Once upon a time, there was Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail. It was pretty good.
Years later, a new flavor came along, Ocean Spray Cran-Apple. This, too, was tasty. Then there was Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry — best of all. It became very popular. Cheap, sensible people, like me, add a splash of it to water or seltzer for a refreshing pinkish beverage that lacks the heavy after-taste of filtered tap water. A bottle lasts a long time.
But, unfortunately, things went all to pieces in the Ocean Spray marketing department, where people must incessantly develop new products to hold onto their jobs. Understandable for them; annoying for us. And a confusing mess for the re-stocking teams at supermarkets, like my local Shaw's.
Because now there are Ocean Spray Cran-Strawberry, Cran-Grape, Cran-Tangerine, Cran-Cherry, Cran-Pomegranate, Cran-Potato, Cran-Banana, Cran-Broccoli, and Cran-Tomato.
At any rate, those are the flavors I remember seeing on the shelves last week.
Then there are 100% juice versions: Ocean Spray Cranberry, Cranberry-Blueberry, Cranberry-Pacific Raspberry (never try an Atlantic raspberry, just don't do it), Cranberry-Pomegranate, and Cranberry-Concord Grape.
In a strange bid to appeal to racial purists, I suppose, Ocean Spray created White Cranberry, White Cranberry-Strawberry, White Cranberry-Peach, and so on. This information comes from the Ocean Spray website, an exhaustively complex survey of all things cran-juicical. Personally, I find this unethical and loathesome. I hope I have misjudged their motives, but I don't see any other reason to remove the color from the juice. Ease of stain-removal, you say? Even I, who spills things spectacularly all the time, wouldn't stoop to buying these pallid excuses for a beverage. I own a comprehensive arsenal of Carbona stain removers; I can freely drink juices of color. (And it makes sense for stain removers to come in many, many varieties. After all, people like me find new things to spill on ourselves all the time.)
And then practically all of these Ocean Spray varieties appeared in "Diet" versions. And then in "Light" versions.
And then lots of other name brands, and store generic brands piled juice clones upon the shelves. In similar-looking bottles, with similar label designs.
And suddenly, a line of scary Ocean Spray "Cranergy" drinks appeared, full of Splenda, vitamins, other weird chemicals, and a splash of green tea to make it seem wholesome and permit drinkers to imagine it would help them live forever: Cranberry Lift, Cranberry-Pomegranate Lift, and Cranberry-Raspberry Lift.
"Oh, who cares?" you say. "Chacun à son goût," you trill, in your best Julia Child accent. Let everyone have their choice.
Well, I care. I like plain old Cran-Raspberry, and it takes me 10 damn minutes to locate it on the shelves these days because there are 37 other cran-varieties stinking up the joint. And because each of those pathetic mutations requires its own square-footage of shelf real estate, that means that the popular flavors, the ones people seek out and buy — like Cran-Raspberry and Cran-Apple — are always sold out. Leaving the rest of us stuck with Super-Light White Cranergy-Carrot.
Can we get back to basics, please? I'm thirsty, and all I've got is a stupid bottle of Cran-Strawberry, which I had to buy in defeat on my second trip to the story to find Cran-Raspberry. Buying juice shouldn't be so exhausting and time-consuming. Isn't that what the cereal aisle is for?