Review: Upriver Nitro Cacao
Covers Products: Nitro Cacao Latte - Chocolate Chai, Nitro Cacao Latte - Matcha Mama, Nitro Cacao Latte - Vanilla Cream, Nitro Cacao - Dark Wild, Nitro Cacao - Strawberry Hibiscus
Marketed as a “gentle alternative to coffee,” Upriver Nitro Cacao is a cold-brewed cacao beverage packaged in 6 oz. cans.
The line features five flavors: Dark Wild, Chocolate Chai, Vanilla Cream, Strawberry Hibiscus and Matcha Mamma. At the base of all of the flavors is cold brewed cacao, which is similar in concept to cold brew coffee but with cacao beans instead of coffee beans. The end result is a milder buzz (the base of the drink has 15 mg of caffeine per can) and the benefits of natural theobromine and magnesium. The drinks are also nitrogen infused, which provides a creamy texture.
Three of these SKUs -- Chocolate Chai, Vanilla Cream and Matcha Mamma -- are branded as nitro cacao lattes and contain coconut cream and acacia flour to create a milky effect. These seem like the stars of the lineup and the flavors that will probably have broadest appeal. All three have a very light amount of sweetness, some mild cacao notes and their own unique take when it comes to the flavor. We really enjoyed all three, be it the rich flavor of Vanilla Cream, the ginger and cinnamon notes in Chocolate Chai, or the slightly grassy flavor of Matcha Mamma, which also has 30 mg of caffeine thanks to the added tea.
The other two SKUs, Dark Wild and Strawberry Hibiscus, provide a purer cacao flavor that showcases its naturally fruity and earthy notes. These drinks are otherwise quite different from one another. Dark Wild is the simplest of the lineup; made with just cacao and sea salt, it drinks like an unsweetened tea. Strawberry Hibiscus, on the other hand, is sweet and the strawberry and hibiscus pair nicely with the cacao.
In terms of packaging, we think that the 6 oz. format is a good choice for this product. These are unique flavors and we think that consumers will be more likely to try it when they don’t have to commit to a larger size.
From a design standpoint, the product has an artisanal and premium look. But by focusing on text, it feels like it’s lacking something to engage the consumer and appeal to their senses.
Furthermore, we think that some of the copy could be confusing rather than helpful when it comes to a consumer being able to figure out what these products are. For example, “your personal cacao ceremony” might lead one to believe that that drink provides an intense chocolate flavor, the thing that most consumers will think of when they see cacao. And the use of “nitro” and “latte” are words associated with coffee.
We’re not sure what the answer is here, but we sense there will need to be a bit of an evolution to the messaging for this to really work.
Overall, Upriver delivers a unique and enjoyable flavor that, with the right messaging and packaging, could be a pretty nice choice in the better-for-you beverage set.