Best Orange Soda

Vess Whistle Orange

If you simply have to know, all the ingredients of soft drinks are right there on the label. Sometimes knowing can be unsettling. The third most prevalent ingredient in Mountain Dew, both the dreary regular flavor and the fantastic Code Red variety, is orange juice from concentrate. Even if you try real hard when you take a sip, chances are, you won't taste it, but it's there. Pick up a Whistle by Vess, and the closest you'll get to an orange in the literal sense, maybe, is "natural flavor." There's ester gum and gum acacia, and the very last listed item is -- gulp -- brominated vegetable oil.

But hey, why ruin a good thing by thinking about it? Whistle just tastes great. It's a local addiction that dates back to 1916, when Vess Jones concocted the formula. For folks born and raised here, it's the kind of thing that, when you were a kid, your Grandma Fannie bought for you because it was your favorite. Vess Soda was locally owned until 1994, when Don Schneeberger sold it for $24.7 million to Cott Beverages Inc., based in Toronto. Vess is packaged in Maryland Heights and peddled throughout Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and northern Arkansas. Cott's main business is making soda for store labels -- including the Sam's Choice brand for Wal-Mart, Sweet Valley for Aldi, Super S for Schnucks and on and on. Vess sells 27 flavors of soda, including the newest, kiwi-strawberry. Whoa -- suddenly a dash of brominated vegetable oil in orange soda sounds okeedokee.

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