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Jul 15, 2004 01:25 PM

Wink™ Lives! But R.I.P. Ruby Grapefruit.

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(For those not familiar with Wink™, it’s a Grapefruit/Orange flavoured soft drink (pop)).

It’s been a dry and thirsty summer! Even though it didn’t improve my lifestyle or my sex life (as promised by other beverages) Wink™ succeeded admirably in slaking my thirst. So what if there weren’t billboards of Wink™ showers reviving nubile bathers. At least I found it exciting and visitors often selected it from our household selection.

Then one day it wasn’t there in my local supermarket! So on to the next store. And the next. A few still stocked the 2 litre plastic bottles – but they tended to lose their fizz before being totally consumed. It was déjà vu all over again. A few years back, Wink™ had similarly disappeared for a few months, but had returned with a makeover. It was now C-Plus Wink™, but promised that “same Wink taste”. I pride myself on judging people and things by their deep down qualities, not their appearance, so I welcomed Wink™ back without overt questions although, deep down, I wondered why Wink™ had gone off for 3 months for a makeover, when I hadn’t perceived anything wrong before. Maybe Wink™ had lost its way and needed time for reflection.

And now it had gone again! This time I couldn’t just sit idly by. Maybe it wouldn’t return this time. And I had the power of the Internet and Google to help me. Just do a search and presto! – the answers would come. But Google didn’t seem to understand. It wanted me to research programming languages like C+ and C++. My language turned bluer. And Wink led me to all sorts of ‘smileys’ that just mocked me. The only useful information was that C-Plus Wink™ was approved as Kosher. And for some reason C-Plus Grape wasn’t Kosher! The mystery deepened.

Aha! But all foodstuffs must have the producer on the package right? Except, my supply was exhausted and the containers recycled. What to do now? Simple, post on Chowhound, where I could recruit thousands of assistants to investigate stores to find any remaining stock. So I attempted to recruit these Chowhound Investigative Assistants (CIA) to help in tracking down the vanishing Wink™. Indeed this did lead to isolated sightings and the purchase of a few samples. It also led to the discovery of C-Plus Ruby Grapefruit (in cans) – a product long rumoured, but never actually seen (it’s also Kosher). And on both cans and bottle were the producers – Cadbury Beverages Inc. Now things were moving. Back to Google – but all attempts to contact Cadbury Beverages led through the corporate maze to the brains behind this: Cadbury Schweppes plc. Smooth sailing now, presumably. Their web site had a choice of Country or Product. I knew my country, Canada, and scanned the drop-down product list. No trace of C-Plus or Wink™. But among the hundreds of products were 7-Up, A&W, Canada Dry, Clamato, Crush, Dr Pepper, Hawaiian Punch, Motts, Orangina, RC Cola, Roses, Schweppes, ReaLemon, Sunkist, Vernors and Welch’s. This was a daunting list. How could all these be listed and not Wink™? Or C-Plus? An uneasy feeling crept over me. Who was hiding the source of Wink™? I decided to press on in search of Wink™ Manufacturing Depots (WMD’s). I managed to find a Canadian phone number within the Customer Service listings for Cadbury Schweppes plc and called them direct. I’m sure nobody else has had this problem, but the only responses were automated – leading through a maze designed to deter anybody less resolute than I was. And there was the exit. For Consumer Enquiries or Complaints call 1-800-etc. Holding my breath I dialled. Dr. Pepper 7-Up USA came the automated voice. All of our Operators are busy….. so, releasing my breath, I waited. Eventually my time came and I, very politely, explained about my search for WMD’s. I’m put on hold but eventually someone returns. “This is the USA” I’m informed, “We don’t have WMD’s here, they’re available in Canada”. I ask for a contact number and another 1-800 number is provided.
This time the phone is answered much more quickly, so I assume I’m back in Canada. This is Pepsi-Cola Canada I’m told. I explain my search once again. “Yes, we bottle Wink™ on contract for Cadbury’s, but we just pass it over to them and we have no knowledge of when or where it’s distributed”. Subsequently they give me a contact number – the same 1-800 # I had before for Dr. Pepper. So it’s back to the mysterious Dr Pepper again. Another long hold before I get a representative who tells me that Wink™ isn’t produced in Ontario. But I still have the can and bottle, and by then have researched the product codes and confirmed that they are indeed owned by Cadbury Beverages Inc. I ask for a telephone number that will get me a person at the Beverages subsidiary. “We don’t give out phone numbers” I am informed. So I ask for a supervisor. “Just a minute”. After about 5 minutes listening to advertising the rep returns. “Apparently, Wink™ is still produced in New Brunswick”. A glimmer of hope. “But where can I buy it?” I ask, “Surely somebody in the organization has to know!” Eventually we agree on a procedure. She will investigate and call me back by the next day. I note her name, just in case – I’m getting more suspicious now.

This gives me time to ponder a few other strange things. Since I’ve started this quest for WMD’s I’ve noticed strange clickings on the telephone line. There have been several attempts to break through my computer firewall. An astonishing number of ‘consumer surveys’ have called my phone doing surveys wanting to know details of my financial affairs. And on a cross-border trip to the U.S. I’m pulled out of the line to check-in and have my hand-baggage taken from me and searched in another room. I’m kept away from most other passengers (except others pulled over) and eventually asked to identify my hand luggage. After I do so, I am escorted directly to the plane – but my checked luggage doesn’t arrive for 48 hours. When it does, there’s no insert indicating it’s been searched – yet the zipper is closed in a different position than I’d left it!!!!!!

I never get a call back! Eventually I call Dr Pepper again and when I outline, politely, the issue, I’m asked where I’m calling from. “Are you Estufarian(name disguised; they use my real name)” I’m asked immediately. OK, I think, maybe I can expect more border hassles. “I’ll get a Supervisor”. But no supervisors are available, yet I’m told that Wink™ is bottled by Coca Cola in Weston, Ontario. And I’m even given a phone number for the Depot. Maybe finally I’ve located the WMD! Even though the company who produces Wink™ also owns 7-Up; Pepsi Cola have admitted to bottling it; and now I’ve located the Coca Cola plant that actually produces it. Between these three companies there must be a world-wide information network that’s the equal of any government – and still I can’t be sure I’ve found a WMD!

So I call. And they answer “Coca Cola” – and the receptionist transfers me ……but the phone loops back to the reception desk again. Finally I’m transferred to “someone who can help me” – it’s someone in Marketing who is “away from my desk. Please leave a message and I’ll return your call”. I’m still waiting.

So nobody can find any WMD’s. But the CIA have reported that they’ve seen C-Plus “Wink Twist” in both formats so it must exist mustn’t it?

Addendum: Just prior to typing this I did manage to break through the Canadian Head Office phone system maze and found someone who could confirm that the product has been both reformulated and repackaged. The C-Plus brand is now larger in type and the previous Wink™ brand has been dropped and replaced with a ‘Flavour’ now called “Wink Twist”. And it’s coming soon to a store near you. But sadly, the Ruby Grapefruit flavour has been discontinued as part of the same rethinking.

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  1. You've gone MAD!!!! haha :)

    Now, what about Diet Wink? or Caffeine-free Wink or if it's already Caffeine-free than "Wink, now with Caffeine"?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Goober

      Gee, then my trip to Toronto in April 2004 was timely. I bought 2 cases of Wink to bring back to the States.
      I found the Ruby Red Wink only once 3 years back, not bad.

      C'est la Wink!


    2. You beautiful bastard. I think I speak for all Winkophiles when I say thank you and god bless you, for your tireless investigative efforts.

      I also ask if you have tried "Wink Twist" yet, as the new formulation appears sweeter than Wink B.C. (Before C-Plus).

      As a side note, I found out that beverage can manufacturers can change the printed graphics on a can with a week or so, so that shoots down my original theory of new packaging delay.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Lazar

        Products often disappear for a short time before they are reintroduced. The theory is that the product seems more fresh to casual consumers, and the changes less pronounced to avid fans if they've been away from it for awhile. They wouldn't need a break for a packaging change, but as other's have noted, there's been a formula change, as well.

        Personally, I always preferred Fresca to Wink, anyway. More tongue numbing tartness, less calories, same price.

        1. re: Jacquilynne

          But doesn't Fresca contain Aspartame? I recoil at microscopic amounts of Aspartame. To me it's probably the most bitter compound I've ever found (but I know others don't react the same way). Perhaps I'm allergic.

          1. re: estufarian

            Fresca is *pure* aspartame!

            I don't particularly mind the taste fact, I prefer Diet Coke to regular Coke (except when mixing with alcohol).

            However, in my travels across the sea, I have discovered Coke Light; it's 100x better than the Diet Coke in N.A. Coke Light has a much smoother taste and virtually no elements of aspartame; I assume its just another type of sweetner or concentration. Coke Light seems to fall in between Diet Coke and Regular (N.A.) Coke in terms of sweetness.

            Additionally, I've found that the European formulations for Fanta are much better than the ones at home; the Fanta at home reminds me of [insert flavour] syrup.

            1. re: QC

              I noticed that Coke Light didn't contain Aspartame. I recall it was another sweetener (I'm not positive but I think it is known by the brand name Splenda). But I seem to remember it was banned in USA because rats who consumed a truckload developed liver and kidney problems.
              Not that I'm in the slightest bit paranoid, but I think Aspartame is a US product and Splenda European!
              And the website below indicates that aspartame is more toxic than Splenda.


              1. re: estufarian

                Fresca in Mexico is sweetened with sugar and reminds me of the Crush Grapefruit soda that I loved as a kid.

                1. re: estufarian

                  I actually just returned from France, where I drank Coca Light. Upon returning to Canada, I noticed that Diet Coke tasted bland and I stopped drinking it. I don't remember reading the label, but I was pretty sure it had aspartame. They also have Coke Zero (tastes the same as it does here).

        2. Let me know when you start seeing the black helicopters following at a discrete distance. I'm not happy about the reformulation aspect, I'm sure they'll make it sweeter which completely defeats the purpose. There are two kinds of pop, adult pop that can be mixed with alcohol and kids pop that should be avoided, the ‘c-plus’ ing of my beverages makes me worry that more of my adult pop is being taken away.

          Ruby Grapefruit was great with vodka. R.I.P.

          1 Reply
          1. re: alsiem

            With the Ruby Grapefruit R.I.P., guess it means I'll definitely be stocking up on the Ruby Red Squirt on the next trip to the States (good stuff!)

          2. Dude, didn't I already tell you this yesterday?


            It IS in stores, and I've purchased it and tasted it. It doesn't taste quite the same. It's fruitier.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Pixelchef

              I did record that "the CIA have reported that they've seen C-Plus "Wink Twist" in both formats" - that would include you. I was trying to protect your identity in case you cross the border anytime soon. The airline and luggage part of the story is true.

              1. re: estufarian

                Haha. :) Understood. And you're right. I'm an internationally sought-after individual. They want my extremely small brain for science. Bastards.

            2. Nothing better with a Bacchus Roti than a Ting™... it was a sad, sad day a couple of years ago when I was told (by the owner of bacchus, who's cousin is married to the sister of the bottler in Jamaica (or some such vague connection)) that they had shut down their export operations. It seems that the owner had gotten himself into financial problems vis a vis troubles with an ex-wife, and he had to sell out to Pepsi, who, so the story goes, killed the product. The only reference I could find is on the link below.

              Has anybody seen it around town?

              Why do I bring this up in the midst of a threat about Wink™? Well, it, Ting™ and Orangina™ are, IMO, the most potable of the pops... not too sweet, quenching, perfectly satisfying when a soda is (rarely) desired.


              8 Replies
              1. re: Alan

                You're right - I haven't seen this recently either. Used to get it at several Roti places. My substitute has been one of the ginger drinks. Not the same, but still available.
                I'll be searching for the Wink Twist to compare with my last can of pre-reformulation Wink so will check my local stores. But I don't recall seeing it lately.

                1. re: estufarian

                  Ting is still around. Had one last night with a plate of jerk chicken at my neighborhood joint. It's usually available at Kensington Patty in the market.
                  I agree that a Wink addiction leads to harder things, like Orangina.

                  1. re: Ian

                    I bought Ting at the Price Chopper at Leslie &
                    Lakeshore yesterday, and they had cases of it. It was 79 cents a bottle. I keep saying, we have everything here in Leslieville!!

                2. re: Alan

                  Ting is available at my local No-Frills. Parliament and Carlton.

                  You can probably get it at others. They come in single-serve bottles. They're a little hard to find. Look in the 'we don't know where these should go' section. At my local, that's beside the fish freezer.

                  Leave some for me. It's lovely with Rum. And, I'm sure, gin....

                  Anyone heard of 'Pip'? I seem to remember drinking that during a few extended childhood visits to Jamaica.

                  1. re: Alan

                    Found Ting at Fiesta Farms (Christie between Bloor & Dupont) for $1.09 bottle. Also at the IGA on Dupont west of Christie, where it was $1.59 - same price as the 2 litre CPlus Wink Twist.

                    1. re: estufarian

                      Have you tried the "new" Wink Twist, yet? I'm curious as to how you think it compares.

                      1. re: Alex

                        I'm planning a 'blind' taste test over the weekend. Because I've picked up several "substitutes" (5 Alive, President's Choice Grapefruit, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Vitale, possibly add Ting) I thought I'd try and invite some serious wine friends over and do a "formal tasting" including both old and new 'vintages' of Wink.
                        I'm down to my last can of the old - just have to decide whether to share it!

                        1. re: estufarian

                          This sounds absolutely wonderful! What fun! Great idea. I look forward to reading the results.