The man who turns fizzy drinks into big lollipops

How much sugar is there in a bottle of pop? Artist Henry Hargreaves put the question to the test in a series of sticky creations.

When New Zealand-based artist Henry Hargreaves heard a health professional call soda “the cigarettes of our generation”, he wanted to find a way to represent the risk visually.

The sugar in fizzy drinks is thought to be a major contribution to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease; a 22-year study found that just one can of sugary pop a day can increase your risk of a fatal heart attack by 20%. “I’d seen a series that was out there before which was a drink with a pile of sugar and to me it didn’t really resonate,” says Hargreaves. “So I thought there was a much more powerful way of doing this.”

There was way more sugar in there than I thought – Henry Hargreaves, artist

He decided to show what happens after the water in a drink is boiled away. Once boiled, he then took the remaining substance, a mixture of sugar, colouring and other byproducts, and poured it into a silicon lollipop mould. “I thought lollipops were the perfect fit because to me that’s what a soft drink is; it’s kind of a lollipop dressed up as a soda, or a kind of adult lollipop.

In the video below, he demonstrates the process:

Hargreaves says he wasn’t trying to be scientific about it. All the bottles were different sizes to start with. Instead each lollipop is based on a single serving. “This is what you get at the gas station or the convenience store for one person.

“At first it surprised me,” he said. “There was way more sugar in there than I thought. Pretty much all of the lollipop moulds I made overflowed. Mountain Dew was the punchiest at 77g (2.7oz) of sugar and it made this enormous amount of liquid at the end. You look at this and it is just the most unappetising gunk.

“The other shocking thing was if you took the lollipops and put them into contact with water they became the drinks again”, he adds.

Hargreaves says he isn’t much of a soda drinker, having given up in his teens, but he sampled a couple of them and they tasted like a super sweet version of the drink.

“Coke was a really weird one because the rest of them were typically sugary lollies but the Coke one is almost volcanic and lava-y, and has this weird texture to it. I had to have three goes at doing it because I over-cooked the first two and they became this big blister of a bubble. It was so gross.”

You can see more of Hargreaves' work on his website, Instagram and Facebook page.

Follow BBC Future on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.