherry Starbursts sort of have that medicinal taste, too. So they really nailed the flavor on this one.)


Everyone knows that the pink Starburst is the best Starburst, case closed. (Out of the original flavors, that is. Tropical and Baja varieties really muck up the overall rankings with their deliciousness.) This, too, was the best Starburst Sparkling Ice. It captured the candy’s essence well but was once again marred by the sweetener. While it didn’t reach Orange levels of intolerability, it was still more noticeable than the Lemon kind.

In the end, I was surprised by how much I disliked these. The heavy application of Sucralose kept them from being anything I’d feel the need to purchase again. I’ll stick with regular Sparkling Ices and pilfer the Starburst two-packs from my daughter’s Halloween candy.

Purchased Price: $1.19 (each)
Size: 17 oz bottles
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 1 out of 10 (Orange), 3 out of 10 (Lemon), 4 out of 10 (Cherry), 5 out of 10 (Strawberry)
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) 5 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 0grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of total sugars, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: AHA Fuji Apple + White Tea, Blackberry + Lemon, and Pineapple + Passionfruit Sparkling Water

AHA Fuji Apple + White Tea Blackberry + Lemon and Pineapple + Passionfruit Sparkling Water Cans

Since its debut in 2020, AHA Flavored Sparkling Water has become a standout in the beverage aisle due to its refreshing flavor combinations and vibrant, colorful packaging. The Coca-Cola-backed brand, along with popular competitors like La Croix, bubly, and Spindrift, leads a surge in seltzer sales by appealing to crowds who want a healthier, just-as-fizzy alternative to soda.

When AHA first appeared on shelves, I had only dipped my toe in the sparkling water, uh, waters and generally missed the sweetness I’d become accustomed to in other carbonated beverages. But, determined to cut back on my diet soda intake, I bought a few cans of AHA, which lists only carbonated water and natural flavors as ingredients. Two years later, the brand remains a favorite.

At my local Giant Eagle, I recently discovered three new AHA flavors: Fuji Apple + White Tea, Blackberry + Lemon, and Pineapple + Passionfruit. I exclaimed, “Aha!” before loading them into my cart because I couldn’t resist. (One day, you’re cool, and before you know it, you’re making puns at the grocery store.)

AHA Fuji Apple White Tea

First, I sampled the Fuji Apple + White Tea flavor. Unlike the other two flavors, this variety is caffeinated, containing 30 milligrams of caffeine per can (about the equivalent of 1/2 cup of green tea). It is also the only variety to include electrolyte sources (calcium and magnesium chlorides and potassium bicarbonate) in its list of ingredients.

Although I don’t often gravitate toward apple flavors, I love this product. The water’s carbonation had the same sharp, refreshing bubble quality as other AHA products. It perfectly recalled the taste of a sweet, crisp Fuji. The white tea component was mellow but still detectable in the drink’s smooth finish. Also a fan of AHA’s caffeinated Citrus + Green Tea and Mango + Black Tea flavors, I will add this newest variety to my rotation.

AHA Blackberry Lemon

Up next: Blackberry + Lemon. This flavor sounded the best to me on paper but was my least favorite of the three. I detected no lemon notes, which left a dominating blackberry flavor that didn’t taste very realistic. Its perfume-y quality left a harsh aftertaste. The product is not undrinkable, but I won’t buy it again.

AHA Pineapple Passionfruit

Last was Pineapple + Passionfruit. This one made me double-check the ingredients list for fruit juice or sugar. Nope. The sweet, smooth tropical taste, including a subtly tart undercurrent of passionfruit, was purely the product of natural flavors. This product was not only my favorite of the bunch, but also a rival to my favorite AHA flavor, Peach + Honey.

AHA Fuji Apple + White Tea Blackberry + Lemon and Pineapple + Passionfruit Sparkling Water Glasses

“Aha!” is defined as “an expression of triumphant discovery, surprise, or derision,” so it is appropriate that my reaction to AHA’s new flavors involved a little bit of all three. See? Zero calories, zero sweeteners, and zero sodium do not have to equal boring.

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Purchased at: Giant Eagle
Size: 8 pack of 12 oz cans
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Fuji Apple + White Tea), 10 out of 10 (Pineapple + Passionfruit), 4 out of 10 (Blackberry + Lemon)
Nutrition Facts: (per 12 oz can – all varieties) 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.