Craft soda seeing boost in popularity, Duluth's Fizzy Waters feeling the boom

By KBJR News 1

August 30, 2014 Updated Aug 30, 2014 at 8:32 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Once upon a time, nearly every Northland town had its own soda bottling works. Chisholm, Virginia and Ely are just three examples.

They're all gone now, and if the old buildings are still standing, they're more likely to be home to birds rather than pop.

But, the interest in locally produced pop is increasing around the country.

"Yeah, that's absolutely true," said Duluth's craft soda shop Fizzy Waters owner Steve Smith, "and what better place to start it than here in Duluth, where craft beer has been leading the way forever here."

Steve Smith runs the Fizzy Waters store in Duluth. It features nearly 600 small town sodas.

Earlier this month, CNBC reported that craft soda comprises one percent of the 9 billion cases–a–year soda market.

Off hand that may not sound like much, but it still means 90 million cases that can be sold by places like Fizzy Waters.

The store's products range from sodas made by Pengals Basswood Trading Company in Ely, to the spritzers put out by the Hamiltons at the White River Winery in Iron River.

"The more awareness grows, it's going to help all of us," said Smith, "and that's the goal is awareness that there's all these choices out there and you're not limited to five pops; there's hundreds."

...including Grape Hehi; the favorite beverage of MASH's Radar O'Reilly.

Fizzy Waters employee Ben Rydlund says working at the store is like spending the day with Willy Wonka.

"It's a lot of fun," said employee Ben Rydlund, "especially getting to see all the flavors of both the sodas and the people that come in."

Mitch Ende, on vacation from the Bakken Oilfields, is the flavor of person the store likes to see and win over; he doesn't know if he likes craft soda or not.

"I don't know, I've never had a craft soda so first time I'm trying it," laughed Ende, bottles in hand.

Steve Smith hopes more people like Mitch give craft pop a try so that hometown bottling works can return to the Northland.

"Absolutely, I mean that's definitely the direction Fizzy Waters wants to go," said Smith, "we would love to have our own bottle and make our own line, and that's where a lot of us are going."

Reed's Soda from California is one of the biggest craft pop makers in the country.

The company's CEO claims sales have doubled in the last five years

Dave Anderson