Shelf-Stable Ice Cream Float Disaster

Sunkist and A&W Floats

By: Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages

I Paid: $1.59 for an 11.5-ounce bottle (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 1stars


Marketing: 2stars

If there’s one thing that parents dread with the coming of each and every summer, it’s the incredible challenge of making root beer or orange soda floats for the kids. We’ve all been there: First, you have to buy vanilla ice cream. Then you have to buy soda. But, wait, there’s more: You have to put a scoop of ice cream into the soda. It’s crazy, right? And who’s going to clean the spoon?

To the rescue—and not a moment too soon—comes Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages with a bold new venture known generically as “Floats,” which come in Sunkist (orange) and A&W (root beer) varieties.

The marketing materials of both kinds claim: “Rich, creamy, and so delicious you won’t believe it comes in a bottle.” A fair counterclaim would be: “Thick, gelatinous, and so artificial-tasting, you won’t believe it’s nontoxic.”

The mouthfeel and aftertaste add up to—and this isn’t meant for humor or shock value—a child-safe shampoo. Obviously, the makers faced some problems: They were trying to simulate the effect of drinking melted ice cream combined with soda without actually using melted ice cream.

Thus, a desperate measure that is quite possibly to blame for the end result: The drinks lean upon a combination of pectin; ester gum; cornstarch; acacia gum; and propylene glycol alginate, a thickener and stabilizer originally derived from brown algae. What little carbonation the beverages possess gets syruped to death by the thick, disgusting slurry of faux ice cream.

Sorry, America … looks like it’s back to the drawing board—and the Herculean task of making real ice cream floats.

Now Even Richer! Milk Chocolate Nestlé Crunch

By: Nestlé

I Paid: 69 cents for a 1.55-ounce bar (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4stars


Marketing: 4stars

Good chocolate, thank the Lord, is increasingly easy to come by in today’s taste-conscious society. Therefore, it’s reasonable to wonder how the stalwart makers of old-school cardboard-tasting “chocolate” bars (such as Nestlé and Hershey’s) keep getting away with putting their low-end crap onto shelves everywhere. A new Nestlé product may indicate that, in fact, the heat is on.

The latest Nestlé Crunch bar promises a “Now Even Richer!” milk chocolate taste. The only sensible way to respond to this claim? A blind taste test of an old Crunch bar and the new, improved version.

Blind or not, it was clear as day. The new version tasted better. The crispy texture was exactly the same, but the “even richer” bar had, in fact, picked up a deeper chocolate taste: the kind of lip-smacking flavor that rolls around in your mouth after you’ve finished, making you crave just a little bit more. The old bar, by contrast, had that flat, almost stale-nut-tasting note common to bottom-of-the-barrel chocolate.

A Lindt bar, this is not—no one’s going to mistake Nestlé’s new offering for a premium dessert. That said, it’s really quite munchable, and if Nestlé’s mass-market audience knows what’s good for it, it’ll respond at the register. Otherwise, “Now Even Poorer Quality! Milk Chocolate Nestlé Crunch” may be the next product slated for rollout.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.