Here at Taste Test Labs, the first question that often springs to mind when we’re faced with a new product is “Who is this being marketed toward?” In the case of Coca-Cola’s new Vio, a better question might be “Why did someone combine these ingredients?” Vio (the “I” on the bottle is upside-down, for extra quirk) is basically fizzy milk infused with tropical-inspired flavors.
Thankfully, the fine people of Vio make their complicated case right on the side of their expensive ($2.25!) 8-ounce aluminum bottles. Apparently Vio seeks to “give your mind and body a fresh sensation.” It’s also “the world’s first vibrancy drink.” (Coincidentally, this is the world’s first vibrancy Taste Test column.) Vio claims to offer a “delicious effervescent fruit flavor” and “15% of your daily calcium.” Most importantly, it’s “100% different,” which is a strange sort of non-compliment. It’s what old people say when they see a movie that they don’t like, but they don’t want to be negative. “What did you think of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, grandpa?” “Well, it was real different.”
The flavors Vio is test-marketing—only in New York, for the moment—are Citrus Burst, Peach Mango, Tropical Colada, and Very Berry. Our intrepid friend Joe Garden, features editor for The Onion, tracked some down and offered to help us conduct the first dual-city Taste Test, including video of both Taste Testing crews. Thank you kindly, Mr. Garden.
As a bonus, we tasted the relatively new Sprite Green, also made by the geniuses at Coca-Cola. Sprite Green comes in the same size/shape aluminum bottle as Vio, and claims “50% fewer calories than regular sodas,” and that it’s naturally sweetened. This part of the Taste Test was Chicago-only—and not terribly exciting, as you’ll see.
The taste: Results varied, which is certainly better news than the expected all-around “yuck.” The most common reaction to Vio was that it basically tastes like sugary yogurt seriously watered down with seltzer. The Citrus Burst is remarkably sour, and seems destined to be the clear loser of this lot: These tiny bottles are as sugary as regular soda (26g in 8 ounces; compare that to 39g in a 12-ounce can of Coke), so there’s no reason they should be anything other than sweet. Very Berry didn’t fare a lot better, but it’s definitely slightly more pleasant. Peach Mango and Tropical Colada are both fine, with not-great aftertastes. But here’s the really bad news, Coca-Cola: Even the tasters who found Vio fairly pleasant agreed that they’d never want to drink a whole bottle, and that they certainly wouldn’t pay more than two bucks for it if they did. (That website and Twitter campaign must be expensive!)
Since we tasted Vio on a Friday, and because ad-ops genius Anne happened to have a bottle of Maker’s Mark in her desk, we decided to try adding it to the Vio. The results were strange: Vio completely removed the burn of the whiskey, and the combination didn’t taste bad, either. Tropical Colada didn’t mix well with whiskey at all, but we should’ve seen that coming and had some rum handy. Alas. But overall, Vio didn’t do much for anybody, with or without spirits to enhance it. What were you thinking, Vio? This is way too unhealthy and empty for the Activia crowd, not nearly tasty enough to enjoy on any sort of 12-pack-a-week basis. What focus group was totally fucking with you when they filled out their comment cards?
Sprite Green… Let’s just say it’s a good thing we didn’t give it its own Taste Test. It tastes like Sprite with lemon juice added, which is unsurprising because that’s exactly what it is. Each 8-ounce bottle has just 50 calories, which is a minor reduction from normal Sprite, and there’s no high-fructose corn syrup (take that, Bill Maher!) involved. It’d do in a pinch, but I feel like the market for reduced-calorie soda isn’t really there. It’s all or nothing, people. Just ask Oprah—dinner is either a protein shake, or an entire package of Oreos. We have no use for anything in between.
- “I will gladly drink vitality milk every Friday afternoon if it means I get to have whiskey at work.”
- “Tastes like a cross between Activia and eggnog.”
- “Not altogether terrible, though for two or three bucks, I’m not sure who would buy it.”
- “The lime-flavored drink did make the whiskey go down really easily, and took the kick out of it.”
- “I think this Taste Test just proved I enjoy whiskey.”
- [Very Berry.] “What the fuck! Okay, that was initially really weird, but after just a second of flinching at the strangeness, it resolved into Strawberry Quik. Not for me, but not preposterously vile either.”
- “I wouldn’t have known Vio was carbonated if you hadn’t told me. It’s even less fizzy than Jones Soda, and that’s saying something.”
- “Oh, the smell of the Tropical Colada is really off-putting. Like sunscreen in summer—a blend of fake coconut and chemicals.”
- [Tropical Colada.] “Sour pineapple and sweet milk is not a good combination. That tastes like something that went bad at the factory.”
- “Peach Mango is pretty severely sweet. Not to be all Genevieve, but this was made to be a mixer. On its own, it’s pretty cloying.”
- “Is watermelon really a citrus fruit now? Cause that’s all I’m tasting in the Citrus Burst. I didn’t even know you could milk a watermelon.”
- “These are all pretty unpleasantly soft and sweet for my tastes. Like drinking different kinds of fruity fabric softener. I can see how someone who really likes mixed fruit drinks of the kiwi-watermelon variety might like them, but I feel like I just drank a cup of milk mixed with a cup of sugar and a little juice.”
- “I gotta think it’s pronounced ‘vee-oh’ instead of ‘vi-oh,’ because the latter sounds a lot like ‘vile.’”
- “It’s too sweet. Like a glass of milk, a can of Sprite, and a pound of sugar.”
- “Tropical Colada is the worst of them. It’s got a coconut aftertaste which, divorced from the drink, reminds me of tanning cream.”
- “It tastes like if you mixed up random drinks from the fridge.”
- “Berry was the best for me, but overall, Vio was disappointing. Not that carbonated milk sounds good at all. Bad aftertaste, too.”
- “I couldn’t drink a whole bottle without feeling like I had made a mistake.”
- “I don’t feel vibrant. I feel like I have a bellyful of thick, milky, sweet soda. And I think I have diabetes now.”
- “What’s with the colors, or I should say lack of colors? The bottle looks like fruit punch, but it pours out like béchamel sauce.”
- “The worst part is the carbonation, because I burp and can taste it again.”
- “Peach Mango is probably the best of them. Melted peach sorbet and vanilla ice cream.”
- “I’m sure I’ll be in the minority here, but I didn’t think these were that bad. But by no means would I even consider drinking a full bottle. However, there is really no reason for this to exist. This is a product conceived by someone who knows nothing about flavor-mixing and everything about taste-bud rape.”
- “Who would have known that Vio’s attempt at some bizarre approach to dairy would actually become the ultimate mixer that has the power to destroy whiskey burn?”
- “What’s this compulsion to make dairy fizzy? Do they really think carbonating dairy will get kids to drink? No, it won’t, because milk is kinda gross. Fizzy milk with flavoring? Way grosser. All of these remind me of those fizzy yogurt pops we did a while back, only, like, melted.”
- “Tropical Colada: Hello, coconut flavoring. You’re overwhelming the milk, wouldn’t you say?”
- [Very Berry.] “The greyish-red color is off-putting. This has the biggest yogurt sensation, because mixed-berry is such a yogurt-flavor staple. I’d rather have yogurt.”
- “Citrus Burst: Citrus + milk = nastiness.”
- “Coca-Cola, I pledge my eternal allegiance to you, but I won’t be drinking these.”
- [Tropical Colada.] “I wasn’t aware there was another Colada.”
- “This is a beverage by committee. It’s not an improvement of an existing product.”
Where to get it: Vio is only in NYC, baby, perhaps at your favorite bodega. Viovibe.com can also point you to a nearby NY location.