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Soda buying strategies

Get with the program and diversify your offerings.

Take your cue from Coke and Pepsi—diversify your offerings. Until recently, soft drinks were synonymous with soda or pop—that is, sweet, fizzy drinks. Lately, however, consumption of carbonated soft drinks, CSDs as they’re called, is slumping. So the big companies are expanding their portfolios to include all sorts of non-alcoholic beverages, from sparkling juices and iced teas to flavored waters and energy drinks. Pepsi-Cola, for example, just introduced Tava, a zero-calorie sparkling beverage with vitamins E, B6, niacin and chromium. It’s calorie- and caffeine-free and available in Mediterranean Fiesta, a black cherry citrus; Tahitian Tamure, a tropical berry blend; and Brazilian Samba, a mix of passionfruit, pineapple and lime. All come in 16.9-ounce PET bottles and 12-ounce cans.

But you don’t necessarily have to add another reach-in or bottle cooler to add variety. Coca-Cola Foodservice has debuted the Bevariety drop-in dispenser—a piece of equipment that can greatly expand your fountain offerings. Coke’s new product is a proprietary eight-valve dispenser that expands to 12 brands with flavor shot capability by adding the six-brand Bevariety Station. With the new module, you can dispense up to 50 different drink options.

Another trend is the development of a seemingly new category—the hybrid of iced tea and CSDs or “tea sodas.” A number of these new fizzy teas have entered the market: Zota Green Tea Soda, Cricket Green Tea Cola, Hansen’s Natural Green Tea Soda, Blue Sky Tea Soda and Steaz Sparkling Green Tea.

Some soft drink companies have taken a different tack.

Airforce Nutrisodas, for example, are packed with vitamins and minerals; each variety aims to fill some functional benefit: Flex, Radiant, Calm, Immune, Renew, Focus and Slender are some of the Airforce selections. For its part, Boylan Bottling Co. goes back in time; old-fashioned flavors include Orange Creme, Grape and Birch Beer.

Taking a grown-up approach to soft drinks is GuS; its sodas are 100 percent natural, not too sweet and come in sophisticated flavors like Meyer Lemon and Cranberry Lime. Jones Sodas emphasize that they are made with 100 percent cane sugar (instead of high fructose corn syrup) and boast zany flavors such as Bubblegum Blue, Eggnog, Jelly Donut, Candy Corn, Latke and Christmas Ham.
But, for a really offbeat sparkler, try offering kombucha. This Chinese tea concoction is fermented with yeast and bacteria, giving the drink a slight effervescence. Usually mixed with fruit juices, kombucha is now available in RTD form. Look for Wonder Drink Sparkling Kombucha and GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha.

Wine sodas?

Wine lovers who are avoiding alcohol, for whatever reason, can now enjoy a Vignette Wine Country Soda with lunch or dinner. These artisanal beverages are made with premium California vinifera varietals—pinot noir and chardonnay. New to the lineup is a rosé version. The lightly carbonated sodas are sweetened only with the natural juice of the grapes. Much like wine, the soft drinks can be paired with foods, says the company.

The Berkeley, California-based company supplies its Vignette Wine Country Sodas to several top-end restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area, including Indigo, La Toque, Garibaldi’s on Presidio, Gregoire’s, ’wichcraft SF and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery.

“It’s the only soda we sell,” says Justin Sconce, chef/owner of Digs Bistro in Berkeley, who contends that he didn’t want to carry any of the major soft drink brands. “The Vignette Sodas keep to our theme. We have a decent wine list and it kind of matches it.”

The sodas also fit with Digs’ emphasis on local products. The 12-ounce, single-serve bottles are priced $4. “It’s a good non-alcoholic option,” says Sconce, “not too sweet and not too carbonated.”


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