THE BLOG

XXX Vitamin Water: Marketing a Myth

05/25/2010 02:30 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Ever-enterprising beverage marketers will persuade normally rational people to buy colored sugar water for personal consumption, convincing them that said liquid is gloriously rich in health benefits and in some cases also uber-hip.

Vitamin Water XXX is a classic example. Named for its "triple antioxidants" formula of acai, blueberry, and pomegranate flavors, the xxx signage has additional connotations.

Never mind that this "water" contains no juice,

it has the power of triple antioxidants to help keep you healthy and fight free radicals ... and it has never been seen live or nude, but it is definitely au naturel. Oh, by the way:

Contains less than 1% juice.

Unfortunately for consumers who ignore this marketing drivel, the marketing efforts continue into the last bastion of FDA regulated information -- the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list -- hoping to gain more and more sympathy points for products nobody really needs.

This is what the ingredient list should read:

water, sugar, colors, needless vitamins & minerals Here is the actual ingredient list:

Reverse Osmosis Water, Cane Sugar, Crystalline Fructose, Citric Acid, Vegetable Juice (Color), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Natural Flavor, Berry and Fruit Extracts (Acai, Blueberry, Pomegranate and Apple), Magnesium Mate (Electrolyte), Calcium Lactate (Electrolyte), Monopotassium Phosphate (Electrolyte), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (B6), Cyanocobalamin (B12)

Note how the ingredient names are aimed to get you hyped about the chic and vitality of the product.

It's not just any water being provided to you -- it's "reverse osmosis" water, whatever that means. Probably better than regular water, right?

Next up -- the sugar. Not just any sugar -- it's "cane" sugar. Duh. Sugar comes from beets or sugar cane. Someone must have decided that cane sugar sounds more sophisticated or healthy. Baloney.

Crystalline Fructose also sounds cool. Admit it. But it's simply another form of sugar, derived from corn. Kind of like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) on steroids, as it is 98% fructose.

Another interesting product feature is the deep reddish color that comes not from the XXX blend, but from vegetable juice (most likely beets). Oh well, at least it's not artificial coloring...

And if you think the XXX berry scent and flavor is from the triumvirate acai, blueberry, and pomegranate, please note that they appear AFTER the "Natural Flavor" in the ingredient list. Rest assured that a laboratory has perfected the right combination of natural chemicals to excite your olfactory sensors and taste glands. It's probably not the berry blend.

The list ends with a cacophony of vitamins and electrolytes that our bodies get enough of from other sources. So we're back to the basics -- water, sugar, colors.

To its credit, XXX has got half the amount of sugar per cup as Coke does. But a single serving bottle contains 8 teaspoons of needless sugar, at 125 calories.

Sorry to ruin yet another marketing narrative.

What to do at the supermarket:

Get your anti-oxidants from real fruit, not sugar water. Skip the supermarket beverage aisle and stick with tap water. With the money saved you'll be able to afford all the tasty healthy fruits you desire.