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New Coke BlaK fizzles with Consumer Reports taste-testers

Posted Sunday, April 2, 2006

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It's Coke with coffee, double the caffeine, and half the calories

Up to now, the French have sipped a Coca-Cola product not found on U.S. grocery shelves: Coke BlaK, a grown-up soft drink that combines the fizzy flavors of Coke with coffee.

Coke BlaK

On April 3, Coke BlaK is to be introduced throughout the U.S. Billed as a "carbonated fusion beverage," it has roughly double the caffeine and half the calories of regular Coke, and it is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and two artificial sweeteners: aspartame and acesulfame potassium. Each 8-oz. bottle has 45 calories; regular Coke has 100. At $1.70 to $2 per bottle, Coke BlaK is a lot pricier than a can of regular Coke.

But how does it taste? We asked four of our experienced taste testers to compare in a blind test the U.S. and French versions of Coke BlaK, plus regular Coca-Cola Classic.

The differences between the U.S. and French versions are unmistakable. The U.S. Coke BlaK is sweeter and has more caramel-like flavoring, similar to Coca-Cola Classic. The coffee flavor is a bare whiff.

The French version, by contrast, has a more pronounced coffee flavor, which better balances the cola flavor. The French version lists sugar in place of the high fructose corn syrup, which can affect the flavor.

For the U.S. market, the sleek, contemporary can of the French Coke BlaK was replaced by a more familiar curvy Coca-Cola bottle silhouette.

Cola tinged with coffee is not a new concept. In the mid-1990s, Pepsi Kona, Java Cola, and Café Cola were introduced, each trying to excite a flat market for carbonated beverages. All failed. Possibly in an effort to chase the coffeehouse crowd, Coke decided to give it another go, starting in France earlier this year.

Bottom line: If you like the idea of a hint of coffee with your Coke, you might give this a try. But if you're looking for more coffee with your cola, you'll be disappointed with Coke BlaK--unless you buy it in France.

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Consumer Reports® is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

 
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New Coke BlaK fizzles with Consumer Reports taste-testers

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