May 18, 2010

Do Facebook friends connect to make good vitaminwater?

I've spent my fair share of words on this blog criticizing food product planners. Time and time again I'm at a loss to understand what they were thinking when they picked misfit ingredients and settled for strange seasonings. I envision product planners as bald-headed men in starchy lab coats who work in secret food silos and return home each night so out of touch with the world that they have to ask their kids to explain this newfangled Hannah Montana.

Tonight we have the unique opportunity to pit the product planners against normal people. Well, that's provided you consider Facebook users normal people. I'm a little doubtful, what with the prevalence of FarmVille and its ilk, but we'll pretend it's normal to care whether your friends fertilized some random imaginary field or found a lonely cow wandering through cyberspace.

Getting back to the point, vitaminwater recently released some new flavors. One of them, dubbed "connect" in the industry-standard all-lowercase letters, features black-cherry lime flavors and packaging claiming it was made "by fans, for fans on Facebook." The other one, "spark," with grape-blueberry flavor, seems to have flowed out of your typical product pipeline. So which one is more successful?

The black cherry-lime combination trends heavily toward the lime end of the equation. It's not as puckerworthy as the citrus flavors of vitaminwater's "energy,"  but it's surprisingly sour. It also falls a little flat on my tongue and could very much use some more black cherry notes for richness.

Spark, on the other hand, has a pleasant but not-overpowering sweetness that successfully wraps beginning and end tones of grape juice around a sweet burst of blueberry in the middle. As a result it's tastefully sweet without slapping you with an immediate avalanche of sugar. It also doesn't leave you with that annoying just-drank-too-much-corn-syrup thirsty tongue.

Throw in the fact that connect contains caffeine, and the crowd-sourced beverage comes in a distant second. Its flavors are merely OK, and if I wanted caffeine I would have picked up some coffee. Sorry, Facebookers. Connect earns just two sporks out of five.

It just isn't as good as spark, to which I award four sporks. Those balding men must get it right once in a blue moon.

Of course, this experiment has a severe lack of double blinds, control groups and scientific methods. In other words, I'm not ready to anoint product planners a better alternative to crowd-sourcing.

After all, even a blind cow finds her way out of the digital forest every once in a while.

No comments:

Post a Comment