Pepsi Creates New Craft Soda, But It's Not Fooling Us

Craft beverage lovers have a new soda to look out for: Caleb’s Kola. The sleek glass bottle advertises “honor in craft” on a Helvetica-style label designed to lure in the ironical large glasses, vintage sweater-wearing sweet tooth.

#CalebsKola, as it is promoted, was introduced to the U.S. market in October 2014, available in hip locations like Brooklyn. While the New York borough is known for having a market saturated with small-batch kombucha and craft spirits, this new cola drink, made from Fair Trade cane sugar, sparkling water and kola nut extract has one major flaw: it’s made by PepsiCo.

The ingredients may not include high fructose corn syrup or added caffeine, like in regular Pepsi, but let’s take this soda for what it is: soda. A 20oz serving of Pepsi has 250 calories and 69 grams of sugar, while a 20oz portion of Caleb’s (which would be two servings, according to the bottle’s packaging) has 220 calories and 58 grams of sugar. Caleb’s is moderately healthier, but what you’re getting is essentially empty calories in fancier packaging.

Currently only available in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island’s Costco, Caleb’s Kola comes in 10oz glass bottles designed to pair well with something like a pasture-raised chicken sandwich on an artisanal bun, while a bottle of Pepsi still carries a stigma of a fast food chaser.

While nowhere on its hip Tumblr-hosted website does Caleb’s admit to being a product of PepsiCo, one would have to wonder—where are these small batches coming from? Who, in fact, is Caleb? Unlike Brooklyn’s Bruce Cost ginger ale, which can be tied to the title character himself, or Mast Brothers chocolate, which is indeed made by a pair of brothers, surname Mast, there’s no obvious character associated with this small-batch soda.

“If you are passionate and love the craft you do, we are with you 100% of the way,” Caleb’s site boasts. But who is we, the corporate boardroom at one of the world’s largest mass-produced beverage brands?

Via a promotional video on YouTube, one can see that Caleb’s is indeed a product of PepsiCo, as unnamed men in suits describe the quality of their new product. While these passionate kola lovers may be applauded for caring more about ingredient sourcing, no actual farms or producers are traceable to Caleb’s Kola.

In an age where a soda tax is becoming practically equivalent to a tobacco or alcohol tax, let’s take soda for what it is: a component of America’s sugar addiction. Fancy packaging or not, Caleb’s is just another symptom of corporate America’s proliferation of obesity.

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