I think there are probably a lot of us out there who can say that we don’t drink enough water. I do try to drink quite a bit, but I definitely don’t come anywhere near the RDA. I have heard some people say that they don’t like the “taste” of water, when in fact I believe they are referring to the absence of a flavor. With all of the beverages available on the market, not to mention the vast number of flavor options, it’s no wonder that the average palate needs a little something extra in order to make what they are drinking more appealing. With that in mind, I wanted to explore the market of flavored water enhancers, those tiny containers of concentrated flavored liquid designed to be added to water to make it more palatable to the average consumer.

I sampled enhancers from three makers, although there are many more available in stores.  One common denominator I will mention about all of these products (and very likely true for other brands) is that they all are comprised of the same basic formula. Of course there is water, and citric and malic acids, to bring out those tangy fruit flavors. But they also contain sucralose, so if you aren’t a Splenda person or can’t have artificial sweeteners for health reasons, you may want to avoid these. All three products are the same portion size (1.62 oz.), which they suggest makes about twenty-four servings, and were in the same price range (about $2.99)

I decided to start with Crystal Light, one of the originators of boosting the flavor of water. I remember when Crystal Light was a major concept back in the eighties; it was like sophisticated, “healthy” Kool Aid for adults. I chose the Strawberry Lemonade flavor, one of six offered in their Liquid line. I made an attempt to get a little background information on Crystal Light (a subsidiary of Kraft Foods) by going to their website www.crystallightliquid.com . Unfortunately, they weren’t terribly forthcoming with any specific information, i.e., what their initial idea was behind moving into the liquid portion of the market – they seemed to be successful enough with their original powdered formulation. Or why they believed their product was superior to their competition, something that most companies give a substantial amount of effort to on their site. Or better yet, what exactly goes into their liquid enhancer. I suppose they felt that consumers could simply read the back of the bottle to acquire whatever information they needed. Which is true; I in fact read the back of the package and got all the nutritional information that was available. But at the same time, I have always felt like product websites should be informative as well as visually appealing. But that’s another post. I’m going to get back on track now and on to the real stuff. The flavor reminded me very much of their powdered formula I had tried out years ago. From a personal perspective, I am pretty sensitive when it comes to the taste of artificial sweetener in that, I don’t use it because I don’t care for it and can immediately taste it in any beverage I consume. While the fruitiness was nice, it definitely finished with that unmistakable note of Splenda that I couldn’t abide. I will probably give this one to a friend of mine who regularly drinks such beverages.

My second sample was the Watermelon flavor from Kool Aid. Snicker if you want, but admit it; you had a favorite flavor as a child, and every now and then you still pick up a packet. It’s ok, I won’t tell. Kool Aid is actually also owned by Kraft Foods, and any attempt to gain information about this product from their site (www.koolaid.com) sent me immediately to a page full of recipes using Kool Aid. Not very helpful if I’m trying to educate myself, Kraft. And the taste? It had the exact same taste (and even scent) as the stuff the kids drink. Huge nostalgia factor. Now I will say, this product isn’t particularly aimed at adults as far as marketing goes. There’s a good chance the Kool Aid folks just felt like this may be easier for mom (or dad) to mix up than the original powdered version. And you don’t have to add sugar, which could also be appealing. But the general vibe that I get from all the liquid enhancers is that they’re supposed to be a little more sophisticated and grown-up than the stuff we were drinking years ago.

Finally I tried the Mio Strawberry Watermelon. Now this is a company who wants you to know about their product. Everything about their product, or nearly so. They’ve got nutritional information for miles and FAQs galore on their site (www.makeitmio.com). Is Mio safe for diabetics and/or pregnant women? It should be okay, but check with your doctor first, please. And they’ve got a decent variety of liquids to offer. There are three main product lines; the original, with eleven flavors, Mio Energy (with a little caffeine boost) and Mio Fit, each with two flavors to choose from. They also give solid advice for keeping their liquid; while  it does not require refrigeration, they do not suggest leaving the package anywhere that it may be exposed to high temperatures (i.e., your car.) and suggest using the product up within thirty days of opening.  The flavor itself was very pleasing, fruity and refreshing without that undesirable artificial-sweetener-taste.

My goal in testing out these products was to find out if adding flavor to water would potentially encourage me to drink more of it, having stated earlier that I certainly don’t drink enough. And as I am a living breathing skeptic, I felt in the beginning that these were just another marketing gimmick so all the big food corporations could take a little more of my money. After having tried them however, I have to say that I am a convert, although not an enthusiastic one. They do make water slightly more appealing (I have never been one of the aforementioned who doesn’t like the “taste” of water; I like it just fine) and I do think it will make me drink more of it. Although being Southern does tie me to a cultural obligation to stick to my sweet iced tea!

Do you use water enhancers? If so, has it changed your water-drinking habits? Comment below and let me know what you think about what you drink!

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