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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Blackfly Coolers: Product Review



Summer is over! Well, at least if you're a student. Officially it doesn't end for a few weeks, and it certainly still feels like summer. Yeah, I hate it. This f*cking hot, humid weather needs to end NOW! We made the most of our last weekend of the summer with our annual trip to the CNE on Friday, with a crowd of friends. It wasn't unbearably lot, thank goodness, and the girls and their friends had a blast on the rides.  Saturday I had to work, and Sunday was errand day. Monday we took the girls berry/apple/pear picking but didn't last long due to the heat. I organized the house to prepare for the construction workers starting back up yesterday, while Adam took the girls for a swim in our neighbourhood pool.

Yesterday was the first day of school. Grade 2 and Grade 5. Yep, the girls are growing up.  We are fortunate that the girls don't have much anxiety about school, they are so much more confident than I ever was as a kid! But now, in the midst of our reno chaos, we have to adjust to a new schedule and the million extracurricular activities the girls are involved in. Its going to be even more of a circus around here than usual!

A drink or 2 may be in order...

So remember the whey vodka I reviewed a few weeks ago? Well, the company generously dropped off 6 different flavours of its coolers for us to try.

Unfortunately, I don't drink sugar-sweetened beverages. In fact, we don't allow them in the house. Occasionally I will buy unsweetened juices for parties, etc., but that's about it.  Adding a sugary mixer to alcohol is just adding one source of calories with no nutritional value to another. Its also a good way to get a real bad hangover!

But I know most people don't think twice about drinking a few cocktails, regardless of whether they have sugar and the popularity of these drinks seems pretty consistent.  My neighbour (who helped me sample the plain vodka) and her husband, sometimes enjoy coolers, so I asked if they'd be the taste testers, and they were happy to oblige.

They are sweetened with cane sugar - which is just regular sugar. I would have much preferred if they'd used stevia, or xylitol. On the positive side, they are made from real juice, contain no high fructose corn syrup, and are gluten-free.

Some flavours come in packs of 4-330ml bottles, while others come in 473ml individual cans. There are classic flavours like Whisky Sour and Gin Tom Collins, and some funky ones like Sour Raspberry and Sour Grape.


My friends absolutely loved the Sour Raspberry and Tequila Margarita, giving them top marks (5/5).  Sour Grape got a 4/5, simply because they found the flavour a bit too overwhelming to drink the whole can at once (maybe that's a good thing?).  Gin Tom Collins and Vodka Grape got 3/5 ratings. The grape had a harsh, artificial taste, they found, and the Tom Collins didn't have the expected tartness from the lemon.  Finally, they did not at all like the Vodka Cranberry, describing it as watery and lacking an identifiable flavour.

So for my cooler conniosseurs, the different flavours ranged from fabulous to forgettable.

From my perspective, it is definitely a good thing that they use real juice and no corn syrup and are supposedly 'lightly sweetened' as opposed to heavily sweetened. I'd love them to take it a step further though, and either use a healthy sugar-alternative, or since they are using juice, leave them unsweetened altogether.

I do really like that this is a local, Canadian business rather than a product made by some massive company. I also like that they are committed to minimizing their footprint on the planet in a number of ways:

BOTTLES
LOCAL: Black Fly Bottles are made locally in Ontario. These bottles are made from PET 1, the most recyclable plastic currently used in this industry. Our bottles are only 40 grams when empty which is 6 times lighter than a traditional glass bottle. This means the transportation of our products results in less Green House Gases (Co2 emissions). Black Fly bottles are strong and unbreakable making these bottles a safe choice in environments where broken glass poses a problem.

RECYCLABLE: Our bottles are also much easier to break down during recycling requiring less energy to shred PET then to melt glass. Black Fly's single use bottles are not necessarily single use! Our bottles actually have a much longer life span as recycled materials then as Black Fly bottles. The deposit programs implemented by our retail partners ensures a high rate of customer return and therefore recycling than other bottles and plastics that have no return monetary value to consumers. Black Fly bottles work their way through The Beer Store's recycling system in Ontario, ending up at a Canadian recycling business where they are then sold to companies that make car parts, clothing and other plastics.

REDUCED CORRUGATE
REDUCED PACKAGING DESIGNS: Black Fly's 4 pack carriers were designed to reduced packaging using the least amount of corrugate possible while remaining compliant with industry packaging standards for crush testing and tamperproof packaging. Our open sided carriers allow consumers to easily see our products, while providing a sturdy consumer carrying container. Black Fly uses less corrugate then traditional top-open and closed containers. Black Fly 4-packs have a unique locking design which utilizes a glue-less closure system.

BIODEGRADABLE SHRINK WRAP
GREEN SHRINK: Black Fly's newest Green initiative is implementing the use of biodegradable Shrink Wrap within its plant and encouraging its trade partners to do the same. Full conversion to Green Shrink Wrap is slated for 2012 (both in shipping out Black Fly products and receiving pallets from Black Fly's suppliers). Black Fly receives and ships tens of thousands of shrinkwrapped pallets per year. Our biodegradable shrink wrap program is making a difference.

BIODEGRADABLE CUPS
PLA CUPS: In an effort to reduce waste at events and trade shows, in 2009 Black Fly sourced a biodegradable sampling cup and has since used 3oz PLA corn based biodegradable cups, for all sample tastings and 16oz biodegradable cups for sale events. Shortly thereafter Black Fly converted a major industry sampling company to make the switch over to Black Fly's green supplier and start using these cups for all of their tasting jobs and events.

RECYCLING AT THE BLACK FLY PLANT
RECYCLING: Black Fly's team is committed to reducing waste at all levels, from staff sorting and recycling any business materials that do not have bins within our industrial area, to larger initiatives that involve large recycling companies. Bottles, Corrugate and Shipping Containers at Black Fly are all recyclable. All of these raw materials are recyclable after use. Black Fly uses a local recycling business to support its programs, and commends its staff for initiating and committing to these green programs.


So do I recommend these coolers? Well, no one can recommend them from a nutrition perspective, but that's the case for most alcoholic drinks.  But when it comes to taste, my neighbours were pretty impressed with the sour fruit varieties! If that sounds appealing to you, and you are a cooler drinker, that I definitely encourage you to support this Canadian company!

Disclosure: The company sent me complimentary samples, but all opinions on this blog are mine (and my neighbours).