Ginger beer drinks.Picture Zanele Zulu,29/12/2011

While Woolworths and Frankie’s Old Soft Drink Company remain locked in a battle of the brands, Weekend Argus staffers decided to put the taste of their fiery products to the test, along with a few other popular brands.

And it seemed this week that Woolworths and Frankie’s had both enjoyed a good run on their products – thanks to the labelling battle played out in the media, and on Twitter and Facebook in recent weeks.

Frankie’s has lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa, in which the founder Michael Schmidt alleges that Woolworths infringed the copyright of his cooldrink brand when it launched its new range of “retro”-style cooldrinks.

Woolworths food managing director Zyda Rylands has vehemently denied stealing anything, adding that the retailer would welcome the ASA’s ruling on the matter and would abide by the ruling. The ASA will only be back from holiday in the new year, so there will be a bit of a wait until the directorate meets to rule on the matter.

This week, just finding a bottle of Frankie’s Fiery Gingerbeer and Woolies Fiery Gingerbeer on the shelves was a mission that took almost a day. Added to those for the taste test were the brands from Stoney, Co-ee and Royalty.

A blindfolded panel then conducted the informal taste test – with some surprising results.

Emerging as the overall winner was the cheapest gingerbeer of them all – Co-ee, at just 53c for 100ml.

Frankie’s came in as second favourite, followed closely by Woolworths and Stoney, while Royalty finished last, scoring way below the other contenders with just 1.6 of a possible five points.

Possibly one of the most interesting facts about all the brands was that only two of the products tested actually contained any hint of ginger – Frankie’s and Royalty. The others packed their punch with purely chemical flavourants.

And the prize for the most honest packaging of the artificial gingerbeers went to Co-ee, for taking the trouble to alert consumers to the fact that the product was in fact nothing more than a “ginger-flavoured soft drink”.

Here’s what the judges had to say.

l Coo-ee Gingerbeer: Rating: 3.8/5

Comments: Slightly more fizzy than the other drinks, with a tasty ginger kick that is not too overpowering, and definitely has us reaching for a second glass.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, sugar, permitted artificial flavourant, citric acid, preservative, sodium benzoate.

Price: R7.99, or 53c/100ml

Size: 1.5 litre

Producer: Shoreline Beverages

Made in: South Africa

l Frankie’s Fiery Gingerbeer: Rating: 3.4/5

Comments: No fumes but slightly more body, although it has a bit more bite and would go down nicely with a tot of vodka. A pleasurable fizz with a generous ginger flavour that is not too strong or too sweet.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, sugar, ginger extract and emulsion, citric acid, lemon extract, capsicum, preservation: sodium benzoate.

Price: R10.99 or R2.20/100ml

Size: 500 ml

Producer: Frankie’s Old Soft Drink Company

Made in: Balgowan, South Africa

l Woolworths Fiery Gingerbeer: Rating: 3.1/5

Comments: Certainly a fiery drink that kicks in the back of the throat, with fumes even reaching the nasal passage. Ginger flavour is rather insipid though.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, cloudifier, flavourings, preservative: sodium benzoate.

Price: R9.95 or R1.99/100ml

Size: 500ml

Producer: Specially produced for Woolworths

Made in: South Africa

l Stoney Gingerbeer: Score: 3/5

Comments: Earthy and rooty flavour, robust, very sweet, a bouquet like a wrestler’s armpit.

Price: R7.99

Ingredients: Carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, stabilisers, preservatives, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate and flavourant.

Size: 500ml or R1.60/100ml

Producer: Coca Cola Company

Made in: Parktown, South Africa

l Royalty Gingerbeer: Rating: 1.6/5

Comments: Unlike some of the other brands, this gingerbeer does not produce fumes in the back of the throat and has a “cheap” taste to it. Watery, with not too much of a ginger flavour (despite the ingredients including ginger root extract), but very sweet and juicy. It’s like a gingerbeer, but it’s not a gingerbeer.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, sugar, flavourings (contains ginger root extract), citric acid, acidity regulator (trisodium citrate), preservative: sodium benzoate, colour: sulphite ammonia caramel.

Price: R29.94 or R1.51/100ml

Size: 6 x 330ml cans

Producer: Sun Mark Ltd

Made in: United Kingdom - Weekend Argus