The third stop in our look at the 2nd Generation of "Ten" flavors from Dr Pepper Snapple Group brings us to A&W Ten, having previously explored Sunkist Ten and 7Up Ten. These products, along with Canada Dry Ten and RC Ten, are currently in testing following the successful launch of Dr Pepper Ten.
As any soft drink enthusiast knows, root beer can be quite subjective. We all have our favorites and those, well, we don't like as much. Sometimes our decisions are influenced by the simple fact that a flavor can be found everywhere (see Coke's dominance of the fountain world and how they tend to always feature Barq's Root Beer). Others have more nostalgic audiences, such as can be found around the A&W brand. I know as a kid, I remember being on vacation and stopping at a A&W Drive In for food, root beer, and a great collectible mug!
As Dr Pepper Snapple Group looked at adding more to their "Ten" franchise, the choice of A&W was probably a no brainer, given that it's one of the "mainstream" root beer flavors that everyone is familiar with (heck, the company even owns rootbeer.com!) The fact that diet drinks are on a nice growth spurt while full calories beverages decline also probably factored heavy into adding A&W as a "Ten" brand.
Like the other 2nd generation "Ten" flavors, A&W Ten borrows from the design cues of Dr Pepper Ten, namely with the use of a grey color on the label. Though, unlike the rather odd juxtaposition found on Sunkist Ten and 7Up Ten, the addition of grey to the orange/brown color scheme of A&W actually works really well. It's a sharp looking package! As established in the "Ten" lineup, the packaging proclaims that A&W Ten offers "10 Great Tasting Calories." We've got 3 sweeteners at play here: aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
As we have done with some of our other Ten reviews, we tasted A&W Ten side-by-side with Diet A&W, stacking both up against regular A&W to best gauge the differences. Part of the appeal of the Ten line is to lure non-diet drinkers (a.k.a. Men) into trying something low-calorie. Right off the bat, one of the notable changes is the amount of foam that is produced when the product is poured into a glass. We found Diet A&W to be quite a bit more foamy than both A&W and A&W Ten. On the other hand, A&W Ten had a sweeter scent than Diet A&W, but not like the sweet/bitter combo in original A&W. Diet A&W was mostly bitter in scent overall.
Regarding flavor, when you first drink Diet A&W, it's pretty obvious that it's an artificially sweetened drink. I find that those sweeteners compete with the root beer flavor a bit, producing a mixed taste message. On the other than, A&W Ten tastes a lot like the flagship when you first sample it, though the pleasant "harshness" associated with the original is muted a bit in the Ten iteration. A&W has always been on the sweeter side of root beers, and that's reflected here. That sweetness frontloads A&W Ten, delaying the realization that this isn't a full calorie drink. Your taste buds are like "hey, this is pretty good, wow… oh wait… hey, are you trying to fool me?"
In the grand scheme of things, A&W Ten is far superior to Diet A&W when it comes to tasting more like the full calorie original. It's not as "birchy" as regular A&W; rather, it's more creamy. The sweetness and flavor are great out of the gate, and only later do you realize that there are artificial sweeteners in play. Still, I felt that Sunkist Ten and 7Up Ten both did superior jobs of hiding the negative elements typically associated with diet drinks. A&W Ten tries, but doesn't succeed as well as its sibling Tens. Still, it's light years better than what Diet A&W tastes like, and presents a better entry point for a lower calorie alternative.
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sodium benzoate (preservative), natural and artificial flavors, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, malic acid, quillaia extract
A 12 oz can contains 10 calories, 80 mg sodium, and 3 g carbs (2 g sugars). Caffeine free.
For those interested in a comparison…
Carbonated water, caramel color, sodium benzoate (preservative), aspartame, acesulfame potassium, natural and artificial flavors, malic acid, quillaia extract
A 12 oz can contains 0 calories, 108 mg sodium, and 0 g carbs (0 g sugars). Caffeine free.
In conclusion, A&W Ten is better than Diet A&W when it comes to tasting closest to the original. It's not perfect, and the frontloaded flavor only fools your tastebuds to a point, but it's an appreciable effort!