Review: ISCA CBD Soda

Posted: Apr 29, 2021 at 11:54 AM (Last Updated: May 03, 2021 at 11:30 AM)

Covers Products: Cola, Ginger Ale, Grapefruit & Rose

ISCA is a new line of premium CBD-enhanced sodas that feature flavors created by two-star Michelin chef (and the brand’s co-founder) Michael Caines. The products contain 20mg of hemp extract per 12 ounce glass bottle.

The product line currently features four flavors, including Pink Grapefruit & Rose, Ginger Ale, Cola and Indian Tonic Water. 

The three flavors that we sampled (we did not try the Indian Tonic Water) are sugar sweetened and contain 70-80 calories and 17-18 grams of sugar. This is much lower than the mainstream CSDs and, like many other emerging brands in the category, has under 100 calories per bottle.

As far as the flavor goes, we’d describe all three as being lightly sweet, dry in body, and full of flavor. Care has clearly been taken to develop products that taste better than what you’d find in the mainstream soda brands. We particularly liked the bright note of grapefruit in Pink Grapefruit & Rose and the hefty punch of ginger that’s contained in the Ginger Ale. The Cola has a cleaner and more earthy flavor than a traditional cola -- plus it contains actual kola nut extract as well as a pleasant note of cinnamon.

When it comes to the added CBD, it’s possible that it contributes to the dryness of the product, but we otherwise think that they’ve done a pretty good job of masking it. 

On the packaging front, what they’ve created has a sophisticated and mature feeling. The clear glass bottle has a label on both its neck and body. The labels are dark navy blue with white and gold metallic ink used for the label copy. The neck label is where you’ll find the ISCA logo and icon as well as a small version of the flavor name. On the primary label these elements are repeated again but in a slightly larger size. This is also where you’ll find “made with premium hemp grown in the USA” and a callout for 20mg of “premium USA hemp extract.” 

From our perspective, there are a few things that ISCA might want to reconsider. First, there’s the all caps treatment of the brand name which, at least at first glance, looks like an acronym rather than a word. It gives the product a somewhat technical vibe that probably isn’t what the company is after. Second, we feel like a lot of the label copy is repetitive -- the logo and flavor name are on there twice and there are multiple hemp callouts --  and could be better utilized. 

Finally, we think that they should consider a more direct statement of what the product is: a hemp infused soda or sparkling beverage. This would ideally replace the “made with premium hemp grown in the USA” which is far less important than telling the consumer what’s inside the bottle.  

Overall, we think that ISCA has done a very nice job of crafting an enjoyable tasting hemp infused soda. There are some label and messaging things to work out, which are understandable given the category that this brand plays in, but we think that they’ve otherwise done a nice job with the execution of the product.

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