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December 2, 2004 12:03 AM

Broken: Sugar/sweetener packets

Sweet_frontMichael Dwyer writes:

I have a problem telling apart new designer sugar/sweetener packets:

Most of the time, sugar bowls contain three different packets. A vaguely 'EQUAL'-looking blue packet, a vaguely 'SWEET-N-LOW'-looking pink packet, and your generic white sugar packet. So I was quite confused when I found a bunch of packets that seemed to differ ONLY by the tiny colored marks on the ends.

You tell me -- with just a glance -- which one is a Sweet-N-Low and which is sugar?

I'm somewhat color-blind, so maybe I'm broken -- but I still find it difficult to tell the pink ones from the white ones in low light.

[P.S. Read this similar post from July.  -mh]


I can easily spot the difference between the packets with my well-trained eye. The other eye doesn't do so hot.

However I don't have the social know-how to realize they were sugar packets. Was it really that bad having the old-school style packets? Even if someone told me these were for sugar, I wouldn't intuitively know that the blue ones were Equal and pink was Sweet-n-Low.

Posted by: Manni at December 2, 2004 12:39 AM

But if you go back to the old system, the packets can't have that authentic moldy-brown color that tells you how wonderfully "Old-World Italian" the sugar is.

Posted by: Patrick at December 2, 2004 10:40 AM

I have to concentrate to tell the colors apart and, like Manni, I would not have assumed that these were color-coded the same as the standard packets, because they look so different. They look like they ought to contain little candies, or delicate wipes to clean your hands with, rather than sugar. They need to say what they contain right on the front if they're going to deviate that much from what we're used to.

Posted by: Laura at December 2, 2004 10:41 AM

If you pick one of these up, you'll know they have sugar in them. Personally, I'd probably assume they were all "real" sugar rather than realizing that the colors are supposed to actually mean something...

Posted by: josh at December 2, 2004 12:02 PM

I actually would assume the colors are meaningless, like candies wrapped in different colors just to make the product packaging more interesting/attractive.

But, it's true that pink/blue/white have a traditional meaning, but usually there are LABELS indicating what is inside.

Since no one has chimed in...CHING...this is broken! (not just a mistake) Nice find.

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at December 2, 2004 12:26 PM

Patrick you're absolutely right, what was I thinking? When dining at Olive Garden, I expect everything to look authentic like it just came straight out of a little sidewalk cafe in a small town in Italy from 40 years ago. Seriously though, why put this much effort into changing the appearance of sugar packets and the not even put the word "sugar" anywhere on them?

Sure you can figure it out when you pick it up, but like Laura I'd assume they were candy, and I'd stuff all of them in my pockets rather than conduct the touch test to find out if they contain the sugar I so desperately crave.

Posted by: Manni at December 2, 2004 04:24 PM

I went to a hotel once that had the shampoos and stuff distinctively labeled. This is all they said: HEAD, BODY, RINSE, HANDS. Whoever designed these could learn a thing or two from them.

Posted by: anykey at December 2, 2004 06:18 PM

I'm just curious... do they have any text identifying their contents on the back of the package-- and if so, at what size? If there's no clear label at all on them whatsoever, that's just ridiculous. Not that it isn't ridiculous enough already...

Posted by: codeman38 at December 2, 2004 06:52 PM

Labeling laws?

Aren't there some laws regarding labeling of Aspartame and Saccharin? If I accidently used the blue one thinking it was sugar I'd be out for a day with a nice migraine.

I noticed these last time I was at OG and the blue and pink packets have some sort of filler so they even feel a lot like, but not exactly, like the white one.

Posted by: Anton at December 2, 2004 10:42 PM

Anton: Ah, another good point! Last time I checked, there were laws regarding labelling both of those... so anyone who's been to the Olive Garden recently, do you remember if there were any such notices on the sweetener packets?

Posted by: codeman38 at December 3, 2004 01:18 PM

uhhh....just be glad that there aren't yellow ones(yet) for splenda....i'm confused enough already!

Posted by: me at December 3, 2004 02:30 PM


Yes, the back says, in tiny black text "Sugar", "Sweetener" and "Sugar Substitute".

So which is Aspartamine/Nutrasweet/Equal, and which is Saccharine/Sweet-N-Low?

To do that, you have to look at the colors, again.

Once I get home, I'll return with a picture of the back.

Posted by: Michael Dwyer at December 3, 2004 06:33 PM

Okay, I'm not sure where to put the picture, but here's a description of the back of these packets:

The one with white end tabs says "sugar" in small text on the back, and that's it. The text is about 1mm high.

The pink one says "Sugar Substitute". Beneath that is smaller text that suggests that this might be some bizarre mixture of Spleda and Sweet-n-low. It contains both Dextrose and calcium saccharin. This one also includes nutrition information -- it provides 0% of everything.

The blue one says "Sweetener" on the back, says it has no sodium or saccharin, is as sweet as 2tsp of sugar, and has a warning for Phenylketonurics. No nutrition info on it, but it does contain aspartame.

All this really makes me wonder about the food labeling laws. Why are all three packages so vastly different?

Posted by: Michael Dwyer at December 3, 2004 11:25 PM

Well, I would know if I got the wrong packet by the godawful taste of fake sweetener. and If I drank an entire cup of coffee with aspar- or sachar- in it, the whole restaurant would know because I'd be convulsing on the floor.

Posted by: Timm at January 5, 2006 04:03 AM

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