By Alyssa Kadansky
Jan 10, 2015
Article courtesy of the Post Bulletin

bottling image

Nikki Hanson pulls bottles of Cock & Bull Ginger Beer off the line at that the Spring Grove Soda Pop Company bottles in addition to the 10 flavors of it’s own. Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postb

SPRING GROVE — 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 far 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 café equipment and supplies. UP is also a distributor of Spring Grove Soda Pop and enjoys working closely with it.

“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. We try to deal with as many products that are made in Minnesota or made in the USA as possible.”

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,” Chali said. “The rhubarb and cream soda 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.”

Spring Grove Soda can’t be found in most vending machines, so it’s often reserved for special occasions, according to Hansen.

“If they’re driving or commuting, they’re probably going to grab their usual Coke or Pepsi,” Hansen said. “But if they’re at a picnic or a party, people are more apt to grab ours. It’s more of a treat.”

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. “There are five days in a work week, and I think everyone would love to see us bottling all five days.”

The soda is distributed locally by Schott Distribution Co. Inc. in Rochester, and it can be ordered online at Fans can also make an appointment to take a tour of Spring Grove Soda Pop.