The Pooj sheds some light on the subject matter.
(Fresh & Easy, May 2012)
Shine Classic Root Beer appears to be the store brand root beer for Fresh & Easy, but it’s actually made by Cott Beverages, which if you recall, has been the producer and distributor of Ben Shaws sodas since 2005. Cott was already a known brand of soda in New England since early mid-Century, but it did not become the company we know now as Cott Beverages Ltd until it moved to Quebec in 1952. They are today, at least by their company website’s estimation, the world’s largest retailer-brand beverage company. What that basically means is that Cott develops soft drinks, amongst other beverages, for grocery stores’ and retailers’ private labels (read: generic store brands). For trivia’s sake, it’s worth noting that Cott was also the first company to develop a diet soda, done so in the late 1950s at the request of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal for its diabetic patients.
Withstanding a few of digressions, I’ve typically stayed away from store brands for my purposes here for the simple reason that they have not been particularly impressive in my past experiences (specialty store private labels being the exception, but those are usually a different story). However, the Cott name drew my attention because of its aforementioned connection with Ben Shaws, and because Fresh & Easy’s store brands have treated me reasonably well in the past, so I figured, why not? Plus, knowing that Fresh & Easy’s parent company is Tesco, one of the UK’s biggest grocery chains, I thought that there might be a slight possibility that Shine is geared more towards those sensibilities, even though the particular branch of Cott that produces Shine hails from Tampa, FL. It might actually be a more interesting experiment to track down all of the store brands that Cott produces and see whether there are any differences at all from one private label to the other, or whether Cott just makes the same root beer for everyone and then simply puts different stickers on them.
Perhaps my expectations are set too low, but I actually think Shine is moderately good. The initial scent is herb-y, slightly licorice-y, with hints of vanilla (probably vanillin, actually…). It’s pretty sweet, as store brands tend to be, but there is actually a root-y statement in there somewhere. As far as distinct flavors go, there are none to really speak of, but it does have an herb-y aftertaste. Make no mistake - it does tastes more than slightly artificial, but no worse that some glass-bottled root beers that cost easily 5 or 6 times more per ounce than the mere $0.88 I paid for a 2-liter tankard. After a while, I do get pretty numb to the flavor, so it’s not that strong, but for a store brand I can definitely do worse. Fresh & Easy – you have not done me wrong yet, and I will be sad to see you shutter when Tesco pulls out of the US in the next few months. With tempered expectations, I give Shine Classic Root Beer a 3.