It’s been many years since I left this brand behind. It was a very sad parting and not of my choosing. I grew up drinking Nestea Sugar Sweetened iced tea mix. I drank so much of it, I had visions of being the first rock star that promoted a consumer brand on tour. Nestea’s change ended up being a painful, prolonged, losing battle for me.
At some point in their genius, Nestle decided to make what they must have considered a trivial ingredient change. And because the product was different, it was re-launched under a new name. The product used to be called “sugar sweetened”, and then became “sweet tea mix”. The tiny change was changing the ingredient fructose to sucralose. The latter is an artificial sweetener, which I have a slight reaction to.
When it first happened, I knew something was wrong because my tea made my stomach hurt. I eventually figured out the difference and began a desperate search for any remaining “sugar sweetened” product available. At one point, I ordered a full case of giant tea cartons from an online seller, only to discover they used the wrong photo in their product description and I had to ship back a case of “sweet tea mix”. It was something like 27 pounds.
Surely, my quest was futile and the supply inevitably ran out. I called Nestea and asked for an explanation. Amazingly, I got one. The change was done because sucralose didn’t cake and clump as much as fructose. So, I wrote a physical letter to Nestle expressing my dissatisfaction with their recent decision. In return, I got coupons to try their new liquid tea mixes.
I drank Publix brand tea mix for a little while, but it was too caramel-ly. I eventually had to grow to enjoy the taste of Lipton tea mix, which has served me well for the years since. Every once in a while, I’d remember Nestea and sometimes would pick up a jug to confirm the ingredients were the same. They were. But yesterday, I was going to buy a new jug of Lipton and saw two things: one, a brand of tea mix called Te Bustelo. It had no sucralose, so I picked it up on a whim and I’m rather enjoying it. It’s a little stronger than Lipton, but not as strong as Publix.
The other thing I saw? No Nestea on the shelves. None. Not that it was sold out; it was not even stocked. I found this pretty shocking. Could it be that the change affected that many people to lower sales that much? Yeah, it took years to happen, but was that it? I did a little research online and it seems that Coca Cola used to be partnered with Nestea and now that partnership has ended, with Coca Cola now selling a competing product – Fuze.
In some ways, I feel a bit vindicated. In other ways, I feel like this didn’t have to happen.