Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rockstar Vanilla Light Latte

Rockstar makes about as many different kinds of drinks as there are drink to be made.  They have had a Relax formula, a super sour one, punches and workout waters and about everything else you can think of - and almost all of them are fantastic hits or complete flops.

That is why it is no surprise that they also have their line of energy coffees, right there next to the Starbucks and Monster canned varieties.   The difference between this and the others you can find on the shelf is that

  1. This is half the calories of other canned coffees
  2. It is not nearly as overpoweringly sweet as the usual vanilla flavored coffees out there.
  3. The caffeine is substantial, coming in at around 240 per can - plus other nutrients

This is a very good thing - if you are into drinking your coffee out of a can rather than a paper cup.   While I am not so very fond of their heavily caloric regular line (although they are also very tasty if a bit  syrupy) The light one is worth a try.

The can is designed well enough - although it reminds me a whole lot of design schemes from the 80s   If you were looking for something to color coordinate with your Mac SE, this would totally be the thing.   I guess it is hard to come up with a good color combo that speaks of light vanilla, but overall it is still fine.  The lettering is easy to read and they remembered to print the caffeine on the can, as well as double face the name to make it easier for stockers to face the cans in convenience and grocery stores.

Of all the Rockstar coffee flavors, this one is definitely the one to get.  The other flavors are a bit too over the top in fake coffee flavoring and sugars - making it far too sweet and..glacky.   That isn't the case with the Vanilla Light, with jut enough sweetness and flavor to make it yummy without turning into a milkshake

But now I would not go thinking this tastes like real coffee - it still tastes as close to a good real cup of joe as one of those powdered espresso drink machines at convenience stores compared to a real cup of cappucino.   You know full well that when you get into this you are getting  coffee flavored beverage and not even close to a yummy big cup of fresh roasted coffee.   It's a hack, but a yummy one.  The stevia leaves a little bitterness and there is a little chalky aftertaste to it, but overall it ain't half bad.

This is where things get interesting.  Usually coffee drinks are on the light side of nutrients, seeing as coffee doesn't have that much in the way of taurine and vitamin B and all that.   But, this is not a real coffee drink but one put out by Rockstar, so of course there is going to be a boatload of good stuff packed in here.

The sugar/sucralose/ace-k blend of sweeteners get this to only 70 calories per serving, compared to the 140 these drinks usually have. When you add in the 3g protein, all your vitamin Bs, sodium and potassium, 1000mg taurine, ginkgo, inositol, l-carritine, and Site pantrax ginseng extract, 20mg milk thistle extract - all good stuff.  My favorite part of the whole thing is the whopping 240mg of caffiene this drink has!   This one will definitely get you moving with a purpose and not feel like you just ate a pankake breakfast while you did it - as long as you don't mind your coffee drinks to not taste a whole lot like coffee.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Super Bull Coffee with Milk

Every once in a while I find myself wandering the aisles of an Asian food market, and end up with cans and cans of strange coffee drinks in my cart.  While there are the occasional cool energy drinks to be found, the amount of canned coffee drinks that come out of Asia are staggering.  Some can be quite good - although most range from the ridiculous to the ridiculously bad.

In the case of Super Bull Extra - Coffee with Milk, this little 6 ounce can was one of the worst coffee drinks I have ever had.  This awful rancid piece of garbage was so bad I am surprised it even made it past customs.  I have a hard enough time someone would spend the time producing it, let alone cart it all the way here from Thailand.  But, thanks to the Anhing Corporation in Los Angeles, It made its way into the US.   You would think that somewhere along the way, from the bottling plant to my cart, someone would have drank a can of this and decided it was not worth the bother.

This small 6.08 o can is what happens when you stick to only one color for your printing job - and goes the range from reddish brown to brown to yellowish brown - all in one hard to read mess.  First - you gotta love the name Super Bull, which is most likely a play off Red Bull, even though other than both being liquid have nothing to do with another.   Secondly, by printing brown on top of yellowish brown, you miss such things as their illustrated stamp on top of their bad picture of what I am guessing is coffee on ice.  IF you look closely, you can read that they are excited that this was made "FROM ROASTED COFFEE BEANS" which is much better than using them raw or microwaved.  They do have an easy to read nutritional label, and thats about it.   You could tell before opening the sturdy aluminum can that this drink is going to be pretty sketchy.

Have you ever left coffee in the pot so long that it got that nasty sludge on bottom from cooing all day?   Well, take that sludge, add a little bit of sugar and reconstitute it with some water and powdered coffee creamer and thats about what you have here.  Basically a slightly sweet canned burned mess.  If you like coffee, or your tastebuds I would pass this one up.
No reason to continue ranting, just no.  Big bad no.  


If you manage to finish the can of slightly sweet reconstituted burned coffee sludge, it is only 6 ounces, and not even enough caffeine to register even a hint of energy.   I like canned coffee.  I like Asian canned coffee - I have even had some great Thai canned coffee, but this is barely drinkable.  Please Anhing Corp, taste your products before you end up bringing crap like this to my awesome Asian food market.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vitamin Water Energy drinks

I still find drinking vitamin waters as not much more than expensive Kool Aid.  Now you might ask what the difference is between that and an energy drink being expensive soda, and you would be dead on.  This is especially true if your drink does not have anything particularly unique to it - like adding in lots of vitamins and minerals and other stuff your body needs.   I even get Powerades and Gatorades, as those have potassium and really do help after a long workout.

Vitamin Water energy has been at the forefront of the Functional Water Category since it was a category.   Some variety of caffeinated Vitamin Water has been on the market for over three years now - and probably longer than that.  This one is a little different, in that it is in a can and not a pet bottle, and it is also lightly carbonated - so it is like an expensive Kool Aid  AND an expensive energy drink.
This drink is also one of 711's exclusive products, which means they decided to go with a soft launch and see if their product was good enough to hit national.  However, from the look of how short this run seems to have lasted at the 711s I visited was, I seriously doubt this will ever make it to national launch - it is just not good enough of an energy drink or unique enough from the other drinks to do much other than confuse people.  

Packaging: 7
 For being a can of Vitamin Water, it is not too shabby.  This is the first time I have seen a vitamin water in a can, and if it were not for the color I would be totally down with this as an energy drink. THe colors are not your normal for an energy drink, instead coming into the market with dark green or pink - and a very simple logo.  I would have expected an energy drink to be in something more eye catching, and instead this can gives off a more subdued feel.

Other than that it is about what you would expect.  There is the caffeine listing as well as all other ingredients, and I would have preferred i the can was double faced, so it wold be easier for the people working in the 711 stores would not have to face their cans all the time.  Also, double facing means that you can show off what drink you are holding without having to position your hand.   Not awesome, but decent.

Taste:Orange-Mango:7, Fruit Punch:7, Strawberry Lime: 8
I tried both Vitamin Water energy flavors, and they were both very OK.  I like that they were lightly sparkling, unlike most Vitamin Waters.  It tasted light and fruity, and I enjoyed them all.  Vitamin Water comes in three different varieties - a strawberry lime, berry punch and orange mango. 

The orange mango tasted like orange soda - straight on.  I could not really detect much mango - but it is of no concern really.  It is a decent orange soda as orange soda goes.  It is not over-sweet or bitter, and did not leave my mouth sticky as most orange-y drinks do.  

The Fruit punch was also what you would expect - a mix of fruitiness that reminded me of a fruit lollipop.  

The best one of them all was the strawberry lime - if for no other reason than this one took a change on a flavor that was more sour and less sweet than the others, and was the most unique.  If you have tried this and loved it or hated it, it would have been because of this one.  I like a less sweet and more sour drink, so I really enjoyed it

It is nice seeing them go out on a limb a bit with the flavor profile.   They managed to balance the sweetness and the light flavor without getting bitter, which is made more difficult to do when using stevia as one of their sweeteners (stevia is pretty bitter tasting).  

Buzz: 6
There are certainly good aspects to Vitamin Water Energy that are pretty well thought out.  They kept the sugar content down by using a blend of stevia and cane sugar, so there was a nice amount of sweet and tart and still kept the calories down to a minimum.  I also like the idea of using caffeine extracted from raw coffee beans, just because it is new and cool.  You know, caffeine is caffeine is caffeine, whether you get it from tea or made in a lab - the only real difference is that this is the latest trend of cool energy sources.   I also like the natural ingredients and no preservatives - which makes this much healthier than a caffeinated Kool Aid.

Problem is the same as their other caffeinated drinks - there is just not enough power in here to really do much.  There is 80mg in a 11.5 ounce can, and while that's more than you can find in a soda, it is 4 ounces more liquid for the energy contained in a small can of Red Bull.   I know their forces is health and vitamin and not just an energy rush, but the vitamin content was very low too.  I was hoping for a real contender in this category - as this is a Coca-Cola product and you think they would have done their market research, but this Vitamin Water did not give me a whole lot to be excited about.

Still, I do not see any real reason for these drinks.  The can is modest, the flavors are decent but nothing amazing, and the buzz is pretty weak.   I was hoping when I saw those interestingly pastel-colored cans I would get cool energy drink flavors - but it seems like this was just churned out, without giving a whole lot of thought to the mart or their place in it.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

5280 Energy Drink

One of the most important point o any new energy drink is a good hook - one that separates itself from the hundreds of other energy drinks out there in the market today.   One interesting angle that has not really been pushed now is the idea of a "local" energy drink, one where the entire process from manufacture to marketing is solely based on the state it resides.

This is the angle for 5280 energy drink, made by and for Coloradans.  For those who have never been to the Mile High City, Denver is 5280 feet above sea level, not because of the new marijuana laws ( although that fits the moniker too). One of the big selling points about 5280 is that it is Colorado made, colorado produced and sold in the state only - so unlike big national brands that are made here in Colorado (Vuka, Go Fast, Bing, Boa, Recon, Bazi and others), it is not only a local business, but all the money for the drink stays in the state.

Packaging: 3
So for all that hype about being local, I would have expected a whole lot more than a plastic wrapped energy drink can.   Maybe this was all left over from a party at the Denver Chamber of Commerce, where it is obvious they ripped off their logo from.

 Rather than spend actual money to get a professionally done can, 5280 went for a plastic wrapped variety - a cheaper form of packaging than an actual printing job - so it is akin to those Happy Bunny and other novelty energy drink cans you find at Hot Topic and RocketFizz , usually churned out by Boston America.   This is one of the cheapest forms of energy drink packaging, and can easily be picked out by having the label easily peeled off the can.   It is hard to be taken seriously when you don't even spring for a real printing job and just go for the novelty drink wrap.

I have some real problems with the wrap too.  The font choices are a little silly, using an XTREME font for some of the writing, futuristic writing for other parts, a fat futura font for the logo, and a super stretched slogan at the bottom in yet another font.   While The design is fun for a Colorado themed drink, I would LOVE to see what would happen if this was brought to one of colorado's professional design agencies and let a real package designer come up with something.   Not to mention, one of my most important pet peeves - there is no listing of how much caffeine is in this 8 ounce can.

Taste: 4
Big Surprise, its another Red Bull clone.   It is not a particularly good one - and reminds me of the hundreds and hundreds of other Red Bull cones that have flooded the market over the last decade.  5280 tastes like any other energy drink wannabe company asked a drink manufacturer to bottle their standard energy drink flavor in a can and call it a day.   I seriously doubt anyone at this company even tasted the drink until it came to them already done and packaged up in cases.   

There are SO MANY THINGS you could do to make this drink special and unique to colorado in the ingredients.  How about using Rocky Mountain ayer - like Coors, or fresh ingredients sourced locally?  How about dumping the crappy Red Bull flavorings for something local - like Palisade Peach or Grand Junction Grape?   Instead, going for a knockoff flavor off the shelf is a HUGE copout.

Because of the cheap 8 ounce can and the knockoff flavor, it is pretty easy to guess that the energy ingredients are off-the-shelf too, so I expect there are 65-80mg of caffeine in the can, which is sort of the standard for private label energy drink cans like this.  If you were going to get novelty energy drink cans for a Bar Mitzvah and got a stock energy drink flavor, this is pretty much exactly what you would get - and those all have a very small caffeine and energy boosting ingredient level.   Sure, if you pound 4 of these cans you are going to feel it, but the same holds true for drinking several hundreds of calories of any soda.  

If you are in denver and looking for a tourist drink to send home to your kids - there are so many better ones out there from Colorado to choose from.  The only real benefit to this drink that I can see is that if you are passing through the state and hit a truck stop  - getting a can of 5280 is a bit more funny than getting a crappy postcard.