Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Virgil's Root Beer Writes Back!

I made a mistake, everybody!

On Thanksgiving I wrote about how upset I was that I had accidentally drunk a bottle of root beer that contained sugar. I wrote about the label not including sugar, but that when I checked the website later in the evening because of how I was feeling, sugar was included in the ingredients. Here is what I found out--Virgil's Root Beer has two ingredient labels on each bottle of root beer. To explain what happened and share the communication I had with Reeds, Inc. (the company who produces Virgil's Root Beer) I have copied and pasted our correspondence here.

(I will not re-post my first letter to them here, but click on THIS to take you to it, if you have not already read it.)

I will begin by posting Reeds, Inc., first response to my letter:

We are very sorry to hear that our product caused you to miss your goal of not having sugar. We do have a list of ingredients on the back label that says “Purified carbonated water, unbleached cane sugar, caramelized unrefined cane sugar, herbs, etc…” Also on the right of the front label under the nutrition facts it says that there is 42g of sugar per bottle. I am sorry you missed that info. Also, we do not have honey in our root beer. Are you sure you read that on our label?

Lastly, we do offer a diet version of our root beer that is sweetened with Xylitol and Stevia. Sorry again that our Root Beer caused you a less than perfect Thanksgiving holiday. If you have any more questions, please feel free to reach back out to me.

-C, Reed's, Inc.

Then I wrote back:


Thank you for your response. I appreciate the time you took to write me back. However, I still have some concerns.

I would like to point out a couple of very confusing aspects of your labeling. After reading your message to me, I scanned the label on the bottle in an effort to find the ingredients you spoke of. After some effort, I noticed that there is a second ingredients list on the back label that does indeed include sugar as an ingredient. Not seeing that the first time was my mistake. However, on the side of the bottle near the front, in much larger font, there also seems to be an ingredients list. Neither one of the "ingredients" lists ever says, "Ingredients". The list on the back, bottom portion of the label that contains "sugar" in the list, is printed in extremely small font. It is almost unreadable. In fact I had a few people take a look at it and they could not read it without their glasses. Why is the list of ingredients that contains sugar so tiny and hard to read, while the list of ingredients on the side label is much larger and easier to read? This makes your labeling very misleading and easy to misinterpret, as I have done. Is there a reason you list ingredients twice, one time without sugar and one time with sugar?

Every time I want to purchase a product, I make a thorough investigation of the labeling, in an effort to be clear about whether or not sugar is an ingredient. By having two sets of ingredients on your label, I think that people are apt to make the same mistake that I did.

You mention the "nutrition facts" on your label. I never go by this list of information because, although it lists "sugars", it does not identify the source of those sugars. For instance, molasses is made up of sugars but I have chosen to include molasses in my diet as a natural sweetener. 100% fruit juices are another example of no added white sugars, but if you look at the nutrition facts, there will be a high amount of "sugars", even though they are natural fruit sugars. The nutrition facts are not helpful for someone who is concerned with the exact ingredients.

I suspect that you have had other complaints about the duplication of ingredients on your labeling, because as I have said, it is very misleading. I hope that in the future if you revisit packaging ideas, you would take my input into consideration. I believe that you are a company who cares about your customers, but this issue needs to be addressed so this mistake does not continue to be made.

As for the "honey", I apologize for that mistake and recognize that it is not on your label as I had thought.

Thank you for telling me about the diet version of your root beer. Although my local grocery store does not carry it, it is nice to know that it's available.

I hope to hear from you again.

Reed's Inc. responds again:


This is honestly the first complaint I have received about our labels and how it can be misleading. I have forwarded your concerns on and it is something that we will pay attention to. The left front label is more of what we call “romance copy” listing the different spices and herbs in the drink. The nutrition facts on the right front label and the contents on the back label can to your point be missed and putting all that together in the future is something we will have to look at.

Please email me your address and I will send you a few bottles of our Diet Virgil’s Root Beer and some coupons. I am sorry again about your unpleasant experience with our products.

-C, Reed's, Inc.

As a follow up to their last letter, I wrote:

Thank you very much for listening to my concerns and responding today. I really appreciate it and it shows that you sincerely care about your customers.

Also, thank you for informing me about "romance copy"...I will take that into account in my future scanning of labels. I'm sure other companies use it, too, although I have not come across it before.

This experience for me started out negatively, as I was upset that I ingested sugar. However, your addressing the issue has made it a good, learning experience for me. Ultimately, it was my mistake and I am not likely to make this mistake again! I look forward to tasting the diet version of your root beer. Also, I gave my neighbor the left over root beer I had, and she absolutely loved it. You gained a customer in this experience, and I learned a valuable lesson!

Thanks again.

I love when a bad experience turns into a good experience. I love that one voice can make a difference.


jennconspiracy said...

I love a happy ending!

princess rose said...

I'm glad everything worked out ok! I'm feeling very confident about my sugarfree journey. Today a coworker brought xmas cookies to share and I had zero! Tomorrow is my husband's company work party and I plan on sneaking in some of my naturally sweetened desserts in my purse... and drinking lots of tea.
So I may have read this on you blog, but is it safe to assume you don't count "evaporated cane juice" as a natural sweetener? Do you have a list of sweeteners that you will consume on your website?

princess rose said...

Duh I saw this on your front page:

Natural Sugar Substitutes
Frozen Juice Concentrate
Pure Maple Syrup
Date Sugar (Ground Dates)
Dried Fruit
Brown Rice Syrup
Agave Nectar

My Year Without said...

I definitely don't include "evaporated cane juice" in my list of OKAY sweeteners. It is not natural and is just another sneaky way of saying white table sugar.

You make a good point. I should make a list of all of the names for sugar that sound more romantic and forgiving...but are all really the same thing. There are some microscopic differences with some of these, but not enough different to make me include them in my diet.