Fast Company

How Spindrift Makes Natural Sodas Without High Fructose Corn Syrup (It's Harder Than You Think)

Sugary drinks are a real problem, but alternatives are hard to make.

All those anti-soda PSAs and softdrink bans have given an opening to smaller, specialty sodas such as Jones's and Boylan's, but most of those are still made with sweetened syrups. Bill Creelman aimed higher: soda that lives up to the FDA's strict labeling requirements for "fresh," without superheated concentrates or syrups. His Spindrift Soda is just fresh-squeezed fruit juice, cane sugar, and carbonated water. It sells for $2.50 per 12-ounce bottle, the tally of costs incurred because America's soda-production system isn't set up to be juice-friendy.

Step 1

Find the freshness

It took nearly a year for Creelman to figure out how to flavor the soda--mostly hunting down places whose nectar qualifies as FDA-certified fresh. "There are plenty of people who make fresh-squeezed juice on a small scale," says Creelman. "But it was next to impossible to find anyone who sold it on a commercial scale." He stitched together four suppliers, including one that ships weekly from India.

Step 2

Look for cold storage

Many facilities can brew a new soda, but few have the on-site refrigeration that Creelman's fresh juice needed. (And why would they? Concentrates in most sodas can stay at room temperature for months.) It took him weeks to find a facility with a big fridge--and then he lost the contract after the first batch, when gobs of pulpy fruit stalled production lines.

Step 3

Recruit mixing manpower

At a new facility in central Massachusetts, Creelman honed production. Then he discovered another problem: Temperature-sensitive juices can't sit out in vats the way syrups can. They have to be delivered in one-gallon plastic jugs, stored properly, and then opened at the last minute to be added and mixed by hand. That means a lot of costly manpower goes into every batch.

Step 4

Send with the fish

Bottles were tough to send to stores because most soda distributors don't ship cold. (Again, why would they? Normal soda easily ships warm, and big juice companies have their own trucks.) So Creelman found distributors of fish, produce, and cheese willing to take his bottles to more than 200 retailers. "Without exception, our distributors have no prior experience with beverages," says Creelman.

Step 5

Follow the trail

Some shops aren't used to ordering soda through a fish distributor, so Creelman has to travel and explain the process in person. This was initially a hassle, but Creelman now feels fortunate: Unlike typical biweekly beverage distribution, fresh distributors deliver daily, allowing them to quickly spot and respond to problems. "The fresh distributors are the key to our success," says Creelman.

Illustration by McKibillo

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5 Comments

  • RAM D INOCENCIO

    I  STARTED  MAKING  AN ENERGY DRINK LATELY   AND  SO  FAR  BIGGEST  PROBLEM I HAVE IS  DISTRIBUTION,  FINDING   HOW TO  PUT MY ENERGY DRINK ON  SELVES..  MAKING THE  DRINKS IS EZ  INFACT   I GET HELP  FROM  SWEETENER  COMPANY  THAT  GAVE  ME 100GRAMS  OF SWEETENER  THAT EQUAL  TO ABOUT  20000 GRAM  OF  SUGAR  ..BUT  SELLING MY PRODUCT IS MY MAI PROBLEM   

  • Michael Je

     I stopped drinking sugared tea - Sobe - etc years ago after I realized that one bottle (2 servings) had up to 300 calories! and switched to water, unsweetened tea or coffee. 

    Sugary sodas are mostly off the menu for me, though some exceptions exist: ginger ale (I add fresh squeezed ginger juice using a garlic press on root slices) and orange soda with pizza - which I cannot resist.  Otherwise sugary sodas are equivalent to dessert and I'd much rather save my calories for something much more decadent like dark chocolate or some ice cream or gelatto or cake. For fizzy drinks I like the the flavored seltzer waters or carbonated spring water with lemon or lime, some of which come in 12 oz cans. Nice served cold on a hot day. 

    But my favorite is water.  10 stage filtered from the tap, imported from around the globe for special occasion dinners (not very green and an admitted, infrequent indulgence).  I  have been surprised at the differences in taste and texture and it is very cool to be drinking water from the New Zealand rain forest or iceberg fed springs or even the various spring waters from the U.S. 

    Water is the essential element and is my first choice of beverage and it is precious. 

    The sugary caffeine drink industry in interested in creating repeat customers and are not beyond using addictive ingredients to ensure this end, regardless and without concern for the health of their customers - that is none of their business - that is our responsibility.

    BTW this product has a pretty big green footprint, as well, and it is expensive.  If you want fruit frizzy drinks you might be better investing in a home carbonation machine which will take fresh juices of all kinds and make soda out of them.

  • Dan Redmond

    After decades of soda, diet soda, and such, minor health issues started to appear.  After some research it turns out that not only is fructose, but also aspartame are really not good for you. I switched to Stevia added to sparkling water several months ago. While a minor hassle (eye dropper for Stevia) things seem to be trending better. Highly recommend if you have concerns. Stevia is starting to show up in major grocery stores.

  • Reggie Corpus

    It is important to know your ingredients of your beverages and food. Labeling requirements must be met, labeling mistakes result in more than 22% of all detentions in the United States.To Learn more about beverage content and ingredients visit http://www.registrarcorp.com/.

  • John Weaver MD

    Main
    sources of fructose are from HFCS (55% by dry weight), sucrose (50% by dry
    weight) fruit juice and part of fruit we eat (about 40-50% by dry weight).  It is all digested to molecules before
    entering the blood stream.  A fructose
    molecule is not bad, but its metabolism is toxic whether fructose comes
    from HFCS, sucrose, fruit juice, fruit or pure fructose from a health food
    store.  Moderation is probably less than
    what is in one medium apple per day (10grams per dry weight).

    But
    why not listen to a UCSF professor of pediatric endocrinology and MIT grad that
    treats obese children. 

    http://ttv.mit.edu/videos/1314...

    The
    best information and references to why dietary fructose and hyperglycemia is
    adverse is...  ..
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm...

    Fructose
    is only a sweet little molecule, but it has ruined our health and economy.  To reverse this we must do three things.  One, limit fructose to amount found in one
    medium apple a day. Two, insist that fructose per serving be on food labels.  Three, refuse to buy drinks, treats, juices
    and processed foods until fructose is removed.