2011: You Gotta Start Somewhere, Right?
In March of 2011, Matt and Tiffany Rogers had an idea to launch a soda brand. Of course, they didn’t know exactly what they were doing or how to accomplish that goal. Undaunted, they brought on their friend, Shawn Clouse, and put together a mobile soda fountain so that they could start selling sodas at local events in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Our original soda fountain. Notice the lack of actual fountain here. We actually started out using old school soda siphons and pouring our syrups with mini measuring cups.
Day One syrup lineup. Yes, we’ve been making Root Beer #4 since the very beginning.
Our first ever photo shoot. As you can see, we have always taken ourselves very seriously.
Our original logo. Yes, it does look a bit like a hamburger.
From the very beginning, we have tried to always use the best ingredients that we have available. We picked up a half bushel of peaches from one of our local farmers at the Chattanooga Market in order to make Peaches ‘n Cream soda for the Peach Festival.
That one time when Alton Brown tried our sodas and loved them. He even tweeted about it the next day. That was pretty awesome.
2012 - 2013: Kickstarter, The Makery, and Bottling. Oh my!
The response to our soda idea was overwhelmingly positive to say the least. As our fanbase grew, so did our desire to create a product that people could take home and share with friends and family. We decided to turn to Kickstarter (a relatively new crowd-funding platform at the time) to assist with raising the necessary funds to outfit a facility and purchase bottling equipment.
Early label mock-ups that we used for promoting our Kickstarter campaign.
Success! We were one of the first Chattanooga companies to run a successful Kickstarter campaign. Thanks to our loyal, local fanbase, we were able to get the word out far and wide.
Our mythical bottling machine. It took an extra five months to arrive and, once here, it was missing parts and adequate instructions.
We originally didn’t plan on doing a cola-type of soda. Once we did, however, we knew it had to be something extra special. This is the first of about 20 different formulations in pursuit of that goal.
Here’s Tiffany enjoying our first ever bottle of Cafe Cola. She guzzled that thing.
Bottles and bottles and bottles of soda at our little storefront, The River Street Makery.
The next version of our logo. It looked a lot better without the hamburger buns.
Our first 10,000 labels were too thin to be run through our labeling machine. They sent us replacements at no charge, but we didn’t let that first run go to waste.
Our First Third Annual Pure Sodaworks and Taqueria Jalisco Tacolympics was an intimate affair. We had about a dozen people in the crowd and maybe five total participants. (This crazy foodie competition has since grown to become one of the main events at Chattanooga’s MainX24 Festival!)
2014 - 2015: Today, Chattanooga. Tomorrow ... THE WORLD! Or so we thought.
After spending two years on Chattanooga’s North Shore, we decided to make a move across town and focus on growth and distribution. Over the course of the next three years, we saw our sodas go all over the United States. At the same time, we were winning awards and getting recognition from some big names.
That time we were featured in Garden & Gun Magazine as one of the best beverages made in the South.
From the very start, we have bootstrapped Pure Sodaworks. No big investors. No huge commercial accounts. Just good, old-fashioned nose-to-the-grindstone work. The Chattanooga Startup Awards honored that work in 2014 when we recieved their Bootstrapper Award.
Once upon a time, the Editor-in-Chief for Food & Wine Magazine, Dana Cowin, included our Cafe Cola in her “Dream Concession Stand” line-up for watching the Oscars.
It only took us three years to get around to having our own box made. Up until then, we had been able to use various boxes for discontinued products. It sometimes made things confusing for customers, but we saved money along the way.
Shawn and Baris (our first employee) standing in behind the last pallet produced for our initial production run for Nashville.
Sometimes we need reinforcements to get huge orders ready for delivery. (Luckily, we have fantastic friends!)
We were very honored to be included in a gift set for the Southern Foodways Alliance’s annual conference at Blackberry Farm.
Our first shipment of soda to our Illinois distributor. Because of their network of sub-distributors, our sodas made their way all over the United States… from Mississippi, to Maryland, to Oklahoma, to Nebraska.
Our partnership with Clumpies Ice Cream was a match made in Sweet Treat Heaven. They put our original fountain to excellent use… making delicious sodas and floats using their amazing, locally-handcrafted ice cream!
Soda Drinker Pro is a hilarious video game with a real-life product tie-in that we were contracted to produce. The custom “Bonus Soda” had its debut at Penny Arcade Expo East in Boston, Massachusetts. Download the game here!
And here’s the feature in The Boston Globe about the big debut of Bonus Soda!
Our first big win at Homer Soda Fest! Thanks to the countless taste-testers who tried and loved our Apple Pie Soda, it was awarded the Silver Medal in the 2015 People’s Choice competition!
2016: It's a Major Award ... and a Major Change.
Throughout the first half of 2016, we continued promoting the Pure Sodaworks brand and our sodas, reaching as far and wide as we could. This culminated when we swept the awards at the 2016 Homer Soda Fest, winning both Best in Show and Best of Fest with our Apple Pie Soda… what a thrill! Needless to say, our team was riding high and feeling great about our future at that point.
However, the latter half of 2016 arrived with some major, unforeseen setbacks. First, our local supplier for glass moved away from our city. That change greatly impacted the minimum amount that we were required to purchase in order to make shipping costs worthwhile. Second, our bottling machine, which was actually built to bottle beer rather than soda (which, unfortunately for us in this case, has a much higher carbonation level than beer) started showing just how poorly suited it was for soda manufacturing. We knew right then that our current method of production was no longer sustainable.
That humbling one-two punch prompted us to take a step back and re-evaluate our product, our production methods, our costs, our pricing, our growth, our reach… basically every single aspect of the business. What we determined was that we needed to make some major changes in order to continue providing quality sodas to our loyal, ever-encouraging, soda-loving fans. It was time for a reboot.
2017: Learning Lessons. Looking Ahead. Moving Forward.
After 2016, we knew that we needed to change things in order to maintain the high quality of our product. At the beginning of 2017, we went through and addressed three main areas in order to improve both our product and our business.
First, a New Bottle
When we started bottling our sodas, we felt that the standard long neck soda bottle was the best fit. We didn’t seriously consider any other options. By early 2017, however, we were ready to revisit the question of our bottle. Could we make the package better? More appealing? More special?
The answer that we landed on was to create a soda that can be shared with friends and enjoyed over time. We wanted to celebrate the nostalgia of soda while also making something beautiful and delicious. Hence, our amazing Italian-made, vintage-inspired swing top glass bottles.
These bottles hold a full liter of soda, so there’s plenty to go around. The swing top seal not only keeps the soda fresher for longer, but it is easy to close and save for later.
So, we had our new bottle.
Next, Updated Branding
Other than the name “Pure Sodaworks”, our actual brand image has been in a constant state of refinement since the beginning. While we like our previous logo, we wanted something that was a bit more iconic and hearkened back to a by-gone era. Something that would match the new look and feel of our bottle.
Our new branding utilizes fonts that were specially designed to be reminiscent of mid-century signage while the layout maintains the feel of our previous branding. In addition, the circular design is a play off of product brands from the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
Finally, New Flavors
While we all absolutely love Hibiscus Lemon and Honey Lime, they were always a bit problematic in the bottle. The natural red color of the hibiscus flowers, while beautifully striking at first, had a tendency to fade over time. Also, the price of honey made it difficult to justify our Honey Lime soda.
And so we have introduced two new favorites: Sweet Orange and Rosemary Lemonade. Both flavors are time-tested favorites from our mobile soda fountain. And both of them are bright, crisp, and refreshing on hot summer days.