Organic foods and craft breweries have been tantalizing more discerning pallets for quite a while. Now a number of drinks companies are using the foundations of the craft beer revolution for soft drink additions to the marketplace, offering a real choice of flavour and options away from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo products. And it makes sense, isn’t it boring being offered the same old fizzy drinks in shops and restaurants? Although craft sodas have been available online via specialist retailers for some time, it’s only in the past 18 months or so that big supermarkets are really starting to see the potential in the non-alcoholic artisan drinks sector. Over a quarter of people aged between 16 and 24 don’t drink any alcohol, compared to 19% back in 2005, according to the Office Of National Statistics. In the US, the craft soda industry has grown by 22% over the last five years, from $428m (£320m) in 2011 to $541m (£405m) in 2016. In a market worth a total of $52.5bn (£39bn), there’s still a long way to go but it is growing quickly at a time when the overall soft drinks sales have fallen for each of the last 12 years. Waitrose has a blossoming premium soft drinks section on its website – yes the more well-known J20 and Crabbie’s feature – but delve deeper and a wealth of brands and flavours are at your disposal, perfect for teetotallers or those who just don’t want to drink alcohol at Christmas.
Although brand association plays a strong hand within the drinks market, there is beginning to be room for less well-known names to play a hand – take a trip down the drinks aisle of your local Tesco and you’ll see a wealth of options. Hackney’s Square Root Soda in London (above) exemplifies the demand for small batch runs that get delivered daily around the capital. The company started selling ginger beer at their local north London market then branched out, with handmade drinks with ‘no shortcuts, no weird stuff and no compromises’ containing ‘around a third less sugar than your average bottle of fizzy pop’. And this DIY spirit is echoed around the industry, with ‘craft’ the key term. Here’s our pick of the most eye-catching craft soft drinks out there right now:
With a tagline of ‘Say no to the middle of the road soda’, this East London soda producer’s signature product is its Cola, which is made from real kola nuts, citrus, and spices.
Handmade in County Wicklow, this Irish craft number mixes blackberries and stinging nettles using Demerara sugar to create a sparkling fruity soft drink for those long winter month.
Written by Alex Fordham