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Excellent for when you want soda, but also water.

Kroger Strawberry Sparkling Water Beverage (Kroger)

I’m always on the lookout for cheap beverages, and for some reason or another sparkling water never seems to be on that list. I’m not talking about the “La Croix” bullshit that tastes like someone ate a piece of fruit, then farted into a water bottle; I’m talking about the sweeter versions that were more or less inspired by the likes of Clearly Canadian. 

Thankfully, modern marketing is always eager to cram as many products as possible within the confines (?) of a multi-thousand square foot supermarket. And that’s how I ended up (almost quite literally) stumbling on a display of Kroger’s version of a flavored sparkling water beverage. One that’s, quite conveniently, called Sparkling Water Beverage. I assume there were once a variety of different flavors available, but all I saw were several shelves worth of strawberry, so that’s the one I went with.

Anyone who has ever had one of these, across any brand, pretty much knows what to expect. They are typically an artificially flavored (ahem, excuse me, now “naturally flavored”) combination of fruit flavor, sparkling water, and some kind of “natural” sweetener. In this case, it’s sucralose. 

One quick whiff tells me that this is going to be no different. How is it that virtually every fruit has some sort of standardized aroma that’s generally nothing at all like the actual fruit it’s based on? Think about it: Banana Runts smell like banana Now and Laters, even though neither are even remotely in the same ballpark as an actual banana. Strawberry and cherry candies all have similar scents and flavor profiles. Even “fake” fruits like blue raspberry and sour apple all smell and taste the same, more or less.

The point is, this smells like a strawberry the way ocean candles “accurately” capture the smell of a beach. Which is to say, not at all. And yet, it’s an acceptable scent because it’s very similar to the way all “naturally flavored” strawberry products smell. 

Weird rant aside, the flavor is also right in the ballpark of what one is expecting from such a beverage. There’s that widely accepted strawberry flavor punctuated by a touch of sweetness, leading to an ever-so-slightly bitter finish. It goes down smooth and is pleasant enough; definitely a few steps above regular water. And that, I suppose, is what I – and anyone else who drinks these – truly wants. 

At $.79 per 33.8 oz. bottle, the value is pretty much on par with every other sweetened sparkling water brand out there. It’s not something that’s going to “wow” you in the least, but it will provide a familiar taste at a familiar price. 

Overall: 7/10. It’s a standard artificially-flavored (oh, excuse me: “naturally” flavored) sweetened sparkling water drink. The strawberry isn’t really in the ballpark of an actual strawberry, but it’s the type of fake berry flavor we’re probably all accustomed to at this point. It’s sweet, but not overly so, with a slightly bitter finish. The $.79 price tag is solid, and about in line with other private label brands. If you want soda, but you also want water, this should do the trick.

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