Xoca creates a functional drink brand around recycled cocoa

Launch in Chicago, XocaComes in three flavors: original, mint and ginger, and is the brainchild of Jacob Lopata, a propulsion engineer with an aviation background who learned that hundreds of thousands of tons of cocoa fruit rot in farms every year via a friend who owns a chocolate business in Ecuador and felt a business opportunity.

“600,000 tonnes of cocoa fruit pulp is thrown away every year and I felt like it was a huge waste and an environmental problem.”

While some brands like Reused podhave launched 100% cocoa fruit juice products, Suavvatried to familiarize Americans with the fruit via smoothies, and Mondelēz is now experimenting with concentrated cocoa pulp extract in a new line of snacks called Capao,It hasn’t (yet) become the next “superfruit,” in part because the juice is so perishable, Lopata said.

“If you don’t do anything with it, things will go wrong very quickly. Once the pods are opened, you have approximately 24 hours.

“I can’t talk about it too much at this point but it’s a reduction in fruit juice [via a heating process] it creates something similar to molasses or honey in terms of consistency and once we do that it’s stable. The cocoa fruit naturally has a sort of tropical fruit flavor, but the reduction process also adds additional flavor notes and a hint of molasses.

The fruit reduction is then shipped in bulk to the United States where the drinks are put into cans, said Lopata, who has a small team in Chicago and Ecuador and raised.two small rounds of angel investors“And is”working on a third right now.

50% juice

Xoca Cacao Fruit Soda is available online at drinkxoca.com for $ 35.99 for a 12 pack of 8oz cans and at select Chicago stores including Beatrix Market for $ 3.99.

While some sparkling fruit drinks such as Spindrift contain 5-10% juice, Xoca has opted for 50% juice and 50% sparkling water so that consumers can enjoy the taste but also the nutritional benefits of cocoa fruit, which contains theobromine, a natural stimulant that has some properties similar to caffeine without giving people “jitters,” Lopata claimed (Click hereTo learn more about theobromine).

Each 8-ounce can of Xoca contains 15g of natural sugar and also contains 2g of fiber from the cocoa fruit, which Lopata says has prebiotic qualities (i.e., it is selectively fermented in the gut, providing food for the “good” bacteria) although this is not the case. supported by extensive clinical data.

While Lopata talks about “clean energy”, he chose not to use the word “energy” on the front of the package and does not position it as a direct competitor to Red Bull or Monster, but as a functional drink. with energizing effects and intestinal health. benefits that fall under the category of functional drinks.

It doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but we are trying to put it in the [more premium] cooler sections as it is best enjoyed cold.

Going forward, the branding may change slightly as Lopata receives more feedback, he said: “At first we weren’t quite sure how much to talk about the functional benefits, but I’m guessing it will be more functional on the label next time around based on all the feedback we get now that the product is in the market. “

The target audience

So who will be the first to adopt this brand?

“It’s a little too early to say,“said Lopata, but”in general people are looking for healthier alternatives to sodas and energy drinks, they want transparency and clean, short labels and something that makes them feel good about the product.

“We are using a product that is currently being scrapped and we are providing additional income to farmers who grow cocoa, and it certainly resonates with people. “

The go-to-market strategy

Xoca Cacao Fruit Soda is available online nationwide (12pk / $ 35.99 or CA $ 3 / can) and started hitting physical retail stores ($ 3.99 / can) in Chicago in September in the Specialized retail with plenty of demos and samples for feedback before taking the drink to a larger audience, Lopata said.

When we do the demos people definitely catch some fermented notes, even if it’s not as loud as the kombucha. It has sweetness and acidity and people really love it. This is only the beginning, but we are getting a very good response.

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