A Paso Robles-based company’s soda is joining the area’s craft beer, cider and wine on store shelves.
Sunshine Bottle Works debuted early this year with three flavors — cream soda, root beer and Spezi, a blend of cola and orange soda popular in parts of Europe — and quickly spread to more than 60 retailers throughout San Luis Obispo County.
“Everybody has welcomed it with open arms,” said creator Douglas Martin, estimating the company sold about 300 cases in its first month. “People have been watching how craft beer is doing, and they get it.”
Martin, drawing on his experience in the beverage industry as owner of the Atascadero-based Einhorn Beer Co. distributorship, created the line to offer a locally made alternative to mass-produced sodas full of chemicals and high-fructose corn syrup.
Sunshine sodas, sold in 12-ounce glass bottles of about 140 calories each, are made with natural flavors and pure cane sugar, attributes Martin said consumers are asking for.
“People really like soda, but, for many, it’s an occasional treat rather than something they consume every day,” he said. “Plus, if you have kids, you know the battle about making sure that foods and beverages you give them have the right ingredients.”
Martin previously dabbled in brewing beer, but his experience in distributing convinced him that there’s a market for quality craft soft drinks.
“There’s a huge niche for better-for-you sodas,” said Martin, who estimates he has invested more than $25,000 to get the company going. “And it hits on elements of craft beer, with a local product that people can call their own and take ownership of.”
In additional to convenience stores and sandwich shops, the sodas are making their way into winery tasting rooms.
“They’ve been extremely receptive to the concept,” Martin said. “It’s a no-brainer for them to offer local sodas for the designated driver or for the kids to have while mom and dad taste wine.”
In the coming months, Martin plans to roll out four-packs as well as additional flavors, possibly starting with ginger beer.
“We have labels for ginger ready to go, but we are also considering a classical cola,” Martin said. “I have a personal affinity for a spicy and flavorful cola, but we’ll see how customers respond to our initial offerings and go from there.”
Sunshine currently makes the sodas at a brewery in San Jose but hopes to move production to San Luis Obispo County down the road.
Retail locations can be found on Sunshine’s Facebook page and 12-packs sell for $18 at www.sunshinebottleworks.com. Martin also plans to pour his sodas at beer festivals and other events through the spring and summer to get the word out.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that the sodas are made at a brewery in San Jose.
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