Review: Cold Brew is a Step in the Right Direction for KonaRed
Covers Products: Espresso (2016), Hawaiian Vanilla (2016), Original (2016)
KonaRed is a beverage company that produces products that are enhanced with coffee fruit extract. To date, the company’s product lineup has been exclusively juice based and packaged in PET and, at least to our knowledge, hasn’t included coffee (which comes from the bean, not the fruit). From our perspective, selling something with the word “coffee” that doesn’t actually include coffee in the traditional sense has been a point of confusion.
So we were quite interested in seeing how this coffee variety would shape up. What they’ve created is a line of cold brew coffees,launching with three flavor varieties: Original, Espresso, and Hawaiian Vanilla. Each one includes Kona and Colombian coffee as well as coffee fruit extract.
As for what’s inside the bottle, the Original and Espresso varieties are unsweetened and zero calorie, while the Hawaiian Vanilla includes sugar and natural flavors as well. The calories for the Hawaiian Vanilla are still quite modest -- only 25 per bottle -- so we don’t expect this one to be viewed much differently than the others based on nutritional value.
Original and Espresso are both enjoyable offerings with a smooth but bold body. However, we’d be hard pressed to say that either of these is better than what’s already out there. Plus, we find the Espresso, which is basically a slightly bolder version of Original, to be a little unnecessary and potentially confusing (traditional espresso is not cold brewed). Vanilla, the sole flavored offering, is a nice change of pace. Adding a little sweetness seems like it could be more successful,both because it’s better tasting and because the market for unsweetened cold brew is both saturated and filled with stronger products.
Of course, there’s the coffee fruit extract, which is the functional ingredient that KonaRed has been built on. It’s certainly a non-issue when it comes to the flavor of the product, but they’ve really made minimal mention of it on the label. It really seems like something that’s included in the product simply for brand consistency, but they either need to communicate it better or they could just omit it entirely. As it stands right now, it’s hard to imagine that the presence of coffee fruit is going to have any positive impact on this product.
Moving on to the packaging, they’ve chosen a 12 ounce glass bottle that is, at least for now, unique within the cold brew category. That’s a plus: it seems like an appropriate bottle shape. The label is clean and simple, although it doesn’t exactly jump out at you or have the “cool” factor that you’ll find in some of the other products in the category. Furthermore, the copy on the label really needs work. Basic wording and sentence structure could be improved and we’d cull some of the hyperbole that they’ve chosen to include.Ultimately, a move into coffee feels like a good move for the KonaRed brand. Despite the room for improvement, there’s a more timely and logical way to use their flagship ingredient and it seems immediately more straightforward than any of the other products that they’ve created to date. Now, they just need to figure out how to fine tune this in a way that it can be a bit more in line with the rest of the cold brew coffee category.