Photography and styling by Laurie Mosco
Fizzy, fun and full of flavor, customers can’t resist a good soda. This isn’t just a wishful Fanta-sea. Soft drink revenue is expected to hit $667,384 million in 2020 according to Statista.
Like all other food categories in today’s market, when it comes to soda, consumers are looking for unique flavors, rare finds, and international flare. A soft drink is a refreshing and affordable way to take a plunge into a daring flavor.
Customers’ preferences for specialty and craft sodas can be as particular as wine, so narrowing down your assortment to the best choices can be difficult. Differentiate your business from the competition — transform your team into true “pop” stars by training staff to understand the different soda personalities and their sipping pleasures. To get you started, we break out the top 4 types.
The classic specialty soda enthusiast isn’t seeking the cutting-edge or latest trends, but rather a trip down memory lane. Transport them to the simpler times of soda jerks and soda fountains with classic brands who mix up crowd-pleasing flavors. Some of the old fashioned brands that get us bubbling with excitement are Boylan Bottling Company, Reading Draft and Polar. Each company’s history is as interesting as their flavors, so make sure your staff is familiar. Many of these soda brands were once only available regionally, so the thrill of the hunt adds to the excitement.
Classic customers will be jazzed to try Boylan’s flagship birch beer, introduced by pharmacist William Boylan in 1891. Those a little less adventurous can still get in on the hand-crafted fun with more mainstream flavors like ginger ale, cola, black cherry, and grape all made with pure cane sugar for an old-fashioned taste.
The classic soda sipper will appreciate that Reading Draft sticks to its German (a.k.a. “Pennsylvania Dutch”) roots, crafting a variety of spicy beverages including 4 different flavors of birch beer, root beer, and sarsaparilla, in addition to soda counter classics that would be at home at any Octoberfest. The trip down memory lane continues with Reading’s labels featuring old fashioned typeface and an iconic steam locomotive — a nod to the city’s historic railroad hub.
The classic sipper will feel like and old-time explorer when sipping Polar craft sodas originally made in 1882 by distiller Dennis Crowley as a complement to his whisky business. When prohibition swept the country and the whisky side of the business tanked, Polar’s effervescent beverages kept the company afloat. Happily, we can still enjoy classic flavors made with pure cane sugar like vanilla cream, root beer, and orange cream. The Polar Bear on the label lets you know cool refreshment is a mere sip away.
Always bubbly and bursting with childhood exuberance, playful soda drinkers are kids at heart. They don’t take themselves — or their soda choices — seriously. Funny product names, far-out flavors, whimsical labels with humorous images — or even better their favorite cartoon and videogame characters — are soda-lightful. We get all in a “fizzy” for such lighthearted brands like Jones Soda, Sprecher, Avery’s Soda and Boston America.
From quirky flavor names like Fufu Berry, Crushed Melon, and Berry Lemonade, to eccentric customer-submitted photographs, customers know from first sight Jones Soda promotes good vibes. Their bright color concoctions are paired with funny photos to create an Instagram-worthy presentation.
Sprecher brews up something special for spirited sippers. Using a unique fire-brewing process similar to the ones for their beers, Sprecher creates such signature flavors as Gorilla Grape, Puma Cola, Orange Dream, and Cherry-Cran. But what makes this craft soda a conversation starter is the package art (think old-world Germany meets children’s books on steroids). Daring drinkers delight at the thought of sipping a soda featuring a bold label with gorillas hanging on grape vines, cows sipping from oranges, or cardinals carrying sacks of cherries.
Then there are those playful soda fans dazzled by characters they see on the big screen — the TV and videogame kind. The on-screen debut butterflies and extra life feelings come the instant they lay eyes on Boston America’s fruit flavored, power-boosting energy drinks like the Simpson’s “Flaming Moe,” Rick and Morty’s Fleeb Juice and can art sporting iconic video games like MegaMan and Resident Evil.
For those special sippers looking to skip down memory lane just a bit further, we recommend Avery’s line of “Sodas-gusting” sodas. Flavor names like Bug Barf, Dog Drool, Kitty Piddle, and Unicorn Yack will have them snickering in your shop. No need to worry — they’re code names for unique, soda-licious fruity combinations like kiwi pineapple, orange lemon, orange pineapple, and raspberry orange cream. The childlike presentation is fully realized with labels sporting illustrations that look as if they’re lifted from children’s books.
A frequent participant in spicy food and gross candy challenges, the adventurous soda drinker wants something more from their beverage than simple refreshment. They’re seeking the extremely out-there flavors like those seen on a cooking challenge or “bizzare food” TV show. Dare your adventurous customers to sample such flavors as condiment favorites reimagined in fizzy form like Lester’s Fixins Pickle and Maple Syrup sodas or even Butter Soda. For the truly adventurous, challenge them to try non non-food flavors like Dirt and Grass.
Adventurous flavors appeal to a very specific palate, so it’s best to sell them individually as opposed to 4-packs or 6-packs.
Like the name implies, the Jet Setter soda fan loves to travel – even if it’s only with their taste buds. Longtime international brands that incorporate unique, country-specific flavors will be the talk of your soda section.
We’re partial to Sangaria Ramune sodas from Japan because they are an experience for all the senses. From the click of the marble stopper as it is pushed into the bottle, to the label featuring Japanese pop imagery, the Jet Setter will know they are in for an exotic experience. The original Ramune flavor is like a sparkling lemonade, but there are other flavors that will have your Jet Setter selection poppin’ like lychee, melon, and grape.
You don’t need a degree in FIZZ-iology to be knowledgeable in the different types of specialty sodas and the drinkers who covet them. No matter what type of soda fan visits your business, all specialty sodas are very photogenic, so they really lend themselves to promotion on your social media channels. Since consumers might be purchasing for a gathering of different soda fan types, consider adding a build your own 6-pack so they can sample different flavors.
Offering samples might not be in your plans at the moment, so consider other ways you can provide incentives to customers to try the different soda pops you offer. A frequent sipper card that provides a free soda or T-shirt for purchasing is a great option because it encourages customers to return for more flavors. It also creates an ideal opportunity for customers to brag about their soda knowledge (or conquests) on social media. With a better understanding of your customers’ sipping habits and potential promotional ideas your soda selection will be the leader of the pack.
To view our entire specialty soda selection