Review: Xoca Cacao Fruit Soda
Covers Products: Ginger , Mint, Original
Xoca is a line of cacao fruit juice sodas made with a base of 50% Ecuadorian cacao fruit juice. The product line is available in three flavors, including Original, Mint, and Ginger.
The base of cacao juice is paired with sparkling water and, in the case of Mint and Ginger, additional ingredients for flavoring. Mint features organic spearmint and organic peppermint while Ginger is made with organic bourbon vanilla, organic ginger, organic cassia and organic clove.
Nutritionally, these products have 75 calories, 15 grams of sugar (all from the juice) and 2 grams of fiber per 8 oz. can. While we wouldn’t call this product “low calorie,” it has less per serving than a traditional CSD, which is a good thing.
Beyond the fiber and associated digestive benefits, the product is marketed as having functional benefits. This includes energy from theobromine, plus antioxidants and B vitamins.
The flavor of the cacao juice comes through prominently in all three flavors, which is no surprise given that it makes up 50% of the drink. In case you aren’t familiar with the ingredient, it is the upcycled fruit that is discarded during cacao production (which comes from the fruit’s seed). We’d describe the flavor as tart but sweet with slight floral notes and a touch of sour to the finish.
While we were slightly underwhelmed by Original (“Nada”), we felt like tGinger is in a really nice spot. The addition of vanilla and clove give it an almost cola-like flavor -- at least until the ginger hits your palate. We like the complexity of this drink and the added flavors have done a nice job of giving it balance. The same can be said for Mint, which is another flavor pairing that helps round out the cacao juice. Overall, we definitely gravitated towards the two flavored offerings.
As for the packaging and branding, Xoca has a visual theme that goes with the Ecuadorian roots of its hero ingredient: a mountain or volcano image along the bottom, a picture of a cacao image and the Xoca logo placed vertically. From our perspective, this aesthetic reflects authenticity and quality when it comes to the cacao fruit that’s used.
However, the problem with this approach is that it’s likely to only work with consumers who are aware of cacao fruit. In similar fashion to cascara (aka coffee fruit) having an identity crisis with the American consumer regarding the fact that it doesn’t taste like coffee, cacao fruit has the same issue relative chocolate. The current branding doesn’t do anything to dispel this or make it inviting or approachable.
Furthermore, the product is trying to position itself as a soda, but the messaging is skewed heavily towards promoting the fruit content. This will likely make consumers think that it’s a juice -- and, since it’s a fruit juice that they probably don’t understand, we think they’ll just move on.
Overall, Xoca earns credit for having an innovative and enjoyable tasting concept, but we feel the brand needs to rethink its approach to the brand and messaging in order to convince consumers to give it a try.