DTC Healthy Sodas Diagnostic: Part 4 Product Experience

Welcome to part four of our four-part deep dive into the marketing strategies of DTC soda brands Olipop, Ugly, and Poppi.

If you haven’t read the first three parts (Facebook Ads, Email, and Website Analysis) you can catch up here! For the fourth and final part, we’re breaking down each brand's product experience. 

I ordered three variety packs so we could answer two questions: what was the unboxing experience like? And are the taste buds satisfied? 

My taste buds have been certified by the NTBA (national taste buds association) so this is an extremely official process. 😎

Let’s take a trip to flavor town: 

🥤 Olipop 

What I ordered: 

Variety pack (12 pack) = $41.99 (the most expensive)

Main Ingredients: 

  • Purified water
  • Olismart 
  • Apple juice
  • Stevia 
  • Pink rock salt 

Shipping & packaging: 

My package arrived in three days which is lightning fast especially during a pandemic. 

For such an elegant and beautiful brand, it surprised me that Olipop hasn’t invested more into the look of their packaging. 

A cardboard box doesn’t match the rest of the brand. Olipop features the packaging below on their website, so hopefully they’ll transition to something similar in the future. 

The taste test: 

Fizz factor: Olipop has low fizz compared to normal soda. For those who go crazy for fizz, it could be difficult to get used to. For me, it’s the perfect amount. 


🍊 Orange Squeeze – Nailed this flavor. Tastes like regular orange crush on every level. 

🍓 Strawberry Vanilla – Not a huge fan. The smell threw me off and I was never able to recover. 

🍋 Ginger Lemon – Ginger is an acquired taste so I can see some users being 50/50 on this flavor. Personally, I’m a big fan. It compliments the traditional flavors like Cola and Root Beer with its modern and fresh taste. 

🥤 Vintage Cola – For all you Coca-Cola lovers, this is your signal to try this flavor. It matches the traditional cola taste, through and through. 

🍺  Root Beer – Easily my number one flavor. Everything about this drink is spot on. Plus, it’s great with dairy-free ice cream, making for the perfect millennial root-beer float. Give it a try as well, boomers. 

Final Notes:  

Olipop included every flavor in their variety pack, something the other two brands didn’t do. When you include only a couple flavors in your variety pack, there’s a higher risk someone won’t find their favorite flavor. 

🥤 Ugly 

What I ordered:  

Variety pack (24) =  $24.99 (cheapest out of all three brands) 

Main Ingredients: 

  • Sparkling water
  • Natural flavors

Shipping & packaging:   

Due to COVID-19, Ugly had shipping issues with my order. Instead of the standard 3-5 days it took 10, which wasn’t a big deal. Their customer service team was A+ and kept me up to date. Nothing better than a kick-ass CX team. 

Like all things Ugly, the packaging was bold and in your face. The bright blue box was surrounded with funny sayings like “H2OMG this is heavy” and “Please recycle, but Instagram me first.”

If you can make a customer laugh or smirk, your brand will live rent-free in their head. Ugly easily had the best unboxing experience out of all three brands. 


The taste test: 

Fizz factor:  Ugly had the highest fizz rating on my fizzy scale. It packs a punch more than regular soda, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 


🍒. Cherry – It didn’t make me jump up and down, but it didn’t disappoint. A solid flavor that I enjoyed, but I wouldn’t make a point out of drinking it again. 

🍑 Peach – I wasn’t a huge fan of this flavor. I found it a bit bland, but I know this is one of their best-selling flavors in the U.S. so you should go in with an open mind. 

🍋 Lemon Lime – My favorite flavor. Light, refreshing, and the perfect amount of lemon:lime. I highly recommend it, especially if you like Sprite. 

Bonus: I tried Ugly’s energy water and it’s killer. I like it even more than their flagship products. Thanks to Hugh for the care package. 🙌

Final Notes: 

Ugly was the only brand to encourage posting a picture of the product on Instagram. While it wasn’t formal by any means, it surprised me that the other two brands didn’t mention anything about sharing on socials. This can be a huge source for consistent UGC, especially if you include a small discount. 

Finally, if you’re a LaCroix stan, give Ugly a try. I had multiple LaCroix enthusiasts drink an Ugly and say they’d consider switching. Blasphemy, I know.

🥤 Poppi

What I ordered: 

Variety pack (12) = $29.88 (second-most expensive) 

Main Ingredients: 

  • Sparkling filtered water
  • Apple cider vinegar 
  • Organic cane sugar
  • Natural flavors
  • Stevia 

Shipping & packaging:   

Since Poppi is sold through Amazon, my package came in two days (Thanks, Jeff). While the speed of shipping was a huge plus, the Amazon packaging and branding did take away from Poppi’s own brand experience.   

As you open Poppi’s package you’re hit with “Pop of the morning to you” plus each of their value propositions. Love this. 

The taste test: 

Fizz factor: Poppi’s fizz level is very similar to a traditional soda. Not too low and not too high. 


🍋 Ginger Lime – Typically I’m a big ginger fan, but the lime overpowered the drink. Not the biggest fan of this flavor. 

🍊Orange – Similar to Olipop, this tastes just like an orange Crush. Really enjoyed sipping on this. 

🥭Pineapple mango – Here’s a flavor you don’t see everyday. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this unique drink. My only wish is that the pineapple showed up a bit more. 

🍓 Strawberry Lemonade – Hands down one of my favorite flavors out of the three brands. It’s summer in a can, and I’m sure it mixes well with the adult liquor of your choice. 😎

Final Notes:  

While the Amazon packaging did bum me out, Poppi makes a big effort to make you feel like a part of the brand. I’m looking forward to seeing the Poppi brand evolve. 

We set up this diagnostic to be a four-part series, but we realized there’s at least one more MAJOR category we’ve still got to cover for these amazing brands.

Come back next Saturday for a deep-dive with the Pilothouse Amazon team, where we’ll uncover the strategies and tactics these healthy sodas use on the world’s biggest marketplace. 

After that, it’s on to our next product category. Any guesses as to what it is? 👟

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