Zee Krstic

Shocker: It wasn’t the La Croix!

Jaime Ritter
February 14, 2018

It seems like a new type of sparkling water is cropping up or coming across our desks every day—and for good reason. It's a much healthier way to have a fizzy drink.

And as an added bonus, it turns out drinking sparkling water will hydrate you just as well as regular water, but the different flavors make it fun and easy-to-drink. In fact, last year, for the first time ever, Americans drank more water than soda.

The only problem? Drink makers are rushing to catch up with the trend, so there are dozens, if not hundreds of different sparkling waters on the market now.

Walk into any grocery store, and you’ll see what I mean. There are so many choices it's hard to know if your old standby is really the tastiest, or if there's another, better one on the market.

So we decided to try 10 berry-flavored sparkling waters—ranging from classics to the new kids on the block—and ranked them based on smell, taste, and bubbles. Here’s what we found—in order from worst to best tasting.

9. La Croix Berry

La Croix is the brand of sparkling water most people pick up and try their first time. It has a cool can design, it’s totally portable, and it’s got the “cool” factor.

It also has a a cult-like following. Seriously, the brand has over 120,000 Instagram followers and has been hashtagged over 161,000 times. Walk around our office on any given day and you’ll spot at least one can of the stuff sitting pretty on a desk.

All of that to say, I expected this brand to be the fan favorite among our tasting group. But, in a surprising turn of events, this classic bev was our least favorite. Most people felt like it was “flat, artificial-tasting, and lacking real berry flavor.”

8. Deer Park Strawberry

New York-based Deer Park has been selling still water for 143 years. In an attempt to stay hip and relevant, they just released a line of sparkling waters this year—but maybe they should stick to what they know. Only one person ranked this above a “4” on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the worst, 10 being the best.) Common thoughts: “This tastes like badly-infused tap water.”

7. Pur Aqua Belle Vie Blackberry Cucumber

This Aldi find is super inexpensive—we’re talking $2.49 for 12 cans. You can’t even buy a single 1.5 L bottle of Fiji water for that, so this brand instantly piqued our interest.

The cucumber in this beverage threw our tasters off, and many of them said it tasted too artificial. Overheard: “When I think of cucumber water, I want it to taste like I’m at a relaxing spa. This just tastes like flavors that were afterthoughts and don’t mesh at all.” Final verdict: The price is right, and we’d be open to a different flavor, but this one was just not doing it.

6. Poland Spring Strawberry

Poland Spring water gets its name from the natural springs in Maine where they source their water, but we’re thinking we should rename this “Polarizing Spring Strawberry.”

Our votes were split—some of our testers loved it (ranking it from a 7-8), while harsher critics rated it between a 3-4. The former camp loved the crisp, refreshing taste, while others felt that the strawberry flavoring tasted too much like cough syrup.

5. Strawberry Bubly

Pepsi’s new sparkling water was well received by most people: “I’m really into this. I don’t feel like it’s artificially sweet or trying too hard. The flavor is subtle, but not fake” wrote one person, while others said the strawberry flavor was too cloying and strong: “This feels like I’m drinking strawberry soda—there’s no way this is zero calorie.”

One thing we could all agree on: The little messages on the tab of the can are adorable. They have little messages like, “yo” or “oh hi” that make them totally #InstaWorthy.

4. Simply Balanced Berry

Target’s brand of sparkling water was a hit for tasters who weren’t into super strong flavors. Overheard: “It’s doesn’t taste fake at all.” and “It’s subtle, with just enough berry flavor to keep you interested.” This would be a clear winner for all the Plain Jane sparkling water drinkers out there.

3. Poland Spring Triple Berry

Across the board, tasters loved the subtle, crisp, and refreshing berry flavor of this brand. Personally, I thought the bubbles were lacking, and the water had a funky floral aftertaste reminiscent of the Bath and Body Works’ spray I wore as a teen.

Our two favorite sparkling waters were nearly tied, so to determine the true winner, we went back and conducted a blind taste test of just these two, to see which came out ahead. They're both pretty big players in the flavored sparkling water market, which maybe shouldn't be a surprise.

#2 Perrier Strawberry

Tasters said things like: “Really fruity and bold flavor,” and “Smells exactly like sweet, dried strawberries.” We loved the tight bubbliness as well.

But during the blind taste test, some didn't care as much for it, noting a “Bitter, chemical aftertaste."  

“This smells like a Strawberry Shortcake doll from 1983," said one writer.

#1 Dasani Sparkling Berry

If La Croix's early loss was a surprise, Dasani's win was an even bigger one. The Coca-Cola brand water may not have nearly the Instagram following, but it turns out to be a well made, easy to drink water. Tasters called it “light and refreshing” and noted the “subtle fruit flavor.”

One taster summed it up succinctly: “Yes. This one.”

Bottom line: Dasani Sparkling’s Berry flavor won out over all the rest, but Perrier’s Strawberry flavor was a close second. Tasters agreed that if you’re looking for a naturally sweet beverage that’s still zero-cal, pick up a can of Perrier. But if you’re looking for a light fruit flavor and solid bubbles, grab a Dasani Sparkling.