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Last summer, I wrote about the “Anti-Soda Revolution” and sampled several sparkling waters, tonics, and seltzers that had recently hit the market in a we’re-not-soda frenzy. While still sweet and fizzy, these brands market their beverages under a slew of healthier-seeming titles -- presumably because the 20th century’s soda is now associated with sugars, syrups and artificial ingredients. This new class of beverages? Infused with functional ingredients, adaptogens, and botanicals instead.
While everyone else is working overtime to claim their anti-soda titles, United Sodas of America has taken a different approach, opting to fully lean into soda culture -- and offer an updated twist. The brand’s concept is this: 12 flavors, that classic soda taste, no artificial anything, purely organic sweetener, and 30 calories per can. As a DTC bubbly beverage hobbyist, I recently sampled United Sodas’ insanely aesthetic Variety Pack to determine how the brand’s sodas compare to their anti-soda competition.
A More Perfect Beverage
If anyone is positioned to shake up the soda industry, it’s United Sodas’s CEO and co-founder Marisa Zupan. With over a decade of experience modernizing brands like Nestlé, Jameson, Absolut, and Pepsi, Zupan set her sights on a soda revamp after recognizing its downfall in American culture. United Sodas, which focuses on variety, design, and the digital landscape, is the result of her expertise and vision.
With clean and colorful branding, a direct-to-consumer business model, and a variety of classic and unique flavors, United Sodas certainly has that viral, Instagrammable feel. It’s also earned approval from Hailey Bieber, has sold out 6 times (and is currently sold out now), and is outpacing initial growth predictions. Excited to try United Sodas for myself, I ordered the famous Variety Pack, which was delivered right to my door.
Shelf Appeal: 10/10
It’s hard not to let a “wow” slip out as soon as you open a package from United Sodas. I mean… look at it. In terms of shelf appeal, the brand is a definite 10. Opening the Variety Pack’s box unleashes a 12-flavor rainbow: White Grape, Toasted Coconut, Young Mango, Strawberry Basil, Sour Blueberry, Pear Elderflower, Orange Nectarine, Lemon Verbena, Gingery Ale, Extra Peach, Cherry Pop, and Blackberry Jam.
Each flavor contains carbonated water, a dash of organic cane sugar, organic erythritol (a naturally occurring sugar substitute), organic stevia, citric acid, natural flavors, plus beta-carotene, caramel color, fruit juice, or carrot juice for color. While every can does contain some sugar, the brand advertises the fact that the soda is “Naturally Flavored.”
In full transparency, my “expertise” is more geared in the sparkling water direction, so I invited over a few friends for a tasting party and feedback on United Sodas’ Variety Pack. I’m glad I did -- for as much as the soda brand is selling a drink, it seems to me that United Sodas is also encouraging a fun, beautiful, and bubbly experience with each box purchased. Without further ado, our thoughts…
Not Your Classic ‘Taste The Rainbow’
We quickly discovered that our group arrived with a variety of palettes -- and the Variety Pack offers something for each. While we initially planned to simply rank the flavors from best to worst, my dining table became somewhat of a chess board as we debated which flavors should be placed where. As it turns out, taste is highly subjective, so we ultimately classified the flavors into three categories based on drinking personalities.
Classic Soda Flavors For Classic Soda Lovers
United Sodas’ Cherry Pop, Orange Nectarine, and Gingery Ale flavors are reminiscent of the classic cherry soda, orange soda, and ginger ale. The key word is that they’re reminiscent of the classics -- but they don’t have the same punchy flavor as their predecessors. Instead, each can’s sweetness is overpowering. We all agreed that we wouldn’t opt for these flavors in the future, but we’re glad they exist as a healthier alternative for classic soda lovers.
Sweet Treats For The Young At Heart
Here’s where things got controversial. Sour Blueberry sparked an initial debate that was followed by Blackberry Jam, Extra Peach and Strawberry Basil discourse. Two friends who identify as having more childlike palettes loved these flavors. In terms of the flavoring, the blueberry, blackberry, peach, and strawberry taste closer to gummy candy representations than their actual fruits. Therefore, another friend and I found them to be too sweet and candy-like for our (admittedly somewhat pretentious) palettes. If you love berry candy and peach rings, add these to your cart -- if you prefer a light and refreshing sparkly drink, these flavors aren’t for you.
Elevated Offerings For The Sophisticated Sipper
While the flavors in the darker, bolder colored cans land in the sweet, candy-like lane, we found that the pastel shells housed more elevated flavors. We put Young Mango, Pear Elderflower, Lemon Verbena, White Grape, and Toasted Coconut into this category -- and even their names give off a sense of grandeur that the other flavors don’t carry.
With that being said, each of these flavors is still quite sweet (it is soda after all). But, each is slightly more mild and “everyday” tasting than the other flavors. My friend who agreed that the Young-At-Heart flavors were too candy-like loved Toasted Coconut so much that she claimed it as her own. Lemon Verbena and Young Mango, we agreed, were generally likable, though none delivered the punchy, acidic splash we typically get from these flavors in other bubbly drinks. We pondered adding a splash of alcohol into the Pear Elderflower and White Grape cans -- given our tasting time, we opted not to but still classified these flavors as would-be-delicious-as-a-mixer.
After classifying our picks, I discovered that in addition to the Variety Pack, United Sodas sells Themed Packs of flavors they’ve chosen to group together. The New Classics, The Finer Things Club, Toga Party, and The Blues contain pretty similarly-grouped flavors to ours with a few exceptions. If you have a specific propensity for classic, tropical, or berry flavors, these packs would be a good place to start. Otherwise, I’d recommend grabbing a box for your next special occasion.
Are United Sodas my new kitchen staple? No. But would I order a pack to host a party or beach gathering? Certainly. With healthier options, something for everyone, wow appeal, it’s definitely a fun hosting pick and excellent conversation starter. While I’ll be sticking to my sparkling water guns for now, I’d gladly purchase a pack and treat the soda-inclined at my next gathering.
5 More Reasons To Love United Sodas
1. Healthier options for happier people: natural flavors and only 30 calories per can.
2. Something for everyone: the brand’s flavors cater to the young and old.
3. Simply put: it’s beautiful. The cans are a fun addition to any fridge.
4. Subscribe and save at unitedsodas.com: with a monthly subscription, the brand will deliver a box to your door each month -- and you'll save 10%!
5. United Sodas has sold out 6 times -- order while you can!