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Pepsi to Widen Testing of Drink Made With Mystical Guarana Berry

May 6, 1996 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Pepsico is expanding the test-marketing of Josta, a carbonated beverage made with a mystical Amazon jungle berry that’s widely considered among Brazilians to be a sexual stimulant.

The No. 2 soft-drink maker behind Coca-Cola said Monday that Josta sales in Phoenix, where Pepsi has been testing the product since late December, have been successful and warrant test-marketing in a wider area.

``We want to see how well it can do elsewhere,″ said Brad Shaw, a spokesman for Pepsi at its headquarters in Somers, N.Y.

Josta is made with the guarana berry, an exotic fruit that contains caffeine. Guarana-based drinks are a novelty in the United States but are common in Brazil.

Shaw declined to specify where Pepsi would test-market Josta beyond Phoenix but said the expanded sales would begin as early as this week. A 20-ounce bottle of the reddish-colored drink costs $1.

``It’s got an interesting flavor that everyone seems to describe differently,″ Shaw said.

Guarana (pronounced gwa-ra-NAA) is viewed as an aphrodisiac in Brazil. It also is sold in powder form there. Students often take it when studying for exams because it helps keep them awake.

Shaw said Josta has about the same caffeine strength as Mountain Dew, another Pepsi soft drink. Asked about the guarana berry’s alleged sexual stimulant qualities, he said Pepsi wasn’t making such claims.

``Let’s just say people are drawn to guarana by its powerful image and mystery,″ he said.

Pepsi isn’t the first beverage company to introduce guarana to the U.S. market. Last month Plank Road Brewery, a division of Miller Brewing Co., began test-marketing Iguana Light, a beer brewed with a tinge of guarana, in Dallas.