SPRING GROVE, Minn. – A small, old-fashioned soda company saw its sales skyrocket in 2014.
Spring Grove Soda Pop, a Minnesota classic made and bottled in this town of about 1,300 in the southeastern corner of the state, saw a 45 percent increase in sales in 2014.
The company was started in 1895 by G.G. Ristey. As Spring Grove’s oldest business, the old-fashioned bottling company holds a special place in the hearts of Spring Grove residents.
For the past 120 years, the company has continued its original bottling traditions. It has kept the recipe almost entirely the same, using cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup. It has continued to bottle the soda in glass bottles, even when most companies were using plastic and aluminum by the 1980s.
Owner Bob Hansen believes that it is the traditions that appeal to customers and boost sales, despite the old-fashioned methods.
“Lots of people like old-fashioned soda,” Hansen said. “They like that it’s made with cane sugar, they like the old-fashioned flavor and they like that it’s in a glass bottle.”
To meet increased demand, the Spring Grove Soda crew used new bottling equipment in 2014 that allowed it to produce three to four times more pop in a day. It also does contract bottling.
“We’ve also hired a few more people,” Hansen said.
With Coke and Pepsi products available at virtually every gas station, restaurant, convenience store and vending machine, why would people pick up a Spring Grove Soda?
“Around here, it’s because it’s local,” Hansen said. “Nationally, people drink it because it has a real clean flavor.”
Spring Grove’s cane sugar creates a thicker solution and a sweeter taste.
UP Coffee Roasters, located in Minneapolis, is a provider of fair trade, organic and environmentally friendly coffee and cafe equipment and supplies. UP is also a distributor of Spring Grove Soda Pop and enjoys working closely with the company.
“Spring Grove is one of only two sodas that we sell,” director of operations David Chall said. “We like them because they are made locally.”
Chall also likes that Spring Grove Soda is made with cane sugar and believes it gives the soda a better taste.
“The flavors of grape and strawberry are what the kids like,” Chall said. “The rhubarb and cream sodas are popular with people in their 30s and 40s, and the lemon sour makes a great bar mixer, so it appeals to bar owners.”
Chall believes people want to know where their food and drink are produced, and that helps local manufacturers like Spring Grove Soda.
“People are becoming more and more conscious of where their food and drinks are coming from,” he said. “Many people prefer products that are locally made. They want to support Minnesota businesses.”
Although sales have already increased 45 percent, Hansen said that he would like to see the company get to the point where the plant is running every day.
“In the summer we bottle three or four days a week, and in the winter we bottle one or two days a week,” he said. “I think everyone would love to see us bottling all five days.”