So, Are We Still Drinking Poppi Soda?

Drinking an ice-cold soda was cool until it wasn’t. Whether it was the sugar content of the regular sodas or the dangers of artificial sweeteners in the diet alternatives, all anyone could talk about for years was how “bad” it was to consume soda of any kind. But recently, popping the lid on that can and indulging in a fizzy drink has been less frowned upon because according to drink company Poppi, #sodasback.

Beloved for their claim to boost gut health with just 5 grams of sugar or less, chances are you’ve seen a celebrity drinking the beverage, an ad for it on social media, or looked at it while browsing the aisles of the grocery store. So, how could such a popular brand become a major source of controversy tangled up in a class-action lawsuit? Ahead, everything you need to know about Poppi soda and why the company is being sued, whether the drinks are actually good for you, and if we’re still drinking Poppi soda—plus, what this could potentially mean for Olipop, their biggest competitor.

What is Poppi?

In 2018, Texas husband-and-wife duo Stephen and Allison Ellsworth went on Shark Tank seeking a $400,000 investment in exchange for 10 percent of their up-and-coming soda company. Called “Mother Beverage” at the time, the couple had recently received a nationwide order from Albertsons for their apple cider vinegar drinks; however, they needed capital to expand the business further. And fortunately for them, a “yes” from just one Shark—Rohan Oza—was all they needed.

Unable to trademark “Mother,” the company rebranded to Poppi—a play on the drink being an alternative to traditional soda pop—and has been wildly successful ever since. Made with fruit juice, apple cider vinegar, and agave inulin—a prebiotic and natural sweetener extracted from the agave tequilana plant—the brand is now a widely popular alternative to soda. Further, the brand’s website states that each can of Poppi soda contains up to or less than 5 grams of sugar and 25 calories and “may support gut health by diversifying the gut microbiome and providing fuel for good bacteria.”

Why is Poppi Being Sued?

To put it in layman’s terms, Poppi is essentially tangled up in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of San Francisco resident Kristin Cobbs due to its “false and misleading claims” regarding the brand’s purported health benefits. Despite having a slogan that says, “Be Gut Happy. Be Gut Healthy,” the suit alleges that with only 2 grams of inulin per can, “a consumer would need to drink more than four Poppi sodas in a day to realize any potential health benefits from its prebiotic fiber.” And since Poppi sodas aren’t calorie or sugar-free, this overconsumption would offset most, if not all, of the drink’s health benefits.

What’s more, the lawsuit also claims that, unbeknownst to consumers, Poppi is predominantly made of cane sugar. So, in order to reap the prebiotic benefits of the beverage, one would have to “consume harmful levels of cane sugar, which has been shown to actually harm gut health.”

poppi soda

Are Poppis Actually Good for You?

On the one hand, Poppi sodas are a much healthier alternative to regular sodas and juices. Case in point? A 12-ounce can of regular Coca-Cola contains 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar—a steep jump from Poppi’s less than or up to 25 calories and 5 grams of sugar in their 12-ounce can. Similarly, as Registered Dietitian Jamie Nadeau explained on her blog, The Balanced Nutritionist, most people don’t get enough fiber in their diet, so prebiotic sodas like Poppi can “help fill the gap a little.”

On the other hand, Amy Shapiro—MS, RD, CND, and Founder of Real Nutrition, NYC—told Health that “processed fiber like that in prebiotic soda may offer only limited benefit because it may be fermented faster than fiber from whole foods.” Likewise, sugar’s still sugar. Although sugar isn’t the devil, regularly drinking Poppi will add more sugar to your diet, which might not be worth it if you’re barely reaping the purported health benefits to begin with. Plus, everyone’s digestive system responds to prebiotics differently. A 2013 study found that prebiotics worsened IBS symptoms, and some people experience more bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort from consuming prebiotics than others.

So, Are We Still Drinking Poppi?

Based on the information above, it seems clear that although Poppi likely won’t be your gut health savior, consuming it is generally safe, so long as your doctor has cleared you to have a sweet treat every once in a while. The truth is that life is all about balance, and enjoying everything in moderation is key. Plus, if you’re looking for a healthier soda alternative, whether it’s to sip on or use in a cocktail or mocktail recipe, a Poppi soda will do the job just fine.

That said, if we’re genuinely in pursuit of better gut health, I propose we stop searching for quick fixes and focus on incorporating gut-healthy foods into our diets instead. Artichokes, apples, bananas, and garlic are just some examples of foods rich in prebiotic fiber. Incorporating these types of foods into a well-rounded diet suited to your unique dietary needs and lifestyle will support your microbiome more than a can of soda ever could.

What Does This Mean for Olipop?

Given the controversy surrounding Poppi, it’s natural to be curious about what this all means for Olipop, another popular prebiotic soda. While it’s impossible to know what the future holds, Olipop might fare better than its counterpart in the long run.

For starters, although it has more overall calories than Poppi at 35, Olipop has a whopping 9 grams of prebiotic fiber compared to Poppi’s 2.5 grams. Plus, Olipop’s ingredient list is much more diverse and extensive. While Poppi uses minimal ingredients in its products, Olipop boasts ingredients that are high in inulin, like cassava root, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, nopal cactus, calendula flower, kudzu root, and marshmallow root. A 12-ounce can of Olipop contains anywhere between 2 and 5 grams, while a 12-ounce can of Poppi contains 5 grams or less.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which beverage is right for you. As consumers, we have to take matters into our own hands and conduct our own research prior to hopping aboard the hype train for any health and wellness product out there. Maintaining some healthy skepticism isn’t a bad thing, and your body will thank you for it in the end. When it comes down to it, you have to make decisions based on what’s best for you and your body—not what anyone else tells you.

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