I’m pretty sure y’all know by now that drinking sodas = not good. Right? They’re just cans of sugar water with a huge body of evidence linking them to increased weight and risk of various chronic diseases.
Many of you know this and it shows. Overall, soda intake in the U.S. has topped off and slowly started to decline. This led soda companies to target untapped markets in middle to lower income countries. It has also led to the rise of the “healthy alternative sodas” market in the U.S.
Included in this growing group of sparkling fruit waters, kombucha drinks, and prebiotic fizzies is Olipop soda. Olipop is a “deliciously fizzy tonic that combines the benefits of prebiotics, plant fiber, and botanicals to support your microbiome and benefit digestive health.”
If you prefer watchin’ to readin’, check out my review and personal experience on YouTube:
Otherwise read on for a much more brief summary.
Olipop was formed in 2018 by two founders, Ben Goodwin and David Lester. Neither have any formal training or education in food science, nutrition, gut health, or microbiology.
However, Ben Goodwin is a self-professed “health-o-phile” after experiencing his own issues as a child. He previously launched two fermented beverages companies, one selling kombucha and the other water kefir. Additionally, they have a very impressive group of research partners on board.
Summed up, their mission is to replace soda consumption with a healthier alternative. Olipop not only promises a drink that tastes great, is less than a third of sugar, and a fraction of the calories of sodas, but it also claims to deliver ingredients that promote gut health.
For this review, I will analyze Olipop’s marketing and packaging, cost, accessibility, flavor, and health claims and ingredients.
Marketing and packaging: 9.5/10
Olipop is visually gorgeous, cute, and welcoming. They use very clean, simple, and calming graphics. I’m also going to assume based on the “cutesy-ness” of the graphics and colors used, they’re marking towards women.
For a “healthy alternative” to soda brand, their marketing claims are surprisingly refreshing. They refrain from snakeoil salesman phrasing such as, “Will help you lose weight! Cures cancer! Reduces family arguments during the holidays!” Instead, they stick to careful phrasing such as, “evidence supports the use of our ingredients to improve gut health.”
I took off half a point for usage of the word “healthy.” I personally do not consider any drink with hardly any nutritive value “healthy.” I consider this a better alternative to soda, but not a healthy food.
One Olipop soda will put you back $2.59. A twelve pack could cost you $35-$40 dollars! This is crazy expensive for a soda, though not that expensive when you think of the cost of kombucha or other “health” drinks.
They received such a low rating because the cost directly contradicts their mission statement. One can’t provide a better alternative to soda by charging almost triple the cost of the competition. I understand that Olipop may be using higher quality ingredients than Pepsi or Coke, but it is still too expensive for the very people who need to kick the soda habit the most.
According to NHANES and CDC data, the majority of people consuming soda are those of lower income and adolescents. I doubt that either group would be able to or interested in replacing their cheap counterparts with a three dollar soda.
Currently, Olipop is in Whole Foods Markets, Sprouts, and select Safeway and Kroger stores. Olipop is a fairly new company, so I wouldn’t expect them to be in every store immediately. However, they are not accessible to the very people who would need to replace a soda habit. So, points off.
Additionally, the high cost lowers the accessibility of this product.
I tried the Vintage Cola flavor and it did not let me down. To be honest, I have had maybe one soda in the past 8-10 years, so I might have forgotten what they taste like. But to me, it smelled and tasted like a better Pepsi because it wasn’t as sickeningly sweet.
However, I removed a point because they use one of my most hated alternative sweeteners, Stevia. God I hate that stuff! So while the initial flavor was delicious, the aftertaste made me not want to drink it.
Health claims and ingredients: 9/10
The health benefits of all of the ingredients used (at least in the vintage cola flavor) are backed by varying degrees of research. Note: All of the ingredients are actually extracts from the original food, which is why I theorize they can add so much fiber and not change the texture of the drink.
I will link to research below, but generally evidence has shown that:
- Inulin (extract from chicory and artichoke) supports growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, relieves constipation, and may help with weight and blood sugar regulation. Note: Out of all the ingredients, inulin is backed with the most research involving humans.
- Cassava and Kudzu are resistant starches that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut.
- Marshmallow root, slippery elm bark, and calendula are mucilages with wound- and gut-healing properties.
I took one point off because I believe that 9g of fiber, specifically highly prebiotic fiber, is just too much man! For example, inulin supplementation is recommended to start at 1-2g and gradually increase over time.
People who tend to drink higher amounts of soda usually do not consume high amounts of fiber. When you go from 0 to 60 on fiber intake, you will toot (and possibly poop) your pants to oblivion.
The high amount of fiber could cause cramping, gas, bloating, and diarrhea, especially in those with FODMAP issues or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I documented what happened to me after drinking Olipop here. Spoiler alert: I experienced some weird gut feelings and tootie fruities hours after drinking.
Lastly, I tend to shy away from extracts. I believe that removing one component of a perfectly balanced food opens up the door for complications (I’m looking at you opium from the poppy plant). Isolating one component prevents you from benefiting from possibly hundreds of other beneficial nutrients and compounds meant to balance out the food.
Final thoughts and recommendations
If you are someone trying to kick the “coke” habit, can afford a $3 drink on the daily, and are interested in feeding the bacteria in your gut, than this drink is for you. It tastes great (besides the after taste), provides less calories and sugar than soda, and includes ingredients actually backed by research.
However, if you are someone who is struggling financially and can’t afford Olipop, I have some cheap, extremely accessible options for you.
#1: Eat whole foods that are cheap as hell and easy to find that naturally have inulin in them. Then you get inulin PLUS all the other beneficial nutrients and plant compounds. Bananas, beans, whole grains, garlic, onion, and leeks are all high in inulin fiber.
#2: If you really want resistant starch, you can purchase potato starch and drink with it with water. Or make your own by cooking and then cooling potatoes. Cooked potatoes develop resistant starch as they cool. So enjoy a delicious potato salad while feeding your gut buddies!
#3: There aren’t really any amazing and inexpensive homemade methods of replacing soda unfortunately. But if you’re looking for a sweet and sparkling beverage that’s a step up from soda, purchase some club soda or mineral water and add a few tablespoons of fruit juice or fresh fruit to your liking!
Have you tried Olipop? Would you like me to review other products? Leave your comments below!