In May 2007, we mentioned that PepsiCo was rolling out a nutrient-enhanced “sparkling beverage” called Tava. That drink has finally started to hit the marketplace, so I thought I’d sample one of the flavors, Tava Mediterranean Fiesta.
Tava is basically a fruit-flavored soft drink, but not being marketed as such. In fact, you won’t find the words “soda” or “pop” anywhere on the packaging. In fact, taking a look at the 16.9 oz. bottle I had, you’d be hard pressed to associate Pepsi with this brand… which is perhaps very intentional. It’s basically a diet drink as well, being sweetened with the popular combination of aspertame and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K). This is the same sweetener combination that is found in more recent diet beverages, including Coca-Cola Zero, Diet Pepsi Max, and Diet Coke Plus. Typically, this combo is used because it somewhat masks the “bad aftertaste” associated with low-cal drinks.
The packaging direction for Tava is also of interest. The drink is available in both bottles and 4-packs of 12 oz. cans, sold in a similar fashion as the look of Airforce Nutrasoda or various energy drinks like Red Bull. This seems to position the beverage away from the soda pop angle and more towards the “healthy” and “hip” direction. Even looking at the plastic bottle design, it’s noted that this isn’t a standard 20 oz. size you see at convenience stores and gas stations. Rather, it’s a far more slender design (and as noted, only 16.9 oz.), featuring a creative “wave” design built into the plastic at the top of the bottle, very similar to the styling of the new Diet Pepsi bottles… but without the Pepsi globe icon.
The word “Tava” seems to be a marketing creation by Pepsi, giving it some new age-y feel, I guess. They describe it as “a name that we created to evoke feelings of possibility and discovery.” The design of the labeling is very much focused on the color of the drink inside, emphasizing “wellness” and “health” in the creative approach. The use of unique patterns in the background of the bottle label look seems to hint at origins in Central and South American mythos, whether that be the icons of the sun, Aztec-like symbols, or local artwork. All of these factors contribute together to a different “feel” for the drink. Not a weird feeling, but something that is probably appealing to females, but not completely turning off the male demographic. This is emphasized by the blatant description of the drink right under the Tava name: “Zero Calorie Sparkling Beverage”.
When Tava was originally announced, 4 flavors were mentioned as part of the rollout: Brazilian Samba, Caribbean Calypso, Mediterranean Muse and Malaysian Satori. Of course, those aren’t the flavors we ended up with. Tava instead rolled out with just 3 flavors: Tahitian Tamure (Tropical Berry Blend), Mediterranean Fiesta (Black Cherry Citrus), and Brazilian Samba (Passion Fruit Lime). Each is caffeine-free and is fortified with vitamins and minerals (like Diet Coke Plus), including Vitamin E, Niacin, Vitamin B6, and Chromium. The inclusion of Chromium is somewhat considered a big deal, at least that’s how it’s pitched on the Tava website, where they explain that “Chromium is a trace mineral that is essential for good health. Chromium picolinate is a well-absorbed form of the essential trace mineral chromium and there are health benefits associated with chromium picolinate. According to the FDA, there is limited evidence that Chromium Picolinate may reduce the risk of insulin resistance.” Um, sure. Whatever you say.
You can tell a lot about a drink by the way its positioned online. For example, if it’s not positioned at all, then you know that they probably aren’t going after a web-savvy audience. In the case of Tava, a simple, Flash-based website has been introduced. Of more interest is how they choose to present information about the drink. Beyond the expected use of product information online, you’ll also find sections for each flavor that include “Flavor Inspiration” and “Food Pairings”. For example, in the case of the Mediterranean Fiesta flavor, the inspiration follows: “Black Cherry hosts a festival of flavor, while the tang of tangerine and lime are the life of a spirited shindig. Tava Mediterranean Fiesta is a unique sparkling blend that leaves you with surprised taste buds and a thirst for the unknown.” You are recommended to try the drink with Dark Chocolate and Lemon Truffles (PDF) or BBQ Spare Ribs (PDF). Interestingly enough, recipes are included for both! Beyond the food mentions, there are sections for music and art, which combines once again to promote a certain lifestyle audience that Tava is being aimed at. This upscale pitch is also reflected in the price of the drink.
But enough about the marketing… how does this drink actually taste? Upon opening the bottle, it’s a rather pleasant fruity scent. Very sweet, but attractive at the same time. And before I get to the first gulp, let me share my standard disclaimer that I don’t enjoy diet drinks and tend to think of them negatively. Just not a fan of artificial sweeteners. That said, I actually was impressed with the flavor of Tava Mediterranean Fiesta. Yes, there’s still that typically bad aftertaste you get from a drink like this. Before that, however, the drink was pretty good. A light flavor, accented by the carbonation. In case, a muted cherry flavor that just worked. You could also find an influence of citrus on your tongue. The combo of aspertame and Ace-K work in this sense to accomplish what they set out to do… create the illusion of a “healthy” drink with the use of vitamins. Granted, don’t be stupid. Soft drinks are not healthy. But this was a nice treat, especially if are calorie conscious. Not my favorite beverage by a long shot, but Tava had enough going for it that I look forward to trying the other 2 flavors in the lineup.
Give Tava a try. It’s diet, but not horribly bad.