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Craft Sodas: A Refreshing Opportunity for Beverage Brands

2 2023

With craft sodas sweeping the market, here’s how to tap into this opportunity to boost your beverage brand, increase sales, and make the most of this hot trend.

Why is Consumer Demand for Craft Sodas Skyrocketing?

Craft sodas have exploded in popularity in recent years. According to Market Watch, craft soda sales reached a staggering $641 million in 2021 and show no signs of slowing down. The space is only projected to continue to grow, with the market expected to surpass $768 million by 2027. 

There are a number of factors fueling the growing consumer preference for craft soda, including the increasing demand for craft beverages and customers’ appreciation for smaller batches of premium products. 

But one of the main reasons that craft soda has seen a major boost is a trend favoring nostalgia and the strong appeal of classic aesthetics. Vintage packaging holds a special allure for consumers, especially featuring colors and typography that give an old-school feel to the product.

Consumers are looking for products that evoke positive memories and the feeling of the “good old days,” and craft sodas are perfectly positioned to provide that experience. Sipping a soda that brings back childhood memories, both in taste and the look of the product, is extremely appealing to today’s consumers.

Craft soda presents an exciting opportunity for beverage brands to tap into increasing consumer demand for artisanal, flavored beverages and products that give them a sense of nostalgia. But before leveraging this trend to your benefit, you need to understand what exactly is resonating with consumers.

Understanding consumer trends and preferences

The soda market has seen massive changes since the onset of the pandemic. With awareness around health and functional beverages growing among consumers,  many are seeking out drinks that provide vitamins, nutrients, or other health benefits.

Rather than a focus on dieting and losing weight, consumers are embracing better-for-you options with advantages like boosting gut health or strengthening the immune system. 

Simultaneously, consumers are looking for beverages that do more than give them an energy boost to keep them going during a long day. Rather, they’re gravitating towards unique, locally-made beverages that feel indulgent. When an economic crunch means a spa day or vacation is less feasible, consumers turn to food and drinks to provide that sense of a well-deserved break.

Notably, research has found that consumers are willing to pay more for beverages they believe are made with higher-quality, luxury ingredients. Consumers have shown that they’re fine with spending a bit more cash on products that make them feel like they’re treating themselves, and craft soda fits into that category.

Here’s What Consumers Love About Craft Soda

There are several unique characteristics that define craft soda, which hold great appeal to consumers.

Premium ingredients

Craft sodas feature a selection of high-quality components, often sourced locally and sustainably. From hand-picked fruits and botanicals to pure cane sugar, craft soda makers prioritize natural flavors and often eschew artificial additives.

Small-batch production

Unlike large-scale manufacturing, craft soda makers produce their beverages in limited quantities, allowing for meticulous attention to detail. This approach grants them greater control over the entire process, from sourcing premium ingredients to perfecting unique flavor combinations.

Innovative flavors

From exotic ingredients to unusual taste combinations, consumers are embracing funky flavors that go beyond the standard classic offerings. Craft soda manufacturers have been quick to respond to this shift, providing a diverse range of creative and natural concoctions that cater to discerning palates.

It’s also important to mention the unprecedented success of craft beer over the past decade. Craft beer’s impact on the beverage industry as a whole has influenced other beverages, including craft sodas.

Consumers who have developed a taste for distinctive flavors and quality ingredients in their beer choices are now seeking similar attributes in their soft drinks.

Craft Soda’s Benefits for Bottlers

Craft soda offers a host of advantages for bottlers seeking to stand out in a competitive market. One key benefit is the potential for customization. Craft soda makers can collaborate closely with bottlers to create exclusive flavors that cater to specific demographics or events. 

This level of customization not only enhances the bottler's product portfolio but also fosters a sense of personalization, fostering brand loyalty among consumers who appreciate unique, small-batch offerings.

Bottlers can also tap into the excitement of limited-time releases, creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity among consumers. These limited editions often feature experimental flavors or seasonal variations, driving consumer interest and engagement.

The “don’t wait or you’ll miss it” appeal of limited and seasonal products also boosts sales, as enthusiasts rush to secure the product before it disappears from the shelves.

Beyond just the product itself, craft soda carries a compelling storytelling opportunity. Bottlers can leverage brand narratives of passion, creativity, and expertise behind each soda. 

Sharing the journey of how the soda was created adds depth and meaning to the product, transforming it from a mere beverage into an experience that resonates with consumers on a personal level.

Assessing Market Potential & Building a Go-to-Market Strategy

If you’re eager to tap into this growing market, diversify your portfolio, boost revenue, and expand your beverage brand’s offerings, branching out into craft soda is a great decision.

But there are a number of challenges that come along with debuting a craft beverage, including differentiating yourself from the competition, identifying the right distribution channels, and finding the ideal beverage marketing strategy to appeal to your target consumers.

Before launching, you should ask yourself the following questions in order to create and implement an effective strategy for promoting your new craft soda.

Who’s my audience?

It’s critical that you clearly define the primary consumer segment for your craft soda, such as health-conscious individuals, millennials seeking unique flavors, or premium beverage enthusiasts. 

Once you’ve identified your audience, you can tailor your product and beverage marketing to resonate with them.

Who are my competitors?

Craft soda is a competitive space, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors will help position your beverage brand strategically.

What are the best distribution channels for my beverage?

Evaluate the most effective ways to reach your target market. Consider partnering with specialty stores, cafes, restaurants, and online retailers to maximize your product’s availability.

Best practices for beverage marketing success

Establishing brand recognition in the craft soda market can be challenging. You need to invest in distinctive branding, visually appealing packaging, and engaging storytelling to create an emotional connection with consumers. 

Effectively reaching your target audience requires a well-planned beverage marketing strategy. Consider leveraging digital marketing, social media, and influencer partnerships to build buzz around your product.

Establishing strong partnerships with local retailers and eateries is crucial for a successful craft soda launch. These sites serve as touchpoints with the target audience, providing valuable visibility and credibility. 

Consider offering restaurants the opportunity to offer exclusive flavors or custom blends, collaborate on promotional events, and more.

Next steps for debuting your new craft soda

Partnering with a beverage brand that’s up-to-date with shifting consumer preferences is critical for a successful product launch. You need to find a partner you can trust, who’s familiar with what trends can help your bottling business grow.

RC Cola has decades of experience in beverage marketing, assisting bottlers around the world with devising strategies that work for their markets and ensuring their product debuts are impactful.

For more on how RC Cola can help you make the most of a craft soda offering for your market, get in touch with us today.

Get in touch with the RC Cola Team!