Sunday, October 07, 2012

This site on hiatus.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What the interior will look like.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Join me for drinks at a new place

THERE comes a time when you've got to pull in your belt a bit. Not because of a weight loss or a financial problem or anything of that sort. No, I've just gotten so overextended with the number of blogs and websites I write, edit and publish that I'm cutting down on the output.

Being a New Yorker, I'm now concentrating almost exclusively on New York State when I provide news, reviews, tastings, items about people and places in the field, plus a bit of foodie-related news.

Please join me at my newest site -- Drinking New York [http://drinkingnewyork.biz] where you'll find a thoroughly NY-centric report as well as THE most comprehensive drink-events calendar covering the state.
See you there.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sunkist put in a very dark place

"Eat This, Not That" calls Sunkist orange-flavored drink "ounce for ounce, the worst soft drink on the market today."

The evaluation comes as part of the Men’s Health magazine offshoot’s latest look at food and drink in America.

The Sunkist product has 130 calories and 34 grams of sugar in each eight-ounce bottle. The other “worst” soft drinks by categories take 12 ounces each to get to that level. They are:

Lemon-Lime: 7Up, 12 ozs., 150 calories, 38 grams of sugar
Cola: CocaCola, 12 ozs., 140 calorie, 39 grams of sugar
Black Cherry: Stewart’s, 12 ozs., 19 calories, 46 grams of sugar

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mailbag: In search of non-alcoholic Scotch

Q: Is there such a thing as non-alcoholic Scotch? I saw a web page for Scottish Spirits Ltd.; they make a non-alcoholic whisky they say tastes and looks exactly like traditional Scotch whisky, but they had no contact information.

My friend’s father is in a assisted living facility and misses his Scotch, but cannot have the alcohol. I’m sure there would be a huge market for this type of product.

Thank you for your time,

Kathleen Owens
Whistleville Farms
Decatur, IL



A:
First things first. If it is non-alcoholic it is neither Scotch whisky nor whisky of any kind. However, that doesn't mean it can't resemble them in taste. That's in the eye -- or palate -- of the beholder.

Scottish Spirits Ltd., the Glasgow, Scotland, distiller you mentioned, spent a decade developing the alcohol-free ArKay brand "whisky" specifically targeted for Muslim consumers worldwide.

The company says it is "made from natural identical ingredients in accordance with European Economic Community (EEC) regulations and from artificial flavors and natural malt extract in accordance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)."

The suggested retail price is $20 per bottle. The problem for individual consumers is that Scottish Spirits Ltd. sells the product by the case, with a minimum order of one container of 1,200 cases.

It also will provide custom labels with text printed according to the health and import regulations of the distributor’s home country.

Scottish Spirits Ltd. has been an international whisky exporter since 1896.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

$12-a-cup coffee debuts in Manhattan

Remember when many people were irate over coffee hitting $1 a cup? Too long ago for you? OK, how about $3 a cup, or $4, or $5 or ...

You get the idea. Well, Cafe Grumpy in Manhattan has begun offering a $12 cup of coffee. That's right, $12. One thousand two hundred pennies.

The mini-chain, which has locations in Brooklyn as well, debuted the beverage on Wednesday. It is made from Ethiopian coffee beans.

Cafe Grumpy is a no-frills coffee shop that says the handpicked beans are more expensive than most others because of the labor and time necessary for harvesting, drying and shipping.

And, don't think about asking for a latte version. Or even just a little milk and sugar. “As soon as you add milk and sugar to this, you lose a lot of the nuance,” said barista Colleen Duhamel.

It better have plenty of nuances. Even a cup-a-day habit will cost you $4,380 a year.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Finlandia water bottles mark Earth Day


Left to right: “The Very Tired Rooster” representing the Midnight Sun, which shines for 73 days straight in the north of Finland; "Untouched Nature," represented by the Norse mythological red squirrel Ratatosk; six-row barley featuring “The Cranes” walking in the barley field; "Thiaridae” the freshwater snail, representing pure glacial spring water.

Today is the 40th Earth Day, which coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Finlandia vodka brand.

To mark both milestones, Finlandia is releasing limited edition charity water bottles featuring designs by Klaus Haapaniemi, a renowned Finnish graphic artist.

"As a Finnish artist and proud of my heritage, it was a pleasure to partner with Finlandia on this project to benefit so many great environmental charities," Haapaniemi said. "I hope my designs bring color and fantasy to Finlandia and glamorize the nature and the wildlife of Finland."

Each design represents one of Finlandia Vodka’s core elements: the Midnight Sun, untouched nature, six-row barley and pure glacial spring water.

The one-liter SIGG water bottles sell for $28. Finlandia will divide all profits among four global environmental projects selected to promote sustainability beyond the brand’s distillation footprint. This cause-marketing program is an early step in a new, concerted effort to explore sustainability and the brand’s harmony with nature.

The water bottles will be available beginning May 3 for purchase online. (The website will not be active until then.)

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Canajoharie entry wins NYS water competition

William M. Dowd photos

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY -- Water, water, everywhere ... and plenty to drink, think about, consult over, run through valves and purification systems ... and so on.

That was the scene Wednesday at the Saratoga Hilton/City Center which was hosting the annual conference of the New York Section -- American Water Works Association (AWWA), a statewide organization of professionals involved in the drinking water industry -- water/wastewater plant operators, utilities, municipal officials, academics and consulting engineers.

It also was the spot where I joined three other judges from the industry to select the best drinking water in New York State, an honor that went to the Village of Canajoharie. Its water now moves on to the national AWWA competition, scheduled for June in Chicago.

Judges conducted a blind test, sampling a variety of waters from various parts of the state, looking for clarity, taste, smell, aftertaste, and scoring on a 5-point system for each category. While it may not seem at first glance that judging water samples would be much of a chore compared to judging, say, wines and spirits, having done all of those liquids I can attest to the fact that water judging has its difficulties. All the entries were top quality, no discolorations, funky odors or bad aftertaste. On my final scoresheet, I had one entry just two points ahead of a trio tied for second place. I retasted all four, knocking the leader down by one point but still keeping it at the top.

As it turned out, the total points awarded by the four judges wound up ranking the finishers in the same order I had picked them:

• 1st -- Village of Canajoharie, 107 points.
• 2nd through 4th -- Tie among Bethpage (Long Island) Water District, New York City and Greenlawn, 102 points each.
• 5th -- Village of Monroe, 95 points.
• 6th -- Monroe County, 91 points.

The other judges were Joseph Mantua, national president-elect of the AWWA; Manoj Ajmera, a consulting water engineer from the Capital Region, and Dr. Connie Schreppel of Utica, current chair and director of an upstate water distributor. The event was coordinated by Rochelle Cassella of Liverpool, executive director of the New York Section - AWWA.

SCENES FROM A CONVENTION




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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Healthier drinks in schools achieved

The nation's leading beverage companies have come through on their three-year commitment to replace full-calorie soft drinks from schools across the country with smaller portion, lower calorie drinks.

That's according to a statement released by the American Beverage Association. The project, in cooperation with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation -- a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, has thus affected an 88% reduction in calories from beverages shipped to schools since 2004.

The ABA released the "Alliance School Beverage Guidelines Final Progress Report," which it says confirms that the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and their systems of local bottling companies that work directly with the school partners have transformed the beverage landscape in schools across America. The report was prepared by Keybridge Research LLC, an independent firm that prepared the previous two progress reports.

"A critical component of the Alliance's national effort to end childhood obesity has been our work with the beverage industry to reduce the amount of calories our kids consume in schools," said former President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, who co-leads the Alliance with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and American Heart Association President Clyde Yancy.

"We are encouraged by the significant progress we've made and look forward to continuing our work with participating schools, companies and the American Beverage Association to give young people the options and opportunities they need to lead healthier lives."

"It's a brand new day in America's schools when it comes to beverages," said Susan Neely, ABA president and CEO. "Our beverage companies have slashed calories in schools as full-calorie soft drinks have been removed. The beverages available to students are now lower-calorie, nutritious, smaller-portion choices."

This Alliance School Beverage Guidelines Progress Report marks the third and final assessment of the impact and status of the implementation of the guidelines.

"Childhood obesity is a complex problem, and there is no one single solution. The core of the problem, however, is that many of our children and youth are consuming too many calories," said Dr. Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association and medical director for Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

"School is a unique environment where students make food and beverage choices with limited supervision and begin to set food preferences that last into adulthood. The Alliance School Beverage Guidelines are a tool for reducing students' access to calories during the school day and changing behaviors that may lead to a lifelong improvement in caloric consumption."

Under the voluntary guidelines, 100% juice, low-fat milk and bottled water are allowed in elementary and middle schools, with the addition of diet beverages and calorie-capped sports drinks, flavored waters and teas in high schools. In addition to the removal of full-calorie soft drinks from all schools, the shift towards more lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverages is also contributing to the overall reduction in calories available from beverages in schools.

Copies of the "Alliance School Beverage Guidelines Final Progress Report" are available online.

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NY ignores sugary-drink tax proposal

It seems it was only a matter of time. The latest push to legalize the sale of wine in supermarkets in New York State apparently has died and been tossed on the refuse heap of its predecessors.

The State Senate's 2010-11 budget resolution just released does not contain Gov. David Paterson’s proposal to include wine sales in supermarkets and some other retail outlets. Legislative analysts predict the same will be true of an Assembly version when it is adopted later this week.

Also missing from the Senate version of the budget is a tax on sugary beverages Paterson had wanted.

The debate over Paterson's proposal has been long and heated, bringing into conflict all sorts of temporary coalitions as well as expert lobbyists pushing one side of the agenda or the other.

The governor's office originally projected extra revenue for the state of $147 million from the expansion of where wine could be sold. A secondary move, proposing higher franchise fees than he had at first wanted for such sales permission, pushed that estimate to $300 million.

No matter your point of view, one thing is for sure: That $300 million Paterson had counted as potential income from such changes will have to be made up to help support the gigantic state budget legislators seem incapable of ever paring down.

And, just where do you think that revenue is going to come from?

Wine/sugary beverage buyer or not, you're going to have to dig deeper than ever to help support the state government, including all the special perks and discretionary money the Senate and Assembly drones spread around their districts to ensure votes for their reelection whether you like the use of your money or not.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Anyone find a no-tomato discount?

It may or may not immediately affect your Virgin Mary cocktail, depending on your favorite watering hole’s recipe, or your soup, salad or sauce, but a harsh Southern winter has spoiled an estimated 80% of the Florida tomato crop.

Add to that the February 27 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that have wreaked havoc in produce-rich Chile and you have a severe tomato shortage.

We’re already seeing a reduction in the amount of tomatoes being put in sandwich shop items and even at full-service restaurants as prices skyrocket and availability shrinks. Those that are paying their suppliers more for tomatoes may well be passing the additional cost along to consumers if the shortage lasts.

When this happened several years ago, the same thing happened as far as consumer-impact. However, I don’t recall a single food purveyor who reduced his/her prices to the public even though in many cases you were getting less of a product.

If you come across a restaurant, sandwich shop or other vendor who is cutting prices to reflect the reduction or absence of tomatoes, let me know.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

A perfect winter moment

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mmmm, Stalin cola

A year ago, I reported on competing Russian vodka makers putting the country's two top leaders on their labels.

Now, a figure from the Russian past will have his ugly head raised on a non-alcoholic beverage label.

The face of the notorious Soviet dictator Josef Stalin will be seen on bottles of a soft drink to go on sale next month in Russia, according to a report this week in the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

The bottles probably will become collector's items of a sort, because they are a limited edition that is part of a batch of beverages being released to mark the 67th anniversary of the World War II Soviet victory over Germany in the Battle of Stalingrad.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Barista season is steaming up

There actually is a county in georgia named Coffee(*). But next month, most of the state's coffee attention will be in Atlanta, where the Southeast Regional Barista Competition will be conducted.

The event is set for February 19-21, hosted once again by Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters and Everything Coffee & Tea Inc.

That will come just after the Mountain Region competition, set for February 11-14 in Fort Collins, CO. It is sponsored by Barista Pro Shop.

Both are part of the Specialty Coffee Association of America's series of barista showdowns. Both websites are short on details right now, but organizers promise that soon will change.

The Atlanta event is scheduled for the Plow Arts Center, 887 West Marietta Street, in Atlanta. It will showcases the high level of expertise and innovation that has become the hallmark of quality coffee and espresso bars.

Competitors will be judged for the excellence of their drinks, the detail of their presentation and their hospitality.

After those events, additional competitions are planned:

• The Western Regional, February 26-28, in Los Angeles.

• The Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast regionals will be held in conjunction with Coffee Fest, March 5-7 at the Meadowlands complex in East Rutherford, NJ.

• The Great Lakes Regional, March 12-14, in Milwaukee.

• The Southwest Regional, March 19-21, in Phoenix, AZ.

The South Central Regional, won by Lorenzo Perkins of Caffe Medici in Austin, TX, was held in January.

Winners from the regionals go on to the national championship.

(*) Coffee County was named for Georgia militia general John Coffee. He was responsible for the building of the Coffee Road which forms the western boundary of the county. He died in 1836.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Coffee & Tea Festival set for NYC

Wine, beer and spirits have their extravaganzas, but coffee and tea don't have nearly the number of showcases. However, the 5th annual Coffee & Tea Festival NYC is a major event.


The international event, open to the public and the trade, is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, February 2021, at 7WEST, located at 7 West 34th Street in Manhattan.

The event will offer two days of programming including classes/lectures/demos from industry pros and pioneers. Chocolates and sweet treats will offer a wonderful compliment to the spectacular collection of coffees and teas.

Ticket information and reservations are available online.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coalition raps NY gov's latest tax proposal

Governor David Paterson, scrambling in every niche for something to tax, has proposed placing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages of 12 cents per 12-ounce can. To put that in perspective, such a tax would be 10 times higher than the tax New York currently levies on a 12-pack of alcoholic beverages, such as beer.

Predictably, the idea isn't sitting well with a lot of people, particularly New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes, a coalition formed in opposition to taxes on food and beverage products.

Nelson Eusebio, coalition chairman, today said in a statement:

"New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet in this economy and we shouldn't bear the burden of fixing the Governor's budget problems. Another tax will be detrimental to hardworking New York businesses and residents."

The coalition's website is geared up to allow consumers and businesses to sign a petition, and make their opposition known to the Governor and their state representatives.

The coalition's current membership list:

The Business Council of New York State
Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Buffalo Inc.
New York Association of Convenience Stores
New York State Automatic Vending Association
National Restaurant Association
National Supermarket Association
Gristedes
The Food Industry Alliance of New York State
New York State Restaurant Association
Grocery Manufacturers Association
Can Manufacturers Institute
American Council on Science and Health
National Puerto Rican Coalition
League of United Latin American Citizens
Polar Beverage Company
Adirondack Beverages
The Coca-Cola Company
Glaceau
Region V U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Dan’s Supreme Supermarkets Inc.
Corn Refiners Association
National Association of Theatre Owners – New York
U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
One Abingdon Square Enterprises Inc.
H&H Kim Co.
Chan Song Corp.
BRS Food Corp.
Lime Tree Market
Golden Boy Mart
M.H. Fruit Corp.
Gem’s Circle Farm Co.
West Front Andrew Corp.
Blissville Deli & Grocery
300 J&J Fresh Produce
Modern Gourmet
Errand Grocery
Sunny’s Best Food Corp.
Fine Fare
P&E Grocery Corp.
Seoul Shopping Inc.
Star Lite Deli
Maiden Heaven 9-11 Inc.
Paul’s Grocery
Soon Deli Grocery
Lee Kim Market
PJ Jenny Farm
Kay’s Deli
City Limits Diner
Kyung’s Fruit Store Inc.
P.J. Deli
Cuban American National Council
ASPIRA Association Inc.
Livanos Restaurant Group
New York Farm Corp.
Jun & Jeong Farm Inc. Corp.
Smiley’s
Austin Fruit & Vegetable Corp.
Haerahm Inc.
Annie’s Fruit & Vegetable Store
Scaramelia’s, Helen Food Corp.
Key Food
D&R Grocery Inc.
Chocolate Deli & Grocery Inc.
Fancy Fruit Market
Roosevelt Gourmet Deli
National Council of Chain Restaurants
Bodega Association of the United States
Red Apple Group
N&D Deli, Inc.
Penn Plaza Gourmet Deli Inc.
Queens Farmer’s and Health
Belle Harbor Foods Inc.
New Blue Flowers Gourmet Inc.
Chelsea Hyper Market Inc.
DNY Natural Land
Soho Garden
K&P Deli
Cho’s Grocery
Fresh King Market Inc.
Daniel Oh Corp.
Young Corp.
Sheen Brothers Inc.
Lee Supermarket (Village Market)
#81 Farm Deli
J.W. Market Inc.
Ham Maek Corp.
Peter Plus Inc.
Sunnydale Farm Store
Food Mart
Y & Y Farm Co.
Peppermill Fruit & Vegetable Inc.
Smile Deli
U. Farm Land
Tudor Farm Market Inc.
Harvest on Hudson
Half Moon River Club
East By Northeast
Stone Lion Inn
Harvest Partners
Harvest on Ft. Pond
Fort Pond Partners
One High St.
Eagle Equities
Berbro Realty
Fort Pond Bay Co.
Eagle Golf Association
River Road
Pepsi-Cola Bottling Newburgh
Foodtown – PSK Supermarkets
MoMo Grocery Corp.
H&D Deli
FreshProduces
The Original Supermarket Corp.
Associated Supermarket
120 Meat Corp.
492 Corp Supermarket
367 Waverly Meat Market and Produce
Pioneer BC Food Produce
DNJ Food Corp.
J.V.D. Food Corp.
Bravo Supermarket
Soho Food Corp.
C-Town Supermarket
Key Food Supermarket
Rockaway Supermarket Corp.
Olamar Food Corp.
El Verde Meat & Produce Corp.
Green Forest Food Corp.
NSA Supermarket
Around Food Corp.
JJR 66-82 Food Corp.
116-15 GMV Corp.
Newburgh Food Corp.
1239 Food Corp.
Hex Foods
2096 Concourse Food Plaza
Foodtown
560 W. Meat & Produce Corp.
MET Food
Anber Meat & Produce
JD Food & Meat Corp.
Gava Food Corp.
April Food Corp.
J&F Meat & Grocery Corp.
115 RD Food Corp.
Associated Supermarket
AES Meat & Produce Corp.
Associated Juncalito Abeyo
A&G Family Corp.
3690 JAD Food Corp.
DAR Food Corp.
Palero Food Corp.
R&E Corp.
Billy Boy Food Corp.
P.J. 37 Food Corp.
Juncalito Meat & Produce
Palero Meat Corp.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

A celebri-quote: Elizabeth Hurley

Actress-model Elizabeth Hurley, 44, told a reporter from London's Daily Mail that she has switched from wine and coffee to vodka to maintain her famous figure.

"I used to drink an awful lot of coffee, but I was told after the age of 40 you have to be careful with coffee and wine. I don’t miss having a glass of wine because I’ve switched to vodka.

"I don’t really like vodka that much but if I’m at a party, I have a small one with a lot of fizzy water and a huge squeeze of lime. Initially it’s like medicine but I’ve gotten used to it now."

[Go here for more celebri-quotes.]

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

NY's water bottle deposit looms

If you’re planning to pick up a bottle or two — or more — of water, you’d be well advised to do it before Saturday if you want to save some money.

That’s when the state’s newest bottle deposit requirement goes into effect, at a nickel a bottle. You may get a break here and there since the state will be lenient for the first week of the new law until everyone gets used to it, but don’t count on it.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Japanese giant buys Orangina Schweppes

Orangina Schweppes, the French soft drink maker, has been sold to its Japanese rival Suntory.

The $3.8 billion sale to Suntory, the privately owned maker of beer, whisky and soft drinks, is particularly interesting in that Suntory announced on July 14 that it is in talks to merge with Japan's Kirin.

Suntory is the Tokyo-based brewing and distilling company group established in 1899. It is one of the country's oldest distributors of alcoholic beverages in Japan, from soft drinks to whiskies, and also owns a chain of sandwich shops.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

US Airways bulks up its beverage menu

US Airways may not be the most service-oriented passenger transportation company around, but it is looking to one aspect of creature comforts.

The airline has just introduced a variety of new offerings to its in-flight drinks menu.

The additional non-alcoholic beverages include Red Bull, Starbucks Frappuccinos and AriZona Arnold Palmer Lite Half & Halfs, an iced tea and lemonade concoction, priced at $3 each.

They additional alcoholic cocktails are a pomegranate martini, a margarita and a mai tai, priced at $8 each. They are made with real fruit juice, triple-filtered water and cane sugar.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Did you ever notice ... ?

Columnist Andy Rooney, a fixture on "60 Minutes" and author of tghousands of newspaper columns and numerous books, sometimes waxes almost poetic about the most commonplace and mundane of topics.

If you missed it in print, you might enjoy reading his take on the one drink necessary to humanity everywhere: water.

Says Andy:
"If I had to limit myself to drinking just one thing for the rest of my life, there's no doubt my choice would be water. A glass of cool, clear water is unquestionably the best drink, although I start every day with a cup of coffee. One of the great things about life on earth is that we've devised ways to bring clear, cool water to the people who live almost anywhere. It's one good sign for our civilization."
Go here for the rest of the column.

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'Water, water everywhere ...

... and not a drop to drink."

That line from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) came to mind on Sunday afternoon when I stopped to gaze at the Cohoes Falls in the little Albany County city of Cohoes and found someone with a much better view.

A lone bicyclist left his wheels close to shore (see background when you double-click on the image to enlarge it) and somehow managed to make his way to the edge of the falls where he sat down and looked around. He also outwaited me. I presume he got back safely.


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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recalling the Ritz-Carlton's 'Aquaman'

Author Doug Frost, writing in Sommelier Journal, argues in favor of water sommeliers.

The Kansas City, MO, resident, who holds both Master Sommelier and Master of Wine certifications, says:

"In 2001, New York’s Ritz-Carlton Battery Park made a rather loud splash by introducing the world’s first water sommelier. I haven’t found anyone other than Filip Wretman whose job description has been limited solely to the service of water in a hotel or restaurant. The position was short-lived, however; even today, the people I talked to at the Ritz-Carlton didn’t wish to be quoted about it.

"The press had a field day back then: 'What’s next? Tea and beer sommeliers?' ... Most of the articles written at the time were rife with puns and snark; apparently, a lot of people hadn’t noticed that different beverages taste different. ... (W)ater tastes different ... if only the drinker will stop and take notice. ... "

As the journalist who wrote the first story about the first water sommelier, I managed quite easily to avoid the "puns" and "snark" to which Frost refers. In fact, I found the whole topic of waters, then just beginning to become such a ubiquitous part of our pop culture intake, fascinating.

Here, then, is a somewhat abbreviated version of my original story.



AQUAMAN AT THE RITZ-CARLTON

NEW YORK -- Some of the best water in the city comes out of the tap, straight from reservoirs in the Catskills.

Anyone can show you where to get it.

Some of the most expensive comes in bottles, straight from places such as France, Sweden, Fiji, Italy, Norway, Canada, Scotland and various U.S. states.

Your friendly water sommelier can suggest which to choose.

Well, he can if you're dining at the new Ritz-Carlton hotel in Battery Park. The management says they have the only such person in the world.

His name is Filip Wretman. He's 26, a diminutive, GQ-slim Swede who came to the United States via various peaks and islands.

Wretman, son of the prominent Swedish restaurateur/chef/writer Tore Wretman, openly concedes he did not set out to be a water expert, much less the first water sommelier.

He studied the hospitality business at the Les Roches hotel school in Switzerland, and worked in the Swiss Alps, the Philippines and St. Bart's in the Caribbean before coming to Manhattan as bar manager at the Ian Schrager chain's trendy Hudson Hotel, near Columbus Circle.

So, how much did Wretman know about water when the Ritz-Carlton decided to get serious about its offerings at the new hotel, which opened in January after being delayed in the aftermath of 9/11?

"Not much more than anyone else," Wretman said with disarming honesty during a private water tasting ... .

He said he spoke to numerous vendors and spent a lot of Internet research time getting to know more about the burgeoning business of bottled water, a hit in many countries but particularly booming in the United States.

Wretman's research and tastings did more than simply acquaint him with the numerous brands of bottled water anyone can find in local supermarkets brands such as Fiji, San Pellegrino, Evian, Aquafina, Acqua Della Madonna, Dasani, Deer Park, Poland Spring and on and on 1,800 or so brands worldwide, including such familiar Capital Region brands as Saratoga, Diamond Spring and Vermont Pure.

His studies made him comfortable selecting and suggesting a range of still and sparking waters that make ideal accompaniments for cheeses, certain sauces, spicy or mild dishes, sweet or salty offerings, desserts and the like.

Some might think having an in-house water expert is merely a high-end hotel's contrivance or a gimmick to sell bottles of high-priced waters.

Contrivance, perhaps, but not a particularly expensive one. At the Ritz-Carlton, you can try as many waters as you like at just $5 a head, less than the price of a cocktail.

"We really see it as part of our mission of providing comfort and gracious living to all our visitors, whether they're overnight guests or not," says Nikheel Advani, the hotel's food and beverage director.

The Ritz-Carlton's goal at Battery Park, Advani notes, is to make it "a center of comfort and tranquillity in a rebuilt city."

Wretman keeps a dozen or so waters on hand, but can come up with virtually any brand a visitor requests with at least 24 hours notice. After all, the Ritz-Carlton chain prides itself on catering to visitors' every whim. It even has a bath butler who creates various bathwater concoctions designed to refresh, soothe and pamper guests. ...

How does a water expert compare the art of recommending waters to that of recommending wines?

"Wine is a world of its own," Wretman said. "You can recommend much more specifically.

"With water, we didn't want to treat this in a way that would make people think of it as a hoax. But, it is quite true that different waters will have different impacts on the palate. They can help you recover the tastes of other foods after eating chocolates, cheeses, and so on ... With those sorts of food courses we would suggest a sparkling water to clear the palate."

Perrier, a familiar name to American consumers, is one such sparkler recommended for cleansing because of its large natural bubbles, Wretman says. San Pellegrino, on the other hand, has tiny bubbles and a high mineral content, giving it a more distinctive taste that would work well with salty or very spicy dishes. Fiji is very light, with a high silica content that complements meat and game without interfering with their juices.

What about the ice cubes in drinks?

"New York tap water," Wretman confided with a slight smile. "Maybe someday we'll have that kind of demand for specialty ice cubes, but we're certainly not at that stage today."

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Monday, July 27, 2009

'True Blood' breaks out the real-world drinks

Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality is commonplace in Show Biz and The Real World.

The parade of drinks moving from fiction to reality is flowing unabated. This is the fourth time I've been able to report on such possibilities.

• The first was Pawtucket Patriot Ale from the animated TV series "Family Guy."

• The second was Booty Sweat, the energy drink created in the Ben Stiller action/comedy film "Tropical Thunder."

• The third was Slurm (motto: "It's Highly Addictive"), the official soft drink of the 31st Century, in the process of moving from the animated TV series "Futurama" to our very own dimension. Twentieth Century Fox has filed for the "Slurm" trademark which would cover (prepare yourself) "carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks; fruit drinks; fruit juices; mineral and aerated water; bottled drinking water; energy drinks; syrups and powders for making soft drinks and other beverages, namely soft drinks, fruit drinks and tea; coffee-flavored soft drinks; Ramune (Japanese soda pops); powders used in the preparation of isotonic sports drinks and sports beverages."

And, now, courtesy of HBO's latest pop cultural hit "True Blood," comes. ... well, Tru Blood.

In the show it's a synthetic blood replacement vampires can use to avoid wasting humans. In the real world, it is a blood orange (of course) carbonated drink in a bottle that is identical to the one used in the Sunday night TV series.

A few suggested recipes for using it:

• The Fangbanger: Tru Blood and vodka.

• Death On the Beach: Tru Blood, peach schnapps, pineapple juice and vodka.

• Plasmapolitan: Tru Blood, Citron, Cointreau and fresh lime juice.

It is packaged in a four-pack, carrying a suggested retail price of $16. Tru Blood will hit the market on September 10. You can pre-order it online at HBO Shop.

The new product was unveiled at ComicCon, the annual convention that draws fans of sci-fi, fantasy and the like from every segment of society. You can see the video of the intro below:



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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Water bottlers pushed for label disclosure

• From the Associated Press

Consumers know less about the water they pay dearly for in bottles than what they can drink almost for free from the tap because the two are regulated differently, congressional investigators and nonprofit researchers say in new reports.

Both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research and advocacy organization, recommend in reports released Wednesday that bottled water be labeled with the same level of information municipal water providers must disclose.

The researchers urged Americans to make bottled water "a distant second choice" to filtered tap water because there isn't enough information about bottled water. The working group recommends purifying tap water with a commercial filter, however.

[Go here for the full story.]

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Come visit me


This is the logo for Examiner.com, a multi-topic Web site created by the same company that started the free-distribution Examiner newspapers in major U.S. cities.

I've been signed as the Web site's National Drinks Columnist, and I'm inviting you to join me here as well as on this site, for all the latest in beverage news and views -- spirits, wine, brews, non-alcoholic drinks.

(Bonus for those of you interested in the Upstate New York restaurant scene: I'm also Examiner.com's columnist for that topic. You can find it here.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Starbucks in Africa for Fair Trade talks

Howard Schultz (in short sleeves), head of Starbucks, and Darcy Willson-Rymer (in white shirt), managing director, Starbucks UK & Ireland, speak with local coffee farmers about producing coffee in Rwanda.

The Starbucks Coffee Co., the Fair Trade Foundation and Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO) today met with farmers at Dukunde Kawa, a cooperative that cultivates high-quality coffee in central Rwanda.

The purpose of the African meeting was twofold: (1.) For Starbucks and Fairtrade to listen and learn from farmers' experiences, and (2.) to share details around the new Small Farmer Support Initiative (SFSI) which was jointly introduced in April.

The nine-year-old Dukunde Kawa Cooperative has approximately 4,000 members organized into in three groups around three coffee-washing stations which the cooperative operates. The cooperative became Fairtrade Certified in 2004.

The farmers grow a bourbon varietal coffee. The SFSI is a three-year pilot program intended to leverage the expertise and resources that Starbucks and Fairtrade have in coffee-growing regions.

Farmers will have access to the $12.5 million Starbucks has invested in farmer loan programs. Starbucks has an additional goal of incvreasing access to funding for farmer loans to those related organizations to $20 million by 2015 as part of the Starbucks Shared Planet commitment to ethical sourcing.

The FAIRTRADE Mark is a certification mark and a registered trademark of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) of which the Fairtrade Foundation is the UK member. This independent consumer label appears on 4,500 retail and catering products in the UK. Today, more than 7 million people - farmers, workers and their families - across 59 developing countries benefit from the international Fairtrade system.

Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder association that encompasses a global network of Fairtrade organizations that are actively involved in supporting and empowering producers, raising consumer awareness and campaigning for changes in the rules of conventional trade.

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Coffee Institute guru top latte artist

LAS VEGAS -- Chris Deferio, director of The Coffee Institute in Muncie, IN, topped the field of latte artists in the recent Millrock Latte Art Competition.

It was the major event of "Coffee Fest," the premier North American coffee and tea tradeshow. Spectators watched latte specialists pour intricate designs of steamed milk into dark espresso to produce a visually pleasing beverage.

The Coffee Institute is a barista and coffee business training school. Prior to taking that position a year ago, Deferio was the coffee bar manager at the historic Carriage House, located near Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mmmm, birch sap vodka, wine and water

From Farm Focus of Atlantic Canada

As the cork is removed, hints of fruit are released, and once it's poured into a wine glass and lifted to one's lips, a semi-sweet taste with apple hints are followed.

That's according to the description for Lady of the Woods, a birch sap wine.

Craig Lewis, the brainchild behind the idea and the company Sap World, said he came up with the concept after reading an article about birch sap and its markets.

"When I read that article, something clicked," he said. "I did a bunch of research, invested $10,000, and on Baie Verte highway (Newfoundland) we ended up tapping 191 trees.

"(We) collected 500 gallons, took that to Rodrigues Winery and they produced 172 cases. We had that on the market and we sold that in three months."

[Go here for the full story.]


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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stirrings in the pre-made cocktail mix world

Last September I wrote a piece on pre-made cocktails, called "Not all drink mixes are created equal."

In particular, I zeroed in on a line of such mixes bearing the brand name Stirrings. As I noted at the time, "I do agree that many of the pre-made drink mixes are loaded with ingredients one neither wants nor may even understand, but as in all things culinary there are exceptions. One such, in my view, is the line of Stirrings drink mixes. I actually like them. A lot.

" ... I've tried the Fall River, MA, company's margarita, mojito, peach bellini and apple martini mixes. Excellent, all, with none of that 'What's in this?' wrinkly-nosed result. Not yet tried: blood orange martini, bloody Mary, chocolate peppermintini, cosmopolitan, lemon drop, lemonade, pear martini, pomegranate martini, spiced apple and wild blueberry martini. Some of the latter I'd never try, simply because such concoctions do not appeal to me no matter whether they're made from a mix or made using ingredients just shipped from farm or factory. I refer specifically to the likes of a chocolate peppermintini and a wild blueberry martini. Blecch."

I bring this up now because the company founded in 1997 by Bill Creelmann and Gil MacLean also attracted the eyes of drinks giant Diageo, which bought a 20% stake in the company. It now has completed the takeover, gathering up the last 80%.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Root Beer, the All-American classic

From GoSanAngelo.com

The stuff has a nice flavor and was the favorite drink of Calamity Jane in a 1963 Broadway musical. In more than one two-reel oater, or Western movie of the 1940s, it was the favorite drink of the clean-cut handsome cowboy hero who refused whiskey or beer in the saloon. The bad guys called the hero a sissy because he ordered “sarsaparilla,” but they soon learned he was tougher than a horseshoe nail.

I like sarsaparilla, so I guess I would not have fit well amongst the frontier folks and the gunslingers. In today’s society, we call the once-popular drink by another name — “root beer.”

The reason is simple. The primary uses of sarsaparilla is in the flavoring of various beverages such as root beer. It also is used as a folk medicine, supposedly as a “blood purifier,” and as a general pep agent used in tonics to invigorate and cleanse the body.

[Go here for the full story.]


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nestlé Waters suing over NY bottle law

From the Albany, NY, Times Union

Nestlé Waters, which produces bottled water under several brand names, has filed a legal challenge to New York’s expanded bottle bill in federal court, seeking to block its June 1 implementation.

In the suit, Nestlé argues that a provision requiring a New York state-specific UPC bar code on containers sold here with a nickel deposit, is unconstitutional.

The company, with North American headquarters in Greenwich, CT, also is critical of the state’s plan to funnel unrefunded deposits to New York’s general fund, rather than to support local curbside recycling programs.

[Nestlé produces such brands as Perrier and Pellegrino. Go here for the full story.]


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Friday, May 15, 2009

Arnold, Japanese style

I sometimes come across an item I can't resist sharing.

Here's one from a series of 1990 TV commercials in Japan. If things don't improve in California, The Governator can always resume working in this career niche.



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Monday, February 09, 2009

Consumers cutting fancy coffees

From Advertising Age:

Americans appear to be cutting back on their Starbucks.

After reporters in several different cities noticed much shorter lines at their coffee outlets, Ad Age decided to commission Lightspeed Research to find out whether either New Year's resolutions or a tough economy were turning latte sippers into bean counters.

The survey results reveal that 60% of Americans have scaled back on fancy or expensive coffee in the past six months; 56% report cutting back just since the beginning of the year. The culprit was overwhelmingly the economy, with 90% of survey respondents saying they are doing so to save money. Upmarket coffee "just cost too damned much," said one respondent. "I don't drink as much Starbucks as I did before," said another.

Those who have scaled back the most since the beginning of the year, according to the online survey of 500 Americans conducted between Jan. 14 and 15, are consumers 45 to 54, with fully half (50.4%) saying they have "cut back a lot" on fancy or expensive takeout coffee. That was followed by consumers 35 to 44 (37.5%) and 25 to 34 (33.3%).

[Go here for the rest of the story.]

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Industry fights NY 'obesity tax' plan


ALBANY, NY -- The American Beverage Association fought back today against critics who link sugary soft drinks with childhood obesity.

"Despite what Governor (David) Paterson and (Health) Commissioner (Richard) Daines claim, the science is clear: The association between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and obesity, if it exists at all, is so weak that total abstinence from soda drinking will have no impact on public health," said Maureen Storey.

Storey is the ABA's senior vice president for science policy. She spoke in testimony before a joint meeting of the state Senate Finance Committee and Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

The committees are meeting to discuss the state's Fiscal Year 2009 Budget, including Paterson's proposal to impose an 18% sales tax on dozens of beverages including regular soft drinks, juice drinks, and teas.

Storey said Paterson and his team rely heavily, if not entirely, on a study published eight years ago in the British medical journal, The Lancet. In that study, Storey contends, researcher Dr. David Ludwig and his co-authors acknowledge their study's limitations, admitting that they "cannot prove causality" between soft drink consumption and obesity.

"I would like to reiterate what the science already says: That soft drinks are not a unique contributor to obesity and to say otherwise is misleading to the people of New York State. And a so-called ‘obesity tax' on beverages would have no noticeable impact on the health of citizens," Storey said.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

A celebri-quote: Alyson Hannigan

Alyson Hannigan, part of the ensemble cast of the TV series "How I Met Your Mother," and actor husband Alexis Denisof are expecting their first child this spring. She made this comment about her current eating and drinking choices in an interview with US Weekly:

On food: "I basically went from being a vegan to ... well, now it's meat and cheese -- and ginger ale!. ... I didn't eat any meat or cheese before. Now, I have to."

On drink: She says she craves ginger ale. "Ginger ale, I love. Apparently, my mom craved ginger ale when she was pregnant with me. Maybe it's a hereditary thing."

[Go here for more celebri-quotes.]

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Drinking water deal in Saratoga County, NY

From the Albany (NY) Times Union:

The federal government moved to defuse a dispute over Hudson River drinking water safety during the PCB dredging project by getting General Electric, which is paying for the project, to also cover the added cost of piping in outside water from Troy.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that GE has agreed to pay $7 million toward a new $8.2 million water line connecting Waterford and Halfmoon to Troy's drinking water. Moreover, GE will pay for whatever water the towns get when PCB levels in the river become unsafe, or when there is not enough time to test Hudson water before it reaches the towns' drinking water intakes.

The dispute over drinking water has dragged on for months, with EPA refusing the town's request to cover the cost of buying Troy water unless it exceeded safety levels.

[Go here for the rest of the story.]

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Ferguson on whiskey and coffee

Craig Ferguson, the hands-down best standup act/talk show host on television, offers excellent riffs nearly every weeknight.

Here's one that fits into this blog's drinks genre, ranging from whiskey to coffee.



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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Toronto joins bottled water ban

If you're in Toronto and have a thirst for a cold bottle of water, you might have some problems finding one.

The city has decided to outlaw the sale of bottled water in all municipal buildings, including local arenas.

While banning bottled water, the city did not ban any other bottled beverage.

The ban was approved in December by City Council, with the target of stopping such sales for all municipal premises from City Hall to golf courses by 2011.

Mayor David Miller's spokesman, Stuart Green, said the ban is part of the city's plan to divert 70% of its waste from municipal dumps by 2010.

Not only is the city eliminating sales of the plastic bottles, it also is instituting the following steps:

• A five-cent charge for every plastic bag customers use from a grocery or retail store, starting in June.

• A ban on biodegradable and compostable plastic bags.

• A ban on retail bags with rope handles or metal grommets by the end of next year.

• A request that retailers also provide shoppers with alternatives to having the pay for a plastic bag, whether by providing cardboard boxes or paper sacks for shoppers.

According to the Polaris Institute, 17 municipalities from five Canadian provinces have banned the plastic bottles, while another 45 municipalities are planning restrictions on bottled water.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

About that VitaminWater lawsuit: Oh, snap!

Glacéau VitaminWater has been marketed by Coca-Cola Inc. as a healthy alternative to other beverages because of its added vitamins and minerals.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has taken issue with claims such as "rescue," "energy” and "endurance" associated with the drinks. So it, filed a class action lawsuit against Coke for making what it says are unfounded health claims.

When the suit was announced on Thursday, Coca-Cola had no public response. Today, it does.

Says spokeswoman Diana Garza Ciarlante in a beautifully cutting way:

"Glacéau Vitaminwater is clearly and properly labeled and shows the amount of vitamins and calories in the product.

"Consumers today are savvy, educated and are looking for more from their beverages than just hydration. Many people know that they are not receiving adequate nutrients from their diets, so they have turned to products like Glacéau Vitaminwater in order to help supplement what they are not receiving from the foods they eat," she said.

"This is not about protecting the public interest. This is about increasing the readership of CSPI's increasingly irrelevant newsletter."

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Coke sued over VitaminWater claims

The Center for Science in the Public Interest today announced it is suing the Coca-Cola Co.

At issue is what the nutrition advocacy group calls "deceptive" claims about the company's VitaminWater line of drinks.

The Washington-based group is accusing Coca-Cola of selling what is says is basically sugar water by claiming it has vitamins that boost immunity and reduce the risk of disease. It said the health benefit claims Coca-Cola makes are "nonsense."

The suit was filed as a class action in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.

Coca-Cola bought Glaceau's VitaminWater for $4.1 billion in June 2007. Since the acquisition, sales have improved by a double-digit percentage in the third quarter.

"It truly shocks the conscience that a company like Coke would try to keep customers by selling them a soft drink and telling them it's a vitamin," said Stephen Gardner, director of litigation for the group.

Coca-Cola did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The same advocacy group sued MillerCoors last fall to stop the brewer from selling Sparks, an alcoholic energy drink. Last month the company agreed to remove some stimulants from its formula.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Starbucks debuting new tea-based drinks

Starbucks is scheduled to introduce several new antioxidant-rich tea beverages in its more than 11,000 U.S. stores beginning Saturday, January 3.

The new Full Leaf Tazo Tea Lattes and Tazo Tea Infusions will be available along with tea drinks already on the menu, although they will be the first to use full-leaf tea bags in stores, allowing customers to steep to the strength they prefer.

The hot tea lattes are made with Tazo tea and steamed milk in three flavors: Black Tea Latte, Vanilla Rooibos Latte, featuring a naturally caffeine-free South African herbal tea, and London Fog Latte with a blend of black tea, bergamot, French lavender and vanilla. The price range, depending on where you are, will be $2.85 to $3.50 for a tall.

The non-dairy Tazo Tea Infusions, available hot or cold, include black chai tea steamed with fruit juices in Berry Chai Infusion and Apple Chai Infusion flavors. Price range: $2.40 to $2.70 for a tall.

All have fewer than 200 calories for a 12-ounce, or tall, serving, except the Apple Chai Infusion, which has 250.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

No, there is nothing wrong with your eyes

PepsiCo is making some changes in the looks of some of its drinks containers. Perhaps the most confusing is the new image of Sierra Mist. As is evident in the image at right, the word "Mist" has been blurred.

The Purchase, NY-based soft drink and snacks giant says it will invest $1.2 billion over the next three years to reinvigorate its line of carbonated soft drinks in the face of consumer demand falling off for virtually all brands in the past 36 months.

Initially, the campaign will include new logos and packages for PepsiCo beverages. The red, white and blue Pepsi logo began as a bottle-cap design, became the official logo in 1962, and was last changed in 2002. The new version will eliminate the wave look, which will be replaced by a diagonal slit the company says is supposed to represent a smile.

Among other brands to undergo a renewal are Mountain Dew's various iterations.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

FDA: Diet Coke Plus misbranded

From Advertising Age:

WASHINGTON -- The federal Food and Drug Administration is taking Coca-Cola to task for what it calls "misbranding" of Diet Coke Plus. The FDA said because there is no standard for nutrients in carbonated beverages, Coke can't market the beverage as 'plus.'

In a letter to Coca-Cola dated Dec. 10, the FDA said the marketing of Diet Coke Plus, which uses the "plus" to indicate the addition of vitamins and minerals, amounts to an illegal health claim. It said the word "plus" normally signals a food enriched with 10% more of the daily food intake for a particular nutrient than is standard. The FDA said because there is no standard for nutrients in carbonated beverages, Coke can't market the beverage as "plus."

"Your product is misbranded ... because it bears the nutrient-content claim 'plus' but does not comply with the regulations governing the use of this claim," said the letter. "The term 'plus' in 'Diet Coke Plus,' read in conjunction with the language 'Diet Coke with Vitamins & Minerals,' meets the definition of a nutrient-content claim because it characterizes the product's level of vitamins and minerals, which are nutrients of the type required to be in nutrition labeling."

In a March 2007 press release announcing the product launch, the company described it as "a sparkling, calorie-free beverage with vitamins and minerals," that is "a good source of vitamins B3, B6, and B12, and the minerals zinc and magnesium." Wieden & Kennedy is Diet Coke's agency.

Coca-Cola could not be reached for comment.

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