Tonight we spotlight two bottled beverages, one aimed towards those lovably wacky Japanese schoolchildren, the other made for overpaid yuppies who spend more time in the gym than the kitchen (also lovable). Little in common between these two aside from a green theme in their packaging. Here we go.
When I first discovered Japanese markets, it was easy to be taken in by the packaging of little kid food. Bright colors, frantic graphics, and on a good day, sexually inexperienced cat-like robots. But I quickly learned that they are often filled with way too much sugar, fatty friedness, and all sorts of artificial ingredients. Turns out junk food is junk food, wherever you go. So, I usually walk past the kid stuff.
But when I saw Senoby Melon Soda on the shelf, I could not keep walking. I've had muskmelon popsicles from various Asian markets in the past, and they are pretty exquisite -- you feel like you're biting into a frozen chunk of the perfect melon. So I had high hopes. I also couldn't resist the bizarre packaging: a metal bottle covered in cartoony smiley-faces. I knew in the back of my head I'd regret this, and yet I had to try.
Senoby Melon Soda is fizzy. And also milky. Fizzy and milky. Why would you do that?
Metromint is neither milky nor fizzy. In fact it's not much anything-y. Except minty. It's very minty. And it's a marketing coup that somehow makes sense. Under its metro-cutesy packaging, it's got two ingredients: water and mint. So, water hardly counts as an ingredient -- I mean, it's just water. And the mint: well it's not like you can see actual mint leave floating around in there, it just looks like water, which we already established is not an ingredient. So basically it's a bottle of nothing. Yet they sell this minty bottle of nothing for a buck-forty-nine at your local Whole Foods, it has its own fan club, and Michele, Metromint's Wellness and Outreach Director (photoshopped mint in hand) offers you Metronothing recipes and book recommendations. They've built quite a culture around a very simple product.
But it's good! With packaged food and beverages I always try to look for less. Less sugar, less caffeine, less artificial stuff. And it's harder to do than you think. Metromint offers a little treat: no sugar at all, but a satisfying fresh flavor that cools your mouth, and may actually put a spring in your step (especially if you happen to really like mouthwash).
It's sad to me that so frequently when it comes to food, the simplest things are the luxuries. Metromint is no exception, but I will choose this skinny overpriced bottle of cool minty nothing over a fizzy milky melon soda any chance I get. Or maybe I'll just skip both and pour a glass of water, simple and free.