Review: Dona Spiced Sodas

Posted: Jan 29, 2019 at 2:01 PM (Last Updated: Jan 29, 2019 at 3:15 PM)

Covers Products: Pink Peppercorn Lemon, Juniper Lime, Turmeric Honeybush

Dona Chai is a Brooklyn-based company that produces spice-based concentrates and in late 2018 introduced a line of spiced sodas. The line comes in three flavors, including Pink Peppercorn Lemon, Turmeric Honeybush and Juniper Lime. The products are packaged in 12 oz cans.

The three flavors are each full-calorie products that start out with standard ingredients of carbonated water and cane sugar. From there, each variety has its own set of additional ingredients that provide the flavoring.

And the flavorings that Dona has created are definitely unique and well executed. Pink Peppercorn Lemon starts out like a run of the mill citrus soda, but the pink peppercorn (which is an actual ingredient in the drink) gives the product a mild but persistent pepper flavor. Juniper Lime has strong notes of lime flavor (from lime oil) before a finish of elderflower and juniper berry;there’s also chamomile, but it doesn’t seem to play a big part. Finally, there’s Turmeric Honeybush, which has notes of turmeric, orange, and black pepper.

All three of these products have some complex layers of flavor and are definitely more sophisticated than your standard CSD. For our palates, we found Turmeric Honeybush to be the most enjoyable and flavorful of the bunch, but the other two are also very worthwhile.

Still, we’re not entirely convinced that unique flavor is enough to lure in consumers for a product that has 120 calories and 32 grams of sugar per can. While these flavors could certainly serve as a mixer in a cocktail, being in a 12 oz. can might not be the best approach for general consumption.

Furthermore, we think that the branding and design of this product could be improved. While the bright and colorful aesthetics of the design are eye-catching, it needs work to become a functional and consistent brand.

Specifically, the text is too long (horizontally) and requires consumers to turn the can to read the flavor name on two of the three flavors, Juniper Lime being the exception. Even more pressing is the the placement of the Dona brand, which appears at the bottom of two of the cans and not at all on the front of Pink Peppercorn Lemon. It’s easy to miss and is not well integrated with the “Spice Soda” logo, which has the added problem of emphasizing “SODA” much stronger than “SPICE.”

If Dona Chai wants to be a serious -- and lasting -- competitor in the craft CSD space, it needs to work on its packaging and branding before it can scale further. Yet, as of right now,, Dona Spiced Sodas offer a unique approach to the soda category -- at least in terms of the flavors.


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