9 Retro Soda Brands Heating up the Craft Beverage Scene

Move over beer and wine. Soda is the new beverage of choice for on-trend get-togethers. But, not just any soda will do. Hosts from coast to coast have taken to serving retro, hard-to-find soda to inject old fashioned fun into social gatherings. Soda enthusiasts liken this experience to sampling unique craft beers or rare vintages.  Vintage soda tasting parties are quickly becoming a trend. Best of all, every age group can participate. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to celebrate retro soda – National Root Beer Float Day – August 6th. Customers might want to create a root beer float bar to commemorate the occasion. Other soda holidays include March 13th, National Ginger Ale Day, and June 30th, National Ice Cream Soda Day.

Vintage soda is gaining a major following, with fans traveling to events and trolling the internet for a flavor they have yet to try. Big soda companies are getting on the bandwagon as well, with the re-release of  New Coke to time with the release of the third season of Stranger Things.

Adding vintage sodas is an easy and fun way to give your store a specialty vibe and opens you up to many marketing opportunities. In-store tasting events increase foot traffic, while getting your customers acquainted with these unique flavors.  With retro soda labels full of fun characters, colors and fonts in original old fashioned bottle shapes, tastings can turn into a major social media opportunity to drive customers to your business.

Not ready for a full-on event? Market rare sodas with signage that gives a little history on the brand and the flavors. As consumers may not want to be locked into one flavor, offer the ability to mix and match a 4 pack or a six pack or even purchase single bottles. If you have the room, you can offer vintage soda on store shelves in packs as well as chilled single bottles for grab and go customers.

According to Grand View Research, the craft soda industry (which would include small batch regional brews and also old fashioned brands) is predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 3.5% through 2025. If this trend continues, the small batch soda industry could reach a total industry value of $732.4 million by 2025.

You’re sold – bring in the bottles you say? These 9 sought-after brands are a great place to start.

Moxie

First released in 1876 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Moxie is considered one of the first mass produced sodas. While the general description of Moxie’s flavor is a combination of tart and clean with notes of licorice and wintergreen, everyone tastes something different, making it a great icebreaker for a tasting party.

Frostie Soda

Frostie Root Beer’s roots start in Baltimore in 1939 where it quickly gained popularity, adding additional flavors like blue cream and orange soda.  The Christmas-like scene of snow and a Santa-like bearded character found on the label make these beverages particularly appealing for holiday get-togethers, but they’re just as welcome as a cool refreshment on a hot summer day.

Bubble Up

Celebrating its 100th birthday this year, Bubble Up is the extra fizzy lemon lime precursor to 7Up from Sandusky, Ohio.  The extra fizz showcases the light citrus flavors making it a refreshing summer’s day beverage and it is coveted by those who prefer a “kiss of lemon and a kiss of lime” to please their palate any time of year.

Nesbitt’s

Nesbitt’s first came on the scene in 1927 as a fountain soda and released bottled orange soda in 1938. The orange flavor was so popular, it was named the official orange drink of Disneyland from 1955-1960.  Another claim to fame — the yet-to-be-discovered Marilyn Monroe was a Nesbitt’s model.  The line expanded to include other beloved fruity flavors peach and strawberry.

Dad’s Root Beer

Hailing from Chicago, Dad’s Root Beer and it classic herbacious root beer tang has enjoyed a cult following since 1937.  Fun fact — Dad’s was the first company to sell a beverage in a six pack.

Brownie

Brownie Caramel Cream Root Beer was first introduced in Detroit in 1929.  Its deep caramel cream flavor makes it sweeter than other root beers on the market and the fun Brownie sprite on the label makes a for whimsical presentation. This beloved brand enjoys quite a cult following.

Johnnie Ryan

Johnnie Ryan has been a flavored soda favorite in the Niagara, New York area since 1935.  This soda line made with pure cane sugar runs the gamut in terms of flavor from the classics like cola, ginger ale, root beer and cream soda, to more unique flavors like birch beer, cherry and black cherry.   

Grapefruit Kiss Soda

Little is known about its origins, but customers can’t deny the perfect tart yet sweet flavor of Grapefruit Kiss. In fact, the food website Serious Eats named this vintage soda it top grapefruit flavored soda.

Lorina

The French brand of sparkling lemonade and other fruit sodas, Lorina, has been delighting customers since 1895.  The company takes its name from a British ship that saved many French lives during World War II (the original name of this tangy bubbly beverage was Victor Geyer’s Elixir).  Lemonade and orangeade were the founding flavors, with pink lemonade, lavender, and blood orange joining the family later.  All are still made using water sourced from France and sweetened with beet sugars.

Although retro sodas and craft beverages come at a premium price, consumers are willing to pay because they enjoy the hunt, they enjoy the overall experience, and some simply relish the nostalgic appeal. Social media can also drive comebacks of defunct brands. Keep an eye out for local news announcing limited releases of regional favorites. When they’re back on the market it’s big news!

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