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A new type of craft store

A new type of craft store

While the craft soda market is a small one, it's poised for growth.

That's because both large and small manufacturers — as well as retailers themselves — are jumping on the craft soda bandwagon.

I’ve written numerous stories on the craft beer explosion. I’ve even covered the growing craft ice cream business. Now, I plan to look more closely at the craft carbonated soft drink industry.

What prompted me to research this beverage segment is Jungle Jim’s just-launched line of private label craft sodas.

The sodas mark the first private label beverage the Cincinnati retailer has launched. What makes them craft is that they are caffeine-free, made with real cane sugar (as opposed to high fructose corn syrup) and bottled in small batches to help ensure quality.

Available in 10 flavors — Root Beer, Diet Root Beer, Cream Soda, Black Cherry, Grape, Orange, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Strawberry and Ginger Beer — the drinks are packaged in 12-ounce glass bottles that sell individually for $1.29 each.

“Inspired by our huge craft soda section at our stores, we wanted to take a stab at creating some for ourselves, and we’re really pleased with the results,” a Jungle Jim’s spokesman told me.

Jungle Jim’s is not the only craft soda retailer. Straub’s Markets in St. Louis sells over 50 SKUs of root beer and other gourmet sodas made with cane sugar.

Even the big beverage companies are showing interest in the market. PepsiCo, for instance, has begun selling Caleb’s Kola, which is made with Fair Trade cane sugar, kola nuts from Africa, and exotic spices. The cola is named after Caleb Bradham, the inventor of Pepsi.

Caleb’s Kola joins artisanal soda from Appalachian Brewing Co, Jones Soda, Reed’s and other companies that are expanding their reach beyond the specialty segment and into the mainstream.

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