Most folks who read BevReview.com may associate Jones Soda with disgusting flavors of pop released around Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. After all, we’ve done many beverage reviews over the years revolving around these unique flavors.
But if you aren’t familiar with this Seattle-based brand aside from their holiday-oriented promotional stunts, you’d be missing out on a lot of regular-but-unique flavors to enjoy — like the previously-reviewed Jones Bubble Gum Soda. As of late, Jones Soda has been making a lot of news in the beverage world. Back in December, they announced that they were making the switch to pure cane sugar from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as the sweetener in their main line of drinks. (As you’ll note from our review of Kosher for Passover Coke, this is a good thing!) Then in May, Jones Soda beat out both Coke and Pepsi for exclusive beverage rights at an NFL stadium — Qwest Field — in their hometown.
Jones Soda isn’t available everywhere, but distribution is growing, especially beyond their home territory of the Pacific Northwest. The company has had agreements with Target and various grocery stories to carry both their bottled and canned products in various capacities. They’ve also inked deals with more niche locations such as Barnes & Noble and Panera Bread. In fact, at the latter is where I found my first cane sugar-sweetened bottle of Jones Soda.
While dining with a friend at a local Panera Bread, I picked up a bottle of Jones Cream Soda. Right away, you know that something is different with the new cane sugar-sweetened versions of the drink. Instead of being greeted with the standard “Jones Soda Co.” on the label, it now reads “Jones Pure Cane Soda”. Obviously, they want to stand out in the crowd… and rightly so. Making a drink with cane sugar is more costly due to tariffs and subsidies in the United States that hurt those who use real sugar while benefiting others that utilize corn-based disgustingness. Perhaps that’s why my bottle of Jones Cream Soda mentioned that it was a “Product of Canada”. Is that how Jones is able to pull this change off affordably?
The bottle I had seemed to be Panera Bread-specific. In fact, a few years ago Jones launched a website that enabled Panera Bread employees submit photos for consideration on the front of bottles sold in these locations (Jones Soda is known for the always changing customer-contributed photos on their beverages). The description on the back of my bottle read:
At Jones, we thought it would be fun to have the people who make Panera Bread such a great place take the photos for our labels. Check out all the different photos on the labels taken by the same great people who make great bread. So from all of us — smile, relax and enjoy! Thanks. www.panerabread.com
The photo on the front of a young girl scrunching up her nose was shot by Christine Friend of Ballwin, MO as part of Series 13 in the Panera Bread Photo Contest. (Click to see more!)
Let’s talk a little more about this move of Jones Soda to “Pure Cane Soda”. According to the ingredients, the sweetener is actually “inverted cane sugar“. What the heck is inverted cane sugar? Wikipedia forwards this phrase to “inverted sugar syrup” defining it as a “sucrose-based syrup treated with the glycoside hydrolase enzyme invertase, and/or an acid, which splits each sucrose molecule into one glucose and one fructose molecule. This combination is sweeter than an equivalent sucrose solution by weight so it can be used to reduce the quantity of sugar in a recipe.” It mentioned that honey is a common household product that features inverted syrup.
I’m no scientist, but this would seem to indicate that Jones’ version of “pure cane sugar” leans more on the sucrose end of the spectrum, while HCFS obviously hints towards fructose. I’ve no clue what that means. In fact, from what I’ve been able to search online, it seems that there is not much difference in the way the body breaks down sucrose vs. HFCS. So is this whole change over to “Pure Cane Soda” a clever marketing sham? Or is there actual science to support it? Enquiring minds want to know! (UPDATE: A reader chimes in with more explanation.)
So, enough about the technical aspects of Jones Soda. How does the new formulation taste? Upon opening the bottle, the scent was very sweet… hinting at cotton candy (that seems to be the theme this summer… see Pepsi Summer Mix!) Amy commented that it smelled like “something I’d actually want to drink”. Given the history we have with the odd-flavored Jones Sodas, that’s a good thing. Also notable was the clear coloring of the beverage. Typically a cream soda has some sort of beige hue, but not in this case.
Then came the first sip… Wow, is this drink sweet!
It’s definitely liquid cotton candy, leaning more towards that taste and less towards an actual cream soda flavor. There was a little bit of the cream evidenced in the aftertaste, but not much through the entire tasting experience. It starts out sweet, stays sweet, and then finally ends creamy.
In our opinion, this drink was just too sweet. Having never tasted the non-cane sugar version of Jones Cream Soda, I can’t say how this matches up. However, one wonders if the change in sweetener is cause for this jump in sweetness. To me, a cream soda should be more mild, not packed with intense sweetness.
But hey, it’s caffeine free and if you live in Michigan, you can get a 10 cent refund on the bottle! But I don’t think I’ll be trying this particular flavor again.