Review: H2O Sonoma Soft Seltzer
Covers Products: Pinot Noir, Rose
H2O Sonoma Soft Seltzer is positioning itself as the “world’s first wine-infused sparkling water with 0.0% alcohol.” The initial flavors, which are packaged in 16 oz cans, include Pinot Noir, Rose and Sauvignon Blanc.
The products are made with both single varietal grape juice as well as dealcoholized wine. There are added flavorings and other ingredients to acidify and preserve the product, but no added sugars (the product does contain sugar from the grapes). The Rose and Pinot Noir flavors, which are the two flavors we sampled, have 60 calories and 45 calories respectively.
In terms of taste, both of the SKUs that we tried are made with pinot noir grapes. There’s a light grape flavor to both and the differences between the two are, in our opinion, pretty nuanced. The connection between these flavors and the wines that they are modeled after is pretty loose, especially considering that these products are cut heavily with sparkling water. Of the two, we found the Rose, which is a type of sparkling wine, to be the more pleasing variety.
Being completely honest, we’re just not sure what market void H2O Sonoma Soft Seltzer fills. We fear that the concept of a “soft seltzer” made with pinot grapes and dealcoholized wine while containing 45+ calories (unlike most products marketed as seltzer) is a bit too complex and, requires a lot of education in order for consumers to understand. The company also promotes the drink’s nutritional benefits -- vitamin C, B vitamins, and electrolytes -- but this feels like something that adds yet another layer of complexity.
When it comes to the packaging and branding, the theme unfortunately continues. There are a lot of things going on with this product and, as a result, it fails to feel like a cohesive unit. This starts with the name “H2O” and the visual treatment of the “O” that has it in the shape of a heart. This is both too generic (this brand will never own “H2O” as its mark) and doesn’t add anything to a brand that’s trying to be connected to California wine.
Putting the threads about the flavor and packaging together, we ultimately feel that H2O needs to greatly simplify its offering and try to figure out which market opportunity to focus on. With a “less is more” approach, we think there’s some potential here.