The shrink-sleeve graphics are impressive (one evaluator called the bottle gorgeous). They evoke the juxtaposition of hot and cold together with orange to red at the neck of the bottle, a fire spiral moving toward purple and blue at the bottom. The beverage is identified as an energy supplement. Bursts on the package tell us to "Enjoy the great taste of burning calories" and "zero carbs." There is very clear labeling that the drink contains no high fructose corn syrup, which has been under fire lately.
The active ingredients are taurine, guarana extract, green tea leaf extract, caffeine, glucaronolactone and ginger extract – this is the proprietary thermogenic blend. In addition to that blend, the product has vitamins and some minerals. It supplies 100 percent of vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12, biotin, pantothenic acid and some calcium and chromium.
The color is golden brown. The cola flavor we tasted was not traditional cola but had a citrusy quality and a mystery taste that we later identified as ginger. The cola note is somewhat medicinal and brown caramel notes are fairly muted.
The level of carbonation is very low (perhaps to fit better with kids and young adults who prefer less carbonation) but helps to make this seem more familiar than it is. Whether it is the sucralose or the low carbonation, the beverage seems extremely sweet. The best taste component is the mystery ginger note that is mildly perceptible.
The overall impression of Celsius cola is that of a lightly flavored cola-ginger beverage. The first experience you get when you open the bottle is citrus and ginger aromas. There is the familiarity of cola, but the comfort of ginger (as in ale) and citrus. This is not your traditional cola. However, there are no strong off flavors (just a very high sweetness) that might be expected with the vitamin blend.
Does the product deliver?
Older, traditional consumers are not likely to "get" Celsius. But it's not really for them. The target for this product is hip people – whether they are going to use this at the gym, in a beverage (perhaps balancing alcohol calories) or as part of a slimming program (go to spin class, drink one, go to pilates, drink one – maybe you get a tighter muscle or two).
The idea of burning calories while drinking is somewhat unbelievable – maybe frightening for some. But the familiarity of the flavors creates a level of comfort.
Clearly, however, this is not a replacement for diet cola.
The brand promises to be different. This beverage hears your needs and responds to them. We didn't try to see if we could burn calories and pounds, so we don't know if this will deliver on that promise or not. If indeed the "thermogenic blend "does increase metabolism by 12 percent over a 3-hour period," then "by replacing a regular soft drink with a bottle of Celsius every day for one year, even with no change in exercise habits, a person could theoretically lose up to 17 pounds," says company promotional materials.
The lightness of the flavor and the variety does give this product a lot of range throughout the day. The caffeine is a benefit for mid-morning and afternoon pick-me-ups, those times when you might want to eat a snack to get you going. Could this replace the diet beverage and the snack? Wow – now you have energy and no calories.
How to make the idea bigger
The makers should tell us how to use this product. Right now you have to figure out how to make it work. Or maybe that is the point. We don't know. We are just consumers with a few extra pounds to shed.
One of the big hurdles for this beverage is brand familiarity. Snapple did a great job of becoming a small brand that everyone knew. Red Bull did the same. Celsius needs to become more familiar, more of a trusted friend. It is different, and that introduces the fear factor. During our evaluation, people we asked to taste the product were unsure of even wanting to try it when they considered the concept of a thermogenic blend.
Rating: This product is a good try. It is sweet and leverages those familiar flavors we all know. The concept and the brand are unknown and so are a little scary.
Market Potential: Maybe. The product may connect with the targeted user group, but it also will scare off some consumers, as the knowledge base required to feel familiar with the idea of thermogenic beverages is not commonplace.
Hollis Ashman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chief strategist and Jacqueline Beckley (email@example.com) is president of the Understanding and Insight Group, a strategy, business and product development firm. See www.theuandigroup.com.