Snapple Story

So at that Greek place I mentioned in my Rhode Island post, we were very hungry and I was very thirsty. I ordered an iced tea and the waitress asked: “Sweetened or unsweetened?” Thinking I was in Atlanta, where sweet tea is often house-made, I picked sweet tea. When it came out I took a sip and nearly gagged.

“Blech!” I said, when the waitress left. “This is so sweet; I think it came from a machine and only syrup came out or something. It’s like drinking maple syrup.”

When she came back I told her about the tea and she said, “It didn’t come from a machine, it came from a bottle. It’s Snapple.”

And, strangely enough, my disgust turned to understanding. “Oh,” I said. “That’s ok, then. I can drink this.”

Knowing it was Snapple, I drank it fine. No problem. It made lots of sense; this sweet abomination had a reference point and one that I could connect to my teenage years, drinking Snapple in my high school courtyard with a turkey sandwich and pretzels purchased at a deli.

But isn’t that strange how, without knowing the reference point, it tasted disgusting but once I knew what it was it tasted ok? Is that a function of marketing? Or branding? Or something to do with how food and memory go hand-in-hand; how, for example, because I ate them as a kid, certain processed foods–like Vienna Fingers or Entenmann’s’s Chocolate Doughnuts–will always taste good to me? But would they only taste good if I knew what they were, if I saw them come out of the packaging? How much does branding affect how food tastes?

I’m not sure. But if you’re ever in Rhode Island at a Greek restaurant near Brown University and you order iced tea, don’t be disgusted: it’s only Snapple.

18 comments

  1. A short iced tea story: A colleague served iced tea at a meeting a few weeks ago, a nice change of pace from coffee, etc. I thought it tasted pretty good. After receiving compliments on the taste/quality of the tea, she revealed her source: four large cups of McDonald’s iced tea poured into a pitcher. :)

  2. You should read “Fast Food Nation”…yes it’s biased in ways but it makes some good points. One of the points it makes is how brands market to kids so that adults have a positive association with it and continue to buy it throughout adulthood…interesting…

  3. I think it depends more upon expectation. I’ve done the same with soda before – where I was expecting a lemon-lime beverage, but instead got something akin to Mountain Dew. I used to drink a ton of Mountain Dew and like it in its own right, but when I was expecting something different, it was a wholly unappreciated flavor. I don’t think this necessarily has to do with branding. Even though I ate Entenmann’s cakes once in a while when I was a kid, they just taste chemically now. I never have the expectation for something to taste bitter or chemically, so when something is one of those, it’s even more disappointing.

  4. I will agree with Devlyn, in that it was more about expectations. You expected the tea to taste similar like the ones you’ve had before. And after being told that it was Snapple, you adjust your expectations and recognize the flavour immediately. Since you’ve had experience drinking Snapples, your adjusted expectations makes it acceptable to your taste buds.

    I’m blaberring here!

  5. We are here at some Greek place in Rhode Island, where we’ve secretly replaced the fine iced-tea they usually serve with Snapple. Let’s see if anyone can tell the difference!

  6. Maybe it’s just something Snapple has perfected. Every time I see a bottle of Snapple’s Mango Madness, I remember one of my high school boyfriends. I don’t even have to drink any, just seeing the bottle does it. It’s a little bit creepy, in my opinion.

  7. Maybe it’s just something Snapple has perfected. Every time I see a bottle of Snapple’s Mango Madness, I remember one of my high school boyfriends. I don’t even have to drink any, just seeing the bottle does it. It’s a little bit creepy, in my opinion.

  8. When I was younger I was convinced I was in love with this boy who drank Nestea like water. If we went somewhere together and I went to get a drink for myself and offered him one he’d say “you know what I want”.

    I still think of him everytime I see or drink Nestea.

  9. Speaking of branding, are you advertising for General Mills now?

    The new banner would suggest so….

  10. I’m from RI and lived in Providence near Brown (4 blocks from Thayer) for a few years. The Greek restaurant is Andreas. I never really liked it. By far, the BEST east on Thayer are cheep: Antonios Pizza, yum! And a little more expensive: Haruki Express and the Paragon!

  11. Wow. Snapple, deli turkey sandwich, and pretzels. That seems average enough, but it really takes me back to lunch in high school. Pretty crazy – it would seem that Snapple has inculcated an entire generation of now adults once mesmerized by the popping sound when you hit the back of the bottle.

  12. This is a phenomenon well studied in gestalt psychology.

    Most people have this idea that your taste buds send signals to your brain and then you taste things. This isn’t true. Your taste bugs send signals to your brain which are processed based on what you’re expecting, and then send the munged signal to you which becomes what you taste. So here is what happened

    Waitress: Sweet or unsweetened?

    AG’s forebrain: Man, some fresh brewed tea, lightly sweetened would be wonderful

    AG: Sweet, please.

    The AG drinks

    AG’s hindbrain: What are we expecting? Ah, the table wine of the south. Okay lets take a look at this… JESUS CHRIST! This isn’t what we’re expecting. What if it’s poison! We better jack up the gain on the signal so anything we don’t expect gets noticed by the forebrain. So make it taste so sweet it makes him want to gag, and make that slight overbrewed bitter taste go off the charts. Yo! Forebrain!

    AG:Lordamercy! That tastes like maple syrup that someone peed on!

    Waitress: It’s Snapple.

    AG’s hindbrain: Not poison. Alright boys, let’s turn all that scary stuff down. We know what Snapple is. Nothing to fear.

    AG: This is perfectly drinkable.

  13. Oh my God! I went to that Greek restaurant near Brown University! The pita were delicious, and thankfully, I didn’t order an iced tea.

  14. Maybe it’s nostalgia? Or maybe it’s conditioning: your poor food and drink decisions from your youth have trained your mind into thinking this is actually ok tasting.

  15. When I was in college, I drank Mountain Dew. One time, I poured it into a plastic yellow cup. It looked just like water, or maybe sprite or 7-up in that cup.

    Even though I poured it myself, knew what was in there, it didn’t look like it to me when I was drinking. So the taste freaked me out. I had to pour it out.

    From another cup, it was just fine.

  16. I think it is not only a case of expectations, but also the creation of particular appetites. there is so much that we eat that we learn to love. it doesn’t taste good the first time we have it, instead we develop a taste for it. Think about all of the things that are not good until you learn to appreciate them, and then you develop a taste for it that cannot be sated with anything other than the substance in question. For example, I don’t like the taste of coke. And diet coke is truly awful. It is biting and fake sweet and chemically. But all of these people are hooked, not just on the caffeine but also the taste. I’m convinced it is because there is just nothing else that tastes like that. Of course, that doesn’t make it tasty…

  17. Snapple – made from the best stuff on earth. Or so goes their advertising. The sweetness you taste is not sugar, it is high-fructose corn syrup, made from corn processed with enzymes. The cheapest way to sweeten drinks. The ad line should read “made from the cheapest stuff we could find”.

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