Soft Drink Ingredients
Soft drink production starts with a pure source of water. Regular soft drinks contain 90% water, while diet soft drinks contain up to 99% water. Drinking water often contains trace amounts of various elements that affect its taste. Bottlers use sophisticated filtering and other treatment equipment to remove any residual impurities and to standardize the water used to make soft drinks.
A colorless and odorless gas, carbon dioxide is the essential characterizing ingredient in all "carbonated" beverages. When dissolved in water, carbon dioxide imparts a unique taste. In the early days of soft drink manufacturing, carbon dioxide was made from sodium salts. This is why carbonated beverages were called "sodas" or "soda water."
One of the most important ingredients in soft drinks is flavoring. Most soft drink bottlers mix many individual flavors to create distinctive tastes.
Natural flavors in soft drinks come from spices, natural extracts and oils. Fruit-flavored soft drinks such as orange and lemon-lime often contain natural fruit extracts. There are also some artificial or man-made flavorings used in soft drinks.
Many people don't realize how important color is to taste perception. Color affects our psychological impression of food. If you don' believe it, try eating a familiar food in the dark. The colors used in foods and beverages come from both natural and synthetic sources.
Caffeine is a substance that occurs naturally in more than 60 plants including coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts and cacao beans. In some cases, small amounts of caffeine are added to soft drinks as part of the flavor profile. The amount of caffeine in a soft drink is only a fraction of that found in an equal amount of coffee or tea.
Caffeine has a classic bitter taste that enhances other flavors. It has been part of almost every cola- and pepper-type beverage since they were first formulated more than 100 years ago and has been enjoyed in coffee, tea and chocolate beverages for centuries.
Similar to fruit juices and many other food products, most soft drinks are slightly acidic. Acidulants add a pleasant tartness to soft drinks and act as a preservative.
Soft drinks do not normally spoil because of their acidity and carbonation. However, storage conditions and storage time can sometimes impact taste and flavor.
Non-Diet Soft Drinks
Most regular (non-diet) soft drinks are sweetened with either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, (HFCS). A mixture of these sweeteners may also be used. With either, the amount of sweetener in a soft drink ranges from 7 to 14%, about the same amount as a glass of pineapple or orange juice. Sometimes thought to be more fattening than other foods sugar actually contains the same number of calories by weight as protein (4 calories/gram), and less than half the calories of fat (9 calories/gram). Sugars also contain far fewer calories than alcohol (7 calories/gram).
Diet Soft Drinks
The popular class of beverages known as diet soft drinks is made possible by the intensely sweet substances we refer to as "diet" or "low calorie" sweeteners. By choosing from a variety of different sweeteners, manufacturers can blend sweeteners to match beverage formulations and better appeal to all consumer tastes and preferences.