Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crystal Light Pure


Last week, Kraft Foods sent me a sample package of Crystal Light Pure to try out. Crystal Light Pure is a new offering in Kraft's popular series of Crystal Light powdered drink mixes. Crystal Light Pure functions much like its predecessors in that each serving comes in single serve pouches and are mixed with a bottle of water and shaken (or stirred, if you are one of the lucky few whose thoughts are not haunted by James Bond's infamous martini request every time the option between the two methods arises) until the solution becomes homogeneous. Where Crystal Light Pure differs from the rest of the Crystal Light brand, however, lies in the ingredients.

Crystal Light Pure, unlike many of the other water enhancers currently offered on the market, utilizes all natural sweeteners, flavorings, and colorings. While regular Crystal Light is sweetened mostly with aspartame, Crystal Light Pure is sweetened with a mixture of sugar and Truvia (a solid, crystalline stevia extract derivative). Now, I am not a big fan of stevia. In fact, I tend to actively avoid the stuff. I was hesitant after realizing that Crystal Light Pure contains Truvia, but I am happy to say that the stevia is not overpowering in the slightest. This is the complete opposite of what I am accustomed to in my typical encounter with stevia-sweetened products (i.e. teeth-shattering sweetness, thick and syrupy aftertastes that linger for hours, etc.), and it was nice to finally find a beverage that is proportioned to take into consideration the extreme sweetness of stevia-based sweeteners. A little bit of stevia goes a long way, and I think that the team behind Crystal Light Pure has struck a solid balance between the two sweeteners. 

I was sent samples of the three flavors shown above: Strawberry Kiwi, Mixed Berry, and Lemonade. I have had the opportunity to try each flavor twice now, and I have to say that the lemonade is definitely my favorite so far. Ironically, I find the strawberry kiwi and mixed berry flavors to be a bit too tart for my tastes. The flavors themselves are not bad; they just tend to leave my mouth a bit dry (an effect somewhat reminiscent of the artificial sweeteners found in standard Crystal Light). I am beginning to think that this is more an effect of the "add powdered drink mix to water" methodology than anything else, and I may need to just start mixing the packets with a bit more water than is recommended. Crystal Light Pure is intended for usage with standard 16.9 fl. oz. water bottles, but I have found with most of the water enhancers that I have tried recently that I usually like them better after diluting the recommended serving size with an extra ounce or two of water. 

From a design standpoint, Crystal Light Pure has its ups and downs. First and most obvious is the increased size of the serving pouches (pictured below next to a typical Crystal Light pouch).


To give the packaging a rough "engineering estimate," I would say that the new pouch is approximately 250% larger in volume than the previous packaging. I understand that this is likely just an aesthetic decision made to differentiate the Pure line from the standard line, but there is a lot of empty space in the new pouch, which, to stick with the engineering theme, stands out to me as primarily just a waste of material. The new pouch also takes up a good bit more room in a bag or pocket than the old pouch, and the extra space for air in the larger pouch likely makes it more susceptible to unintended puncture-related accidents. These are not deal-breakers by any means, and ultimately it feels mostly like nitpicking on my part, but it did stand out as a bit of an odd design choice when I opened the boxes.

On another note, my mixing experience with Crystal Light Pure has been changed for the better and for the worse from the artificial powders. On the good side of things, I have found that the naturally-flavored Crystal Light tends to dissolve a lot faster and does tend to not clump up in the water as some of the artificially flavored versions do. This results in less shaking overall to mix up the drink, which is always a welcome change. However, I have noticed more "settling" from Crystal Light Pure, a process by which undissolved particles that are too small to see with the unaided eye sink to the bottom of the container and collect in a heap of grit that must be constantly shaken back into the beverage with each drink. I have, however, been mostly using 16 fl. oz. containers to mix the beverage so far, and this may also be a problem that would be easily solved by simply adding a bit more water (or a bit less powder).

Overall, I like Crystal Light Pure. I definitely prefer it to the original artificial alternative, although I do still think that Kraft's MiO is my favorite water enhancer so far. I am not going to not recommend the mixed berry and strawberry kiwi flavors, but of the three flavors that I have tried so far, I have really taken to the lemonade and would probably recommend that as a good starting point. 

Although I generally do not have a problem with consuming the occasional artificial ingredient, it is always nice to see large corporations such as Kraft taking an interest in offering natural alternatives for those who prefer to avoid the artificial flavors and colorings. I definitely recommend giving Crystal Light Pure a try, especially if you are in the market for a more natural method of occasionally embellishing a serving or two of your daily water intake.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Sent by Kraft Foods
Size: 16.9 fl. oz. [7 pouches/box]
Price: About $4.00 per box [Based off of prices found on Amazon.com]

Check out Crystal Light Pure on the Crystal Light website.
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