Craft soda pop startups with healthier ingredients than most mass-produced soft drinks are sweeping the US like craft beer startups began to do 30 years ago.
The craft soda movement generally involves using better, healthier ingredients, namely going back to using pure cane sugar instead of the high fructose corn syrup that’s typically used in modern formulations.
A segment of the craft soda trend is part of the health craze movement where there is a strong demand for more healthy soda blends and for the resurgence of flavors from long ago that consumers not only considered more healthy, but are nostalgic about as well.
Nostalgia and better quality are driving the craft soda market.
Even PepsiCo is taking aim at the craft soda market with a new version of its Mountain Dew product called DewShine, which returns to the use of real sugar rather than the less healthy high fructose corn syrup.
But small operators focusing on the craft soda market such as the Old Town Root Beer Company owned by Cory and John Montgomery are springing up across the US as hometown brands.
The idea for the Old Town Root Beer Company was born when Cory Montgomery found a secret root beer recipe her great-grandfather had written on onion-skin paper and placed in an old Bible. She found it in the Bible in 1998. She and her husband John then took the recipe to a chemist who helped them turn the recipe into a formula they could commercially produce.
Now, the Montgomery’s brew 500 cases of their root beer every few months using their special blend of sugar and spices. Their soda shop, the Old Town Root Beer Co. in Temecula, CA, also features dozens more of their uniquely flavored craft sodas.
Another small craft soda operator is Stephen Curtis, owner of the Proper Soda Company launched in Grand rapids Michigan in 2012. His idea was to take a unique ingredient that you normally don’t find in soda, namely hops, and transform it into a unique and delicious soda recipe.
Starting out in 40 stores, Curtis now has his craft soda in over 100 stores in the West Michigan area.
With the quick success of Hop Soda, it didn’t take Curtis very long to start thinking of additional blends he could add to his flavor portfolio, and Hibiscus-flavored soda was added in 2014.
Another small operator, Jerry Rezny, started Handcrafted Beverages in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rezny’s idea was to distribute his locally formulated craft soda syrups to independent eateries in the Indianapolis area.
So far, his syrup flavors, which run the gamut from cola to root beer to red cream soda, caramel apple and ginger beer, can be found at around a half-dozen Indy-area dining establishments and he cooks from 100 to 300 gallons of syrup each week to supply his customers.
Another craft soda player is the Double Cola Company, in Chattanooga, TN. the company’s flagship craft soda has been available at Cracker Barrel restaurants for some time, but only recently available in downtown Chattanooga, despite the company maintaining its headquarters in the area.
Michael Considine of Akron, Ohio discovered that the NORKA Beverage Company once supplied what is now called craft sodas in the Akron area, but went out of business in 1962 despite the drinks being a consumer staple in the area.
Now Considine is reviving the old NORKA recipes, and the original flavors are one again on store shelves in Akron.
Entrepreneurs interested in making their own craft sodas in small operations should find a wide open market in the US. In cities across the country there are many younger people who are all-in on the health craze who would support the craft sodas natural ingredients, and older people who also like the nostalgia aspect of old-time tasting soda pops.
Make some craft soda cola’s and an old time “Delaware Punch” available where I shop and you can count me as a customer!