Friday, January 25, 2008
The Coke Challenge
I'm reading Omnivore's Dilemma right now, which is a great book that explores the culture of corn. According to this book, corn's triumph over our food industry became complete in the early 80s when Coke switched to corn syrup from pure cane sugar. I wonder if people could tell the difference?
Well, since I can't answer that question without a trip to Brazil, I thought I'd find an answer to a more local question. While I was at Target a while back, I saw boxes of Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Diet Coke with Splenda all sitting next to each other. It looked a little ridiculous as these products are supposed to taste pretty much the same. And since the 12-packs were running $2.50, I had an idea, I could buy these and host a taste test! So that's what I did.
The scene: Barr Engineering Lunch room
The food: Eben's delicious homemade pizza
The participants: Fellow engineers (and one HR rep)
I poured the sodas into lettered cups so that no one knew which soda was which. Then I had everyone guess which Coke each cup contained. Pretty simple concept.
2 people out of 8 guessed all of them correctly (kudos to Jenny and Bethany). Only 2 people guessed Coke itself incorrectly. Everyone else got Coke and Diet Coke, but messed up on the Zero and the Splenda. That's understandable as the sweetener makeup of Zero and Splenda is nearly the same.
So what about taste? Well, everyone agreed that Coke was the sweetest. Diet drinkers found it too sweet, non-diet drinkers liked it best. Nearly everyone thought Diet Coke was just plain nasty in direct comparison. I drink a lot of Diet Coke, and after having sips of the others, I found straight Diet Coke to be a waste of taste buds. Seriously nasty. No thanks, but I'll get my caffeine another way.
While Coke Zero and Diet Coke with Splenda tasted similar, there were subtle differences in the TYPE of sweetness. There was no clear winner there, but I'd say for me that Zero came out slightly ahead in taste. HOWEVER (and this is weird), Coke Zero fizzed twice as much as the other 3 sodas, and the fizz had a weird color to it. It just seemed more suspect, as if it were really just a hair overprocessed! (we're all just basically drinking petroleum anyway).
I did not compare Diet Coke Plus as that has a weird chalkiness nor did I want to introduce caffeine-free as that tossed in too many variables. This was just a comparison of sweeteners. And a successful experiment too I might add! Next time I'm going to Brazil to get cane sugar Coke, purely science-based reasons.