The other day a package arrived with some mysterious silver cans. They were adorned with stickers proclaiming that Big Red Zero was inside. Per the attached note, "you are among the first to try Big Red Zero. These silver can samples came from our first production run." Well, that makes us feel rather special, I'll admit. Let's see what this stuff is all about!
Per Becky Ozuna at Big Red, Big Red Zero will be replacing the current Diet Big Red offering. The press materials state that "we've tweaked our diet formula to bring you the sweet, smooth Big Red taste you know and love… with zero calories."
When you compare the ingredient lists side-by-side, you'll note there are differences. Probably the most obvious is that while Diet Big Red was artificially sweetened by sucralose and Ace-K, new Big Red Zero features 3 sweeteners: sucralose, Ace-K, and aspartame.
Big Red Zero
Carbonated water, citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, sucralose, sodicum benzoate, caffeine, malic acid, Red 40, acesulfame potassium, aspartame, phosphoric acid, and acacia gum
For a 20 oz. bottle, there are 0 calories, 30 mg sodium, and 0 g carbs (0 g sugars).
Diet Big Red
Carbonated water, sucralose, natural and artificial flavor, caffeine, sodium benzoate, Red 40, malic acid, and acesulfame potassium
For a 20 oz. bottle, there are 0 calories, 50 mg sodium, and 0 g carbs (0 g sugars).
Of course, we've never reviewed Diet Big Red, so unfortunately we are unable to perform a side-by-side flavor test to see which is the preferred taste. No doubt you'll have to discover this on your own.
Having been sent production samples, the full artwork and labeling was not in place, though those were provided separately. Through the magic of Photoshop, we've situated a can of Big Red Zero near our famous "Beverage Tree". It looks a lot better than a generic silver can, that's for sure!
Of note is that Zero borrows from the established color of "Zero" drinks that Coke first popularized: black. This is a nice branding improvement from the look/feel of Diet Big Red. It's not exactly innovative, but the message is clearly understood.
So that's the market positioning of Big Red Zero. How about the taste? Our original review of high fructose corn syrup-sweetened Big Red described the drink as follows:
Your beginning sip is subdued, but as Big Red washes over your tongue, the extreme sweetness of the drink really stands out. At this point, the bubble gum-ness of the taste becomes apparent as it flows off into a sweet aftertaste. It's syrupy overall, attributed to the non-natural flavor selection and the use of high fructose corn syrup. Overall, the experience is about what you would expect from a red creme soda-type flavor. Very sweet, gum-like, and syrupy.
With this as our basis, I wanted to see how the Zero version compared, especially for those looking to shave calories from their beverage consumption.
The first sip of Zero is pretty much on par with the original. Very sweet. The initial flavor (red creme, bubble gum) was also present. And then that expected artificial sweetener aftertaste kicked in. I'd say it's quite noticeable if you aren't familiar with the taste and texture of diet beverages. If your mouth has already been desensitized to such things, then you are really going to love Big Red Zero, because the flavor profile is pretty accurate. It's the tradeoff you get when you go the diet route, unfortunately (something even the newer stevia-sweetened drinks haven't perfected).
If you are a standard Big Red connoisseur and jump over to Big Red Zero, it may be more shocking for you, as is typically the case with a full calorie vs. no calorie drink comparison. Big Red has such a unique flavor already, so my gut is that we're going to have polar opposites who either love or hate this new rendition. There will be no middle ground.
For a zero calorie drink, Big Red Zero lives up to the name of the original. Heck, it even still packs a lot of caffeine at 3.12 mg/oz. The use of sucralose, Ace-K, and aspartame is hard to miss, but if you can overcome the artificial sweetener perceptions, than you are in for a treat.
Official Website: BigRed.com