If there’s one way in which I can confidently say I am superior to children, it is not my intelligence nor my earning power nor my fashion sense, but my palate. Adults are at their worst when they condescend to kids, so hear me out: I don’t claim to have a more sophisticated sense of taste than children, I just have a few more decades’ worth of experience tasting things. So when Capri Sun sent The Takeout an ecstatic press release about its new fruit juice with less sugar than before, I was curious to see if it fell into the all too common trap of tasting like sickly sweet stevia.
I rushed to pick up the old formula from Walgreens before Capri Sun sent a complimentary pouch of the new stuff to taste. I had to re-acclimate my palate to the fruit punch flavors of my youth.
Make no mistake, the new formula is not some sort of miracle health tonic. The label boasts “half the sugar,” but a comparison of the old and new nutrition labels indicates that the juice previously had 14 grams of sugar (11 of them added sugars) and now has 8 grams, with no added sugars listed. That’s a little more than half, but I won’t split hairs.
The two most prominent ingredients in both products are filtered water and sugar. Monk fruit concentrate, which helps the new product cut down on added sugars, sits behind pear, grape, and orange juice concentrates in the list. Ultimately, this product is very similar to the one that preceded it, but any kids’ beverage brand would lunge at an opportunity to add the phrase “naturally sweetened” to its label.
The original Fruit Punch tastes most prominently like the apples and cherries depicted on the label—with tons of excess sweetness, yes, but there seems to be a genuine note of juicy ripe fruit happening there. The new monk fruit equivalent tastes like an excellent imitator, even if you can easily detect the imitation; its rather generic sweetness is the primary note rather than any particular identifiable fruit, but because that saccharine hit doesn’t leave the unforgivable aftertaste of most artificial and/or naturally derived sweeteners, it goes down easy.
It’s about 5% more tart than its predecessor, in a way that might grow annoying across the whole pouch but was more pleasant across a few sips. (And believe me, a few sips is all my tolerance is equipped to handle, after 25 years away from the stuff. How is it possible that only 8 grams of sugar are contained therein when I feel like a hummingbird flying into a bug zapper?)
If kids’ palates are even equipped to taste this difference here, they’re nevertheless unlikely to. Think of the situations in which kids typically enjoy a Capri Sun: at a birthday party between slices of pizza and cake; in a crowded lunchroom where dessert swaps are being hammered out with the fervor of the NYSE trading floor; at a block party halfway through a hula hoop contest; on the beach just before diving back into the water. The redesigned pouch even features a cartoon cool kid akin to Poochie skateboarding over a bunch of grapes. The point is, a kid’s focus is pulled in a lot of different directions, so we can assume they’re not tasting the subtle differences between these products. All they know is that they’re getting a treat, and it’s one they’re unlikely to have to share with any of the adults in their life. Even better.