In late 2008, Coke announced a reduced calorie version of Sprite called Sprite Green, first introduced in New York and Chicago.
Per Coke's press release about the new drink, Sprite Green "has 50 calories per 8.5-ounce serving and 5% lemon juice. Sprite Green was created to appeal to active young adults and will be launched in two U.S. cities this month in distinctive 8.5-ounce aluminum bottles. Initial availability will be limited to teen and young adult-oriented locations and events with a broader rollout planned for early 2009. Sprite Green complements the Sprite brand's leading lemon-lime and zero-calorie lemon-lime sparkling beverages."
The big hype about Sprite Green is the use of Truvia, which is the trade name for a version of a stevia-based sweetener created by The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill. Using what they consider a "natural sweetener" (there's some debate on that), you can lower the calorie count on a typical bottle of Sprite.
We were able to find a bottle of Sprite Green here in Chicago, though it did not look anything like the aluminum bottle illustration that Coke provided when they announced the drink. Our version was packaged in a 12 oz. green glass bottle with a narrow neck. A pretty sharp look… if you ignore the ugly plastic twist cap on top.
Upon opening the bottle, well, it smells like Sprite. It even looks like Sprite, with that clear, bubbly appearance. But what about that all-important taste experience?
Upon first sip, it's actually pretty good. Tastes pretty much like the Sprite you know and love. But then the floor drops out and you realize that your are on some gruesome amusement park ride of flavor doom! Now, granted, this is a diet beverage, so a non-attractive taste is to be expected. But given that this drink has a stevia-powered aftertaste, maybe I wasn't expecting exactly what my mouth was saying… which was pretty much, "what did you just do to me?"
The aftertaste ruins Sprite Green. At first, it's not really there like most diet beverages. It sort of sneaks up on you. But this delayed rancidness makes up for it in the end. The taste is actually quite dry and cleanish as far as texture, however the flavor is very bitter and non-food-like. Almost like you accidentally swallowed some hair spray. It's an odd collection of substances that sort of sit on your tongue, waiting to be scrubbed off. I can now understand why Sprite Green has been launched in "limited markets" and isn't really taking the country by storm. Yuck!
However, if you are still interested in this drink, you'll find that a 12 oz. bottle contains 70 calories, 160 mg of sodium (Wow… that's quite a bit!), and 18 g of carbs (17 g of which are sugars). The drink is caffeine-free.
Carbonated water, lemon juice from concentrate, sugar, natural flavors, sodium polyphosphates, sodium citrate, potassium sorbate (to protect taste), rebiana (stevia extract), salt, malic acid, ascorbic acid (to protect color)
The combination of stevia and sugar makes Sprite Green sort of a hybrid drink when it comes to sweeteners. Hmm, where have we seen this before? Oh, that's right… Coca-Cola C2 and Pepsi Edge. Anyone remember those drinks from 2004? They crashed and burned, not only based on taste, but also on need. In the end, they weren't. The same seems to be true regarding Sprite Green. It's a beverage without a real purpose.
That said, I really wish Sprite Green was better than it tasted. Those used to the aftertaste experiences of diet sodas may welcome it more than we did, however if we were looking for a lemon lime-flavored drink with the benefits of stevia, we'd probably choose Zevia over Coke's entry.