New entry Inca Cola fairs well in evaluation by young experts

The bottles are Cruz Blanca, Big Cola, Fanta, Inca Cola, Milory and another version of Big Cola. The chips in front are plain Pringles to clean the Pallet of taste testers.

With the arrival of Inca Cola to the Costa Rican soft drink market, A.M. Costa Rica has compared it to the existing competitors so readers don’t have to. A team of experts subjected the products to careful scrutiny and passed judgment on the four main competitors in the kolita class.

Inca Cola is “the pride of Peru,” preferred by many there to regular colas, like the one in the hourglass bottle, on a nationalistic basis. It isn’t actually a cola in taste, but instead a sweet drink originally flavored with jamaica or hibiscus flowers. It is now available in Supermercados Unidos outlets like Mas X Menos and Walmart, imported in bottled form.

The equivalent locally produced kolita beverages are products sold alongside orange or grape flavored sodas in most any supermarket or neighborhood pulpería.

The Coca Cola product is called Fanta and is sold mostly in bottles. The company which is widely considered the most valuable brand in the world doesn’t need much introduction.

Pepsi for this line is represented by Florida Ice & Farm, the monopoly brewer in Costa Rica. The kolita product is called Milory.

A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers The panel of cola experts

Also from Peru originally is Big Cola, which broke into the Costa Rican market in 2004 despite considerable resistance from the established multinationals, who were eventually accused before Costa Rica’s competition commission of using spurious environmental complaints against the new entrant. Big Cola made its mark with large bottles aimed at the lower socio-economic strata, with minimal amounts of syrup and bottles about as thin as is possible by blow molding PET plastic. These were sold at small neighborhood stores until the company eventually reached all the supermarket chains.

Once established in the market, an additional bottling line allowed Big Cola to add other presentations of different bottle sizes. Representatives of Big Cola claimed they are the reason other companies have changed to 3-liter sizes and also the return of the smurf bottle from Coke, according to news reports. Big Cola’s different sized bottles have different descriptions, with some saying strawberry, some jamaica, and some just red. Jamaica wasn’t located for the study.

An additional market participant is Cruz Blanca, with a carbonated version of the cola syrup that can be purchased to make refrescos. The taste-testers’ grandmother has been known to subject chan, a seed that looks like frogs’ eggs when soaked in water, to this treatment producing a savagely sweet refresco. Cola syrup is also the red fluid that is often put on shaved-ice copos. Cruz Blanca’s pop seems only to be available in Periféricos supermarkets in a small bottle.

The Euromonitor market research company has overall consumption of carbonated soft drinks in Costa Rica at just under $500 million, with Coca Cola at 70 percent, Pepsi at 18 percent, and Big Cola most of the remainder. These figures are from 2010.

Test subjects were a Costa Rican/U.S. duel national male, 12 years old, and another female aged 8. Both have a known penchant for sweets. They tasted each brand and were asked leading questions about its aroma, sweetness and strength, bouquet, and amount of carbonation. The palate was cleansed with plain Pringles between samples. Expectoration was not allowed. The experts considered the appearance in a glass and the presentation of the product itself.

All six samples were chilled overnight. Service was in a small water glass.

Fanta was essentially the benchmark to which others were compared. It scored intermediate in the important factors, being sweet with moderate carbonation and orangey color.

Milory is stronger and sweeter, mostly due to less carbonation and is less brightly colored also. One tester described the taste as “rotten strawberry.”

Inca was scored high on flavor and carbonation with a much fruitier bouquet, evoking lemon or banana. Inca Cola has a bright yellow color which some might associate with dehydration after a long hike in the Peruvian coastal deserts, as opposed to the red of the other brands. This could have been a cause of bias.

The Cruz Blanca product was considered little more than a watered down version of the syrup with hardly any carbonation. One tester described it as “weird” and both noted a slight salty or bitter taste.

Two different presentations of Big Cola were tried, strawberry and just red. Nobody detected any hint of strawberry in either. Both experts said the red had little taste. Red has some more carbonation while the strawberry has “little, little, little” gas.

Big Cola is the regional partner of the Barcelona football team, with some players on the labels. Uniforms show the old Unicef promotion before the team sold out to a Qatari consortium as part of the conspiracy to have the 2020 World Cup there. The two presentations don’t show the same players however, as red has Villa, Puyols, former coach Pep Guardiola, Messi, and Iniesta, while fresa has Villa, Puyols, Messi, Pedro, and goalkeeper Valdez.

Adults present detected a slightly bitter aftertaste to both Big Cola products but found them barely distinguishable. With Inka the most palatable, adults generally find all of the tested products to taste like bubblegum.

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