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sofi Finalists for Best New Product 2014 Announced

Crunchy capers from Sicily, lentil rice crispbread from East Hampton, New York, and grapefruit lilac water from Westfield, Mass., have made the finalist list for the Specialty Food Association’s sofi Award for Outstanding New Product of 2014.

In all, there were 459 entries for the New Product award. A national panel of specialty food professionals tasted and evaluated each one last week to come up with 11 finalists for this coveted industry award. The judges also selected six finalists for Outstanding Product Line, which honors a company’s full menu of products.

A sofi represents the best of the best of what the Association’s brand, Specialty Food Craft. Care. Joy. represents to the food community, top-quality specialty food. “sofi” stands for Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation.

See the finalist list.

The contenders will go on to the last round of judging at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York. Winners will be announced June 30, 2014, at a red-carpet ceremony at the show to be hosted by Dominique Ansel, the award-winning pastry chef.

“The specialty food industry is thriving, and the entries, whether aged goat cheese, sweet and spicy confections, or hand-crafted charcuterie, showed the passion and creativity food manufacturers are bringing to their craft,” says Association President Ann Daw. “The finalists stood out the most in a very crowded field.”

The awards are open to members of the Specialty Food Association, a not-for-profit trade association for food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs. “sofi” stands for Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation. The sofi Awards have 32 categories in total. This year, Association members submitted a record 2,737 entries to the contest.

Judges included top buyers from Fresh Direct, Whole Foods Market, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, Mollie Stone’s Market, DeLaurenti’s Specialty Food & Wine, Kroger, Bristol Farms, Sickles Market, Artisanal Premium Cheese, Chelsea Market Baskets and Caviar & Bananas. The panel also included a food historian, executive chefs from Loi restaurant and Grand Central Oyster Bar, and journalists from Food & Wine, MarketWatch/The Wall Street Journal, Edible Manhattan, Women’s Health, and Cooking Stoned. Part 1 of the competition, judged last month, covered 30 categories from Outstanding Appetizer to Outstanding Vinegar.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the judging, including photos, stats, and trends, view Specialty Food News’ live blog coverage.

New Dried Fruit Products from Stoneridge Orchards

­ Stoneridge Orchards, dried fruit experts and the consumer brand of Royal Ridge Fruits,offers a wide variety of new products, ranging from dried fruits lightly dipped in rich, premium dark chocolate or smooth and creamy Greek yogurt, to the company’s signature Montmorency tart cherries exclusively flavored with all-natural Tajin®, the number one seasoning blend sold in the U.S. and Mexico. The company also is making available its new sliced peaches, as well as a new snack size of its dried Montmorency tart cherries, the company’s most popular dried fruit product.

“We’ve been growing cherries, berries and tree-fruit on our family farms for three generations and have perfected our fruit selection, harvesting and drying process to create wholesome and nutritious all-natural dried fruit products that are great on their own or as an ingredient in many fantastic recipes,” said Bryce Dorsing, Senior Vice President of Royal Ridge Fruits. “Our newest products further demonstrate our commitment to bringing excitement to the dried fruit category by developing and introducing innovative new consumer-focused products that are unlike any other available.”

The Dorsing family has operated their family farms ­ growing cherries, raspberries, blueberries and other fruits ­ in Washington State since 1962, when the family patriarch was awarded a small plot of farmland in a modern homesteading act. The farm has grown to become the largest producer of Montmorency tart cherries on the West Coast. The Dorsing family began freezing when Royal Ridge was formed in 2000 and added drying capabilities in 2006, with a substantial expansion in plant and installation of new state-of-the-art equipment in 2014. The family’s company, Royal Ridge Fruits, launched the Stoneridge Orchards brand in 2010.

“We are excited to launch our new six-SKU Stoneridge Orchards line of all-natural whole dried Montmorency tart cherries, blueberries and cranberries lightly dipped in either decadent premium dark chocolate or smooth and creamy Greek yogurt. These items are the perfect snack, a sweet finish to a satisfying meal, or delicious party treat,” adds Dorsing.

All of the Stoneridge Orchards dipped products are made with whole, all-natural fruits –­ not a mixture of fruit juice and pectin –­ and they contain no artificial colors, flavors, hydrogenated oils or sulfites. They also are Kosher-Dairy certified. Each of the six varieties comes in a five-ounce re-sealable bag with a suggested retail price of $3.99.

In addition, the following all-natural dried fruit products are now available:

  • Chili Lime Cherries with Tajin ­ Stoneridge Orchards created this entirely unique and surprising product by flavoring its whole, all-natural dried Montmorency tart cherries with just the right amount of all-natural Tajin chili lime seasoning. The result is unlike any other product on the market. Tajin is made from only three ingredients (premium chilies, dehydrated lime juice and sea salt) and is the number one seasoning blend sold in the U.S. and Mexico. These Chili Lime Cherries are an exhilarating, perfectly-balanced slightly zesty and slightly sweet snack experience. Available in a five-ounce re-sealable bag with a suggested retail price of $3.99.
  • Montmorency Cherry Snack Packs ­ Due to demand from retailers and consumers alike, Stoneridge Orchards has taken the company’s most popular product and packaged it in a new one-ounce snack pack size. Stoneridge Orchards grows its own Montmorency tart cherries on its third-generation, family-owned farm in Washington state, and then dries them in its own state-of-the-art processing plant. They contain no preservatives, sulfites or high fructose corn syrup. Montmorency tart cherries also are high in antioxidants and are great on their own or as part of a favorite recipe. The one-ounce snack packs have a suggested retail price of $1.29 each, or $4.99 for a five-count multi-pack.
  • Sliced Peaches ­ Stoneridge Orchards selects the finest tree-ripened summer peaches at the peak of juiciness and sweetness and then dries them to preserve their natural goodness and flavor. They then slice the peaches into wedges, as opposed to rings, providing a heartier eating experience for the consumer. The Sliced Peaches come in a four-ounce re-sealable bag with a suggested retail price of $4.99.

All of the new Stoneridge Orchards all-natural dried fruit products are available now to retailers nationwide. Each comes in a case of six or in eye-catching 48-count display shippers, with the exception of the Montmorency Cherry Snack Packs. Those are available in five-count multi-packs, attractive 24-count countertop dispensers and 80-count bulk packs.

To inquire about carrying the products, you may contact the sales team at (855) 300-3199 or sales@stoneridgeorchards.com. For more information on Stoneridge Orchards, please visit www.stoneridgeorchards.com/stoneridge-orchards.

Nicky Farms Game and Specialty Meats Now Offered in New Seasons Markets

Nicky USA’s line of specialty meat and high quality game is now available at New Season’s Market under the “Nicky Farms” label. Elk, venison, locally raised rabbit, wild boar, goat, buffalo and a variety of game birds will now be available at all 13 New Seasons locations.

Since 1990 Nicky USA’s game and specialty meats have been featured at the best restaurants in the Northwest. With expanded distribution to New Season’s Market, home cooks will now have access to their unique offerings.

“Consumers are becoming more adventurous in their home kitchens,” says Nicky USA President Geoff Latham. “They want more than beef, chicken and pork, and we are growing to meet those demands.”

Game has historically been a mainstay of the American diet, and Nicky USA is excited to put game back on the center of the plate. Nicky USA has long worked to educate the public about its specialty meats through its annual culinary event, Wild About Game, and via its farm in Aurora, Ore., where the company currently raises rabbits, quail and goats for the Nicky Farms line.

Nicky Farms game birds and meats can be found in a variety of cuts in the freezer section, or behind the meat counter at New Seasons markets. The full line of offerings includes: rabbit, poussin, game hen, quail, Muscovy duck, pekin duck, venison, elk, wild boar, goat, and buffalo.

About Nicky USA

Founded in 1990, Nicky USA is the Northwest’s leading butcher and distributor of game birds and meats. The Portland-based company has forged relationships with local and international ranchers, as well as James Beard Award-winning chefs in an effort to make game a mainstay of specialty markets and fine restaurants. Nicky USA offers a specialty line of products called Nicky Farms, featuring Northwest raised rabbit, quail, elk, fallow venison, water buffalo, emu and American bison. With the recent purchase of a 30.9-acre farm in Aurora, Ore, owner Geoff Latham is now able to raise game for Nicky USA, host friends and customers, and guide hunts. Aside from selling meat and wild game, Nicky USA hosts Wild About Game – this year on September 7, 2014 – an annual Iron Chef-style cooking competition and festival promoting sustainably raised game birds and meats. Nicky USA recently opened a second location in Seattle, and orders can be made through nickyusa.com or by calling 1.800.469.4162. For more information, call Nicky USA at 503-234-4263 or visit www.nickyusa.com. Follow NickyUSA on Twitter and Facebook.

New Hope Natural Media’s NEXT Trend Wins Two Gold Hermes Creative Awards

 New Hope Natural Media‘s online data and insight solution, NEXT Trend, has won two gold awards in the Hermes Creative Awards Competition.  The NEXT Trend website (www.nexttrend.com) and its companion video were recognized for excellence in the “Website Overall/Business to Business” and “Website Element/Video for the Web” categories.  The Hermes Creative Awards, sponsored, produced and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, is an international competition for creative professionals involved in the concept, writing and design of traditional programs, and emerging technologies.

“We are proud to receive recognition in the Hermes Awards for our website and video,” said Bill Tuohig, Vice President and Product Leader, New Hope Natural Media’s NEXT Trend.  “These awards are a tribute to the hard work of our team and are in recognition of our innovative approach to bringing new data and insights solutions to the natural products industry.”

NEXT Trend provides proprietary pre-shelf product data for the natural and healthy living market, future trend predictions and insights, a predictive consumer segmentation, custom research and extensive industry expertise that helps enterprise level companies quickly recognize and act on emerging, high-growth market opportunities.

NEXT Trend assists consumer food and beverage companies, retailers, suppliers and investment firms identify key market drivers; predict which pre-shelf products and ingredients are poised for widespread adoption; develop targeted, localized go-to-market strategies, and minimize risk and accelerate speed to market with a fast, affordable, early product concept filter.

NEXT Trend’s exclusive pre-shelf data includes 30+ top trends, 50,000+ products, 1,500+ ingredients and attributes, and 1,000+ product categories.

New Hope Natural Media’s Predictive Consumer Segmentation is also overlaid within NEXT Trend to help brands and retailers identify and target consumers who are most likely to be early adopters of natural products and corresponding high success potential regions in the United States.  Five key consumer segments differentiated by early adoption, lifestyles, behaviors and beliefs toward health and wellness were created from the research, redefining traditional market segmentation.  The segmentation allows companies to effectively target interested, passionate consumers and provides them with concepts and marketing strategies to optimize product innovation.

In addition, NEXT Trend provides a dynamic Product Concept Lab within the Predictive Consumer Segmentation, which allows product innovators to test new product concepts early in the new product development cycle.  This early, fast product filter allows innovators to focus on high potential product concepts, which saves time and money and decreases new product development cycle times. A wide variety of blue chip consumer packaged goods companies – TwinLab, MetaBrand, Lundberg Family Farms, General Mills Small Planet Foods, Clorox, Kellogg’s Kashi, Quinoa Corporation, and PepsiCO – are among those using the online data and insight solution to gain a competitive edge when bringing natural products to market.

Last month, NEXT Trend won a 2014 Internet Advertising Competition Award in the “Outstanding Website – Consumer Goods Industry” category.

To learn more or see NEXT Trend in action, visit www.nexttrend.com.

News America Marketing and Thinaire Deliver engaging Shopping Experience with Bertolli Olive Oil

Consumers will taste-test the best of what Bertolli Olive Oil has to offer in the form of mobile content, featuring mouthwatering recipes and bite-size videos starring Chef Fabio Viviani. Building on the success of their first mobile marketing campaign partnership that utilized SmartSource with NFC, News America Marketing and Thinaire are helping Bertolli once again serve rich interactive content directly to consumers in the shopping aisle.

As shoppers visit the olive oil aisle, a tap of their NFC-enabled mobile devices to specially tagged SmartSource ShelfTalk signs will instantly bring them to “This Week’s Recipe” from Bertolli. The recipe includes a shopping list that details all the necessary ingredients for a delicious meal so everything can be purchased during a single store visit. Additional content includes videos starring Chef Viviani which range from how to prepare this week’s recipe to an educational “Olive Oil 101,” discussing specific uses for Bertolli Extra Virgin, Classico and Extra Light blends.

“Mobile marketing allows us to engage with shoppers on-the-go by helping them plan their next meal directly at the point-of-purchase,” said Maggie Rogers, Brand Director, Bertolli Olive Oil.  “We’re looking forward to continuing our collaboration with News America Marketing and Thinaire to create additional campaigns that simplify and streamline the consumer’s shopping experience while incorporating an element of entertainment.”

“SmartSource with NFC is helping brands like Bertolli capture consumer imaginations while delivering information,” said Mark Goodstadt, CEO of Thinaire. “In addition to offering rich content, campaigns like this help brands like Bertolli analyze point-of-purchase information to better understand the ongoing evolution of shopper behavior.”

“Seeing a leading brand like Bertolli add a mobile element to its marketing strategy is a testament to the results mobile marketing engagement can deliver,” said Marty Garofalo, President, News America Marketing.  “These types of on-the-go messages bring together brands and consumers wherever they are, personalizing the shopping experience and delivering a meaningful connection.”

Tortuga Rum Cake Company Names National Sales Manager

Robert D. Ward has been named National Sales Manager for the Tortuga Rum Cake Company, responsible for handling sales to national accounts, grocery, distributors and brokers throughout North America. Previously, Ward was Director of Sales for ShureTech Brands, a consumer products company. Prior to that, he was the Director of National Accounts with Morton Salt in Chicago, Illinois. He began his career with Morton Salt as an account executive and worked for the company for 21 years in progressively responsible positions. He graduated from the University of Memphis with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. “Robert brings a wealth of experience in the food and consumer goods industry with an extensive background in working with many of America’s major retailers,” says Monique Hamaty-Simmonds, Tortuga’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We welcome his passion for brand building and know he will be an excellent asset for our growth plans in North America.” The Tortuga brand is well-known by the more than 20 million annual Caribbean tourists and cruise ship passengers. Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cakes are the world’s #1 selling rum cake and named the 2014 “Best Cruise Souvenir” by Porthole Cruise Magazine for 10 consecutive years. Tortuga products are sold in gift and specialty food departments and gourmet stores throughout the Caribbean and North America and in onboard gift shops of nearly 100 cruise ships. Founded in the Cayman Islands in 1984 as the Tortuga Rum Company, Ltd., Tortuga International is part of Jamaica Producers Group of companies and has bakeries and operations in Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas. The company’s Miami, Florida subsidiary, known as the Tortuga Rum Cake Company, handles sales, marketing and worldwide distribution. See www.tortugarumcakes.com or call toll free 1-877- 486-7884.

HannahMax Baking to Open Second Manufacturing Facility

HannahMax Baking will open a second state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, dedicated solely to the production of Cookie Chips. Expected to be fully operational by mid-summer 2014, the new building, located in Los Angeles, boasts top of the line mixing and baking equipment, including three 120 foot tunnel ovens and a custom-made packaging machine to rapid fill the incredibly popular 2-ounce bags. This new facility will give HannahMax the capacity to make 630 million cookies annually and the ability to meet the growing demand for Cookie Chips throughout the United States and internationally.
Construction of the new facility began in October 2013. HannahMax will maintain production of its perishable bakery items, as well as over-flow Cookie Chip production at the original manufacturing facility, which opened in Gardena, Calif. in October 2005.
“We’ve been honored to add multiple national retail partners for Cookie Chips this year and we want to be able to provide them with the same quality service we gave our vendors when we were in our infancy,” explains Joanne Adirim, Creator of Cookie Chips and Founder/Pastry Chef at HannahMax Baking. “We are confident this addition will allow us to meet the growing demand for our product head on.”
Cookie Chips launched in the summer of 2012 to rave reviews from consumers nationally. New retail partners, expansion into international markets, additional sizes and flavors have all created the need for increased production capabilities, which the new facility will provide.

 

Haute up the Barbecue with Premium Meats

A cookout doesn’t really need much to make it a great time – some primal instinct reacts to the aroma and flavor of charcoal grilling and suddenly everything tastes good.   But to truly elevate the experience D’Artagnan, the nation’s leading purveyor of all-natural and organic poultry and game, free-range and antibiotic- and hormone-free meats, recommends trading up in quality with premium meats for the ultimate backyard fete.

  • wagyu burgersKobe-Style Wagyu Beef Patties ($11.99/two patties / 8 ounces each) Made with 100 percent Kobe beef, these patties owe their incomparably buttery texture and exquisite flavor to high marbling and the perfect lean/fat ratio of  80/20. Once you’ve taken this step up it will be hard to take a step back.
  • buffalo burgerBuffalo Burgers ($10.99 / 8 ounces) Sweeter, richer and leaner than beef, pork, turkey and even chicken, buffalo burgers are deeply flavorful. A source of great protein, iron and other nutrients, buffalo makes for a tasty, good-for-you burger alternative.
  • beef hot dogUncured Beef and Duck Hot Dogs ($6.99 & $9.99/ 8 ounces) Hot dogs become “haute dogs” when they are 100 percent natural, made without artificial flavors or other ingredients, and contain no nitrates, nitrites or preservatives.  D’Artagnan’s Uncured Duck Hot Dogs are made with flavorful Pekin duck meat and provide a dog with flair for the true foodie.  The Uncured Beef Hot Dogs are reassuringly natural and high quality, containing none of the “mystery ingredients” that have given ordinary dogs a bad name.
  • buffalo ribeyeBuffalo Ribeye Steak ($21.99/8 ounces) These steaks are slightly sweet, lean, dense and a bit gamey for a satisfying taste.  100 percent pasture-raised buffalo with access to grain and hay and no hormones or antibiotics.  The steaks are also gluten-free, high in protein, lower in fat cholesterol and calories compared to beef.

 

34 Degrees Hires Two Execs and Promotes Another to Direct Growth

Steve Wangler

Steve Wangler

34 Degrees, a Denver-based maker of all-natural, wafer-thin crackers, announced today continued growth of its team with the hiring of Steve Wangler as Vice President of Sales and Phillip Coplen as Director of Finance, and the promotion of Jennifer Margoles to Executive Vice President. Margoles formerly held the title of General Manager and will lead strategic planning and brand development initiatives while continuing to be responsible for marketing and communications, as well as day-to-day business operations. Wangler will set and execute the national sales strategy and lead 34 Degrees’ regional sales team. Coplen will direct the financial and operational activities of the burgeoning business.

Jennifer Margoles

Jennifer Margoles

“We’ve grown so much in the past five years and have remained nimble, managing it all with just six dedicated team members. However, we’re at the point where our team needs to grow to enable us to expand distribution and launch new products,” said 34 Degrees Founder Craig Lieberman. “The addition of Phillip is crucial when it comes to managing the financial growth of 34 Degrees, and Steve is the ideal leader to thoroughly develop our brand’s presence throughout North America. Combine these new hires with Jennifer’s well-deserved promotion after seven years of inspired work, her experience in the industry and significant history with the business and brand, and I believe we’re in a fantastic position to take 34 Degrees to a new level.”

Margoles joined 34 Degrees in 2007 when the company was just getting started. She was instrumental in transitioning the business from a specialty foods importer to a producer of deli crackers in Colorado. Prior to her work with 34 Degrees she sharpened her skills and passion for excellence in customer service and teamwork through positions with Marriott International and software start-up Adventure Central.

Wangler comes to 34 Degrees with a more than 20-year pedigree in sales and sales management including work with Pepsico, Kraft, and MillerCoors. He excels in building and sustaining extremely high-achieving sales teams, while also managing his own national sales accounts. Most recently Wangler was Vice President of Sales with Spins – a leader in consumer insights, reporting, analytics and business consulting services in the natural, organic and specialty food industry.

Phillip Coplen

Phillip Coplen

Prior to joining 34 Degrees, Coplen served as a manager with NOW CFO, a boutique consulting firm providing accounting, consulting and outsourced CFO services to mid-sized businesses. While there, he worked with companies in a variety of industries including insurance, floral wholesaling and home mortgaging. Coplen also worked for six years as a manager in audit and enterprise risk services for Deloitte & Touche.

The ability to add two new team members and promote another in 2014 is a direct result of 34 Degrees’ recent growth – more than doubling in size over the past five years. The company attributes its steady growth to securing multiple partnerships with large, national grocers, as well as the versatility and uniqueness of its all-natural crisps.

Growing Craft Soda Market Giving Adults a Nostalgic New Way to Treat Themselves this Summer

 

 

By Lucas Witman

 

Few adults are without fond childhood memories of summertime soda pops and icy cold root beer floats. Even all grown up, it is difficult to imagine enjoying a plate of barbecue without a frosty soft drink on the side. And when hosting a group of adults, it is likely that soda is finding its way into some of your favorite summertime cocktails. Yet, despite the ubiquity of bubbly beverages, soft drinks are undoubtedly a guilty pleasure—something to be splurged on and perhaps regretted later. Craft soda companies are attempting to change this, however, introducing gourmet sparkling beverages to U.S. consumers that offer tastier, more wholesome alternatives to the grocery store 12-pack staples.

When it comes to today’s soda marketplace, more and more companies are reaching out to adult consumers with products and flavors specifically designed to appeal to their unique grown-up palates. “I think palates are changing, and people want better solutions,” said Carleton Johnson, founder of Joia All Natural Soda. “I think all of us have been trained now by Starbucks and these premium coffee houses to expect something better with more taste and more complexity.”

“We’re not diet. We’re not positioned as ‘zero’ in any way,” said Steve Hersh, President of GuS Grown-Up Soda. “We’re really more about taste. The less sweet taste is designed to appeal to a grown-up who’s outgrown Nehi or Hawaiian Punch.”

There are a number of ways that companies like Joia and GuS are designing sodas that appeal especially to adults. Perhaps the most significant change that gourmet soda companies are introducing to their products to make them more attractive to this demographic is making them slightly less sweet. GuS’ recipes involve 40 percent less sugar and calories than what goes into a traditional soda, and Joia sodas contain as little as 15 grams of sugar per serving, compared to 40 or more in mainstream sodas.

CraftSoda1-GWIn addition to creating slightly drier beverages, gourmet soda companies are also endeavoring to make their products with more natural ingredients. “High-fructose corn syrup, high sugar and full-calorie beverages and even diet sodas are on the downslide, but people still like bubbles, especially during dining occasions,” said Hersh. “I don’t think people are saying that carbonation is bad. It’s just the ingredients in mainstream sodas that are the no-no.” For this reason, GuS chooses to eschew artificial ingredients in its products, flavoring its sodas with real juice, natural extracts and pure cane sugar.

One craft soda company that has broken new ground in producing a beverage made entirely from the natural ingredients so popular among 21st century American consumers is Spindrift. All Spindrift sodas and seltzers are made with fresh, raw, unpasteurized juice combined with sparkling water and cane sugar. “There’s a lot of natural sodas out there, but what we learned is that nobody has done anything with fresh juice,” said Shelly Haygood, Vice President of Sales and Business Development for Spindrift. “By using a fresh juice, the taste is just so much brighter, and just the idea of fresh comes through. Really, everyone who tries it is excited, because it’s something different.”

By focusing on making a product with juice, squeezed from freshly harvested, regionally grown produce, Spindrift is able to capitalize on another consumer trend, popular among modern consumers: the push for seasonality. Perhaps a first in the industry, Spindrift recently debuted a seasonal pomegranate flavor, produced from fruit harvested on a small California farm. The soda was available on the West Coast only for a short time while the pomegranates were in season.

Joia All Natural Soda has found its own unique way to appeal to modern bubbly beverage enthusiasts, creating a product line that creatively combines fruit, herb and spice flavors in ways not erstwhile seen in the soda aisle. “Our point of difference is we are a fruit, herb, spice company, so it’s grapefruit-chamomile-cardamom, blackberry-pomegranate-ginger, lime-hibiscus-clove,” said Johnson. “Because of the fruit and herb/spice combinations, they’re less sweet. It’s all natural, so they’ve just got a nice, much fresher, cleaner taste. They’re a little more complex. We talk about layers of fresh flavor.”

GuS Grown-Up Soda has taken a different approach in crafting its products, opting to appeal to adults’ nostalgic affection for classic American flavors like cola, root beer and ginger ale. “It’s enough of a broad range that we’re not trying to create really esoteric flavors that are maybe not as approachable and that you’d need to educate someone about,” said Hersh. “One doesn’t need to be educated about cola, root beer, ginger ale or lemon soda. For the most part, ours is an adult-oriented, natural twist on everyday soda flavors.”

CraftSoda2-CSOne thing that unites Joia, GuS and Spindrift is the companies’ collective appreciation for cocktails. Each company offers a number of suggestions for how best to use its products in mixing up the perfect drink. GuS, for example, recommends combining its Meyer lemon soda with rum and mint to prepare its spin on the classic mojito: the GuS-ito. One can also mix GuS ginger ale with sake and lime to make a NaGuSake. Spindrift advocates mixing its low-calorie seltzers with vodka to create the perfect skinny cocktail. And Joia offers a diverse array of products that mix perfectly with everything from vodka to gin to rum to tequila.

With craft sodas growing increasingly popular among today’s consumers, more and more restaurants are now offering their clientele the option of these lower calorie, all-natural artisan sparkling drinks. According to Hersh, his company’s products are particularly good for pairing with food, as they are not particularly heavy on sugar and thus do not overwhelm the palate. Today, GuS sodas are available in restaurants around the country, including a number of famed American eateries such as The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon Bakery.

Haygood similarly argues that her company’s products are a perfect addition to any restaurant menu. For her, the care that goes into crafting Spindrift products more accurately reflects the care that restaurants put into their menus. “Where we’re doing really well, and where our focus has been, is fast casual restaurants or where people eat lunch,” she said. “We go in and we see that there is incredible care taken with ingredients for salads, sandwiches, beautiful breads. And then at the end there’s a beverage that doesn’t really match. I go in and I say we make our beverages like you make your food, and there’s this instant connection.”

For gourmet soda companies, making specialty sparkling beverages is truly a craft in the most essential definition of the word. Just as innovative food companies have transformed the landscapes of beer, ice cream and chocolate, taking the products to a truly gourmet level, craft soda companies are doing the same with soda. “With craft beers and other craft types of things, people are looking for more complex flavors,” said Johnson. “You see herbs and spices going on in ice creams and crackers and all sorts of stuff. I think people’s palates are just becoming more and more complex.”