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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Trying soda alternatives so you don’t have to

Ranking top brands of prebiotic and probiotic sodas
Julia Vetsch

Prebiotic and probiotic sodas are among the latest trends for anyone looking to enjoy a sweet drink with added health benefits. These prebiotic and probiotic refreshments improve gut health and exclude the large amount of added sugars and other unhealthy additives found in the average “real” sodas.

Prebiotic vs probiotic — what’s the difference? Prebiotics (found in OLIPOP and Poppi brands) are substances found in types of carbs that humans can’t digest. The beneficial bacteria in your gut eat these substances.

Probiotics (found in De La Calle and Culture Pop brands) are live bacteria that can provide an array of health benefits, including improved digestion, a possible boost in the immune system and heart health. Ingesting a balance of prebiotics and probiotics can help ensure the maintenance of a healthy gut.


We tried and ranked four different brands of prebiotic/probiotic sodas so you don’t have to.


Coming in fourth place is OLIPOP, a company founded in 2017 by business partners David Lester and Ben Goodwin. Lester and Goodwin founded OLIPOP in hopes of creating a way to drink soda without health drawbacks. Stars Camilla Cabello, Gwyneth Paltrow, the Jonas Brothers, Mindy Kaling and more are investors in the company.

We tried three flavors of OLIPOP sodas — Dr. Goodwin, Vintage Cola and Cherry Vanilla. Dr. Goodwin (a play on Dr. Pepper) was found to be the best of the three, with a subtle flavor of Cola present. Vintage Cola and Cherry Vanilla, however, were both unpleasant. Vintage Cola had a slight scent of Cola, which seemed promising, but that scent did not carry into the flavor. Cherry Vanilla had a biting floral taste without an essence of cherry or vanilla and an overpowering sweetness.

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3. Culture Pop

Culture Pop was founded in 2020 by beverage industry veteran Tom First. He has been involved with the industry since the 1980s and has significant experience with rising soda trends. Culture Pop combines traditional flavors such as watermelon with spices and probiotics to create unique flavors. An added benefit of using spices to flavor the sodas is that it allows Culture Pop to maintain a low calorie count while having bold flavors. First’s inspiration for using spices in his sodas traces back to a dinner he shared with his kids. The mocktails that his kids drank combined rosemary with fruit juice. Drinking this inspired him to try a similar combination with soda and the result was Culture Pop. In addition to unique flavors, the company boasts benefits for both gut and immune system health.

We tried five Culture Pop flavors — Ginger Lemon and Turmeric, Strawberry Rhubarb, Lemon Lime and Cardamom, Watermelon and Lime and Wild Berries and Lime. The unique flavor combinations create a kombucha-like essence. These sodas are flavorful without being too sweet. The Wild Berries and Lime flavor carries what tastes exactly like a fresh blueberry and the Ginger Lemon and Turmeric carries a refreshing kick.

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2. Poppi

Poppi was created in 2016 by entrepreneur couple Allison and Stephen Ellsworth. Allison’s chronic health issues inspired the duo to experiment with the powerful prebiotic apple cider vinegar to create sodas that would help ease her symptoms. They paired the prebiotic with fresh fruit juices to create a tasty product with health benefits. Within a week of drinking the soda, according to the couple, Allison showed tremendous improvement with her symptoms. Poppi lists numerous potential health benefits that include complexion improvement, digestion aid, lowering cholesterol, helping with weight loss, detoxification and blood sugar stabilization. The company has shown impressive growth, starting at farmer’s market and now sold by major distributors, even securing an investment from Shark Tank.

In our tasting, we tried their root beer, orange soda and cherry limeade flavors. We found the Root Beer flavor to be a mediocre attempt to capture the flavor of a traditional root beer and were put off by its aftertaste. However, the Orange Soda and Cherry Limeade proved to be much better. Of all the flavors we tried, the Orange Soda was the most faithful to the flavor it was attempting to recreate, capturing the essence of a classic orange soda. The Cherry Limeade flavor was our favorite of the Poppi flavors with a lovely refreshing sweetness.

1. De La Calle

De La Calle is a brand that specializes in the ancient Mexican beverage tepache — a probiotic fermented soda alternative made with pineapples at the core of each flavor. While visiting the meat and produce markets of Mexico City, De La Calle founder Alex Matthews was introduced to tepache. Later, he met Rafael Martin Del Campo, a native-born Mexican who had knowledge of making tepache from his grandmother. Together, they created a product specializing in maintaining the cultural authenticity of tepache while innovating new flavors and keeping the drink healthy.

We were able to find two De La Calle tepache flavors at our local grocery store — Pineapple Spice and Mango Chili. Pineapple spice introduced a perfectly sweet pineapple flavor at the first sip, with a cinnamon-y aftertaste. Mango Chili’s tropical sweetness complemented its spicy kick. Tepache secured the No. 1 spot in our ranking by embracing its own identity without trying to replicate a “regular” soda. Though the other brands did their best to encapsulate the flavor profile of a Coca-Cola or a root beer, it’s inevitably disappointing when something is not quite the same.

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