How do lesser-priced soda pops stack up against the big names? If a genuine addict switched to one of the following brands from Diet Coke or Pepsi ($1.79 for a 2-liter bottle at our neighborhood market), she could probably save enough over the course of the year to buy a couple of MetroCards. We invited a few thirsty diet cola addicts to join us for some tall glasses of caramel color and aspartame.
Pathmark Diet Cola ($0.99 per 2 litre): Sickeningly sweet, powdery, not even recognizable as a distant relative of the big-name brands. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Shop Rite Diet Cola ($0.99 per 2 litre,): Perky, smooth and balanced at first, followed by a slightly medicinal aftertaste. THIRD PLACE
Diet Rite Cola ($1.29 per 2 litre, available at Key Foods): Complex, slightly herbal, yet delightfully mild. HONORABLE MENTION
THE WINNER! Diet RC Cola ($1.29 per 2 litre, available at Key Foods): Not a supermarket brand but still cheaper than Coke or Pepsi, old-fashioned Royal Crown wins for flavor: light, jubilant, and not as sweet as others. Add a few ice cubes and a lemon wedge.
Note: Associated Markets and Key Food do carry their own private line, but do not offer Diet varieties.