Coke? Nah. Sprite? Forget about it. A&W Root Beer? Not all that interesting. But Jarritos? Pakola? Thums Up? The carbonated prides of...
Coke? Nah. Sprite? Forget about it. A&W Root Beer? Not all that interesting.
But Jarritos? Pakola? Thums Up? The carbonated prides of Mexico, Pakistan and India, respectively? With their funky color schemes and the foreign lettering on their labels, they’re hard to resist.
Foreign sodas are, really, part of the American immigration process, arriving with or closely after an ethnic group comes to the United States. To these consumers, a soda is a brand they can identify, the way Americans do around the world with Coca-Cola.
Foreign sodas play a minuscule role in the multibillion-dollar U.S. soda scene. But they appeal to adventurous American consumers looking for new flavors and new products. Some beers have made a similar market splash in this country: Think Corona or Heineken.
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Jarritos, a line of Mexican sodas, has done well in the United States. It comes in familiar flavors such as orange or lime, but includes more obscure tastes such as tamarind or maroon hibiscus flowers. The bottled soda blankets the country, most ubiquitously in neighborhoods where Latin Americans live.
“One of the general movements we are seeing in the United States today is cultural fusion,” said Valeria Piaggio, a vice president and marketing expert for Iconoculture, a trend research firm in Minneapolis. Foreign sodas, she says, encourage the “expansion of the American palate.”
“They do two things,” Piaggio says. “They appeal to the nostalgia of Latino immigrants and the desire for discovery and experimentation of the general-market consumer.”
New Jersey-based Best Foods, the distributor of Pakola in 19 states, has watched demand grow from 2,300 cases annually five years ago to 12,000 today, company President Abdul Paracha says.
His children like its “green ice cream” flavor, so he sent a case when his son left for college in Boston.
The soda was shared. Others liked it.
“Whenever I go now, I try to take with me a few cases,” Paracha says. “They ask for it.”
Here are three sodas I recently scored:
VIMTO: Developed in England in 1908, it has a sparkling, ruby red color with the taste of cherry Coke.
FAYROUZ: Made in Egypt, now owned by Heineken. This line of sparkling malt beverages comes in a number of fruit flavors. The pear flavor is malty with a touch of sweetness and leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.
PAKOLA: The ice-cream soda is neon green; other flavors include raspberry and lychee. The green tastes like vanilla with a subtle flavor of licorice and smells like Indian spice.