Sodalicious and other soda stores are proliferating in the west

In Utah, Arizona, and Idaho, soda stores, such as Sodalicious, Swig, and Fiiz, have mushroomed. Located in states known as the Mormon Hallway (although the Mormon Church is now called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), these stores have thrived, to some extent, as this church forbids to drink coffee and tea.

Therefore, these western stores that specialize in soda instead of coffee operate like Starbucks in most countries. In fact, Kevin Auernig, the president of Sodalicious, told the New York Times that “What Starbucks originally did for coffee was sort of our idea with soda.”

Experts wonder if these soda stores will thrive outside of the west, as soda consumption is on the decline in the United States.

Auernig, the co-founder of Sodalicious, based in Provo, Utah, with his wife Annie, which has 25 branches in Utah, Arizona and Idaho, expects to double that number over the years. coming years. All of its locations are owned by the company, as are its new locations. None are franchised.

When asked which states beyond those three it would expand into, Auernig replied, “We would like to keep this under our hat for now.” He recognizes that “we are developing outside the mountain states”.

Would that work in a multicultural California? Auernig replies: “Of course it does. It would involve educating the customer and showing them another way to pick me up other than coffee, ”he says.

For example, its store in Price, Utah, is doing well, despite its population being 80% Catholic. Some stores in Arizona also attract a more diverse customer base.

It also did not accept venture capital or private equity financing. All of its expansion is funded by cash and a line of credit.

Since Sodalicious started in 2013, the couple have reinvested their profits back into the business and own 100%. They’d rather deal with banks than with venture capitalists because there are fewer figures involved and banks don’t create a three to five year plan to sell the business, he suggests.

Speaking of venture capitalists, he says, “These are gimmicks for them. We are still building it and do not have to respond to anyone. Not answering anyone is the American dream.

Sodalicious offers branded sodas such as Coke, 7 Up, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi or Mountain Dew, then mixes them into mixed energy drinks, adding flavored syrups and fruit purees. For example, the Castaway drink consists of 7 Up mixed with coconut guava and fresh lime.

Sodalicious also sells energy drinks such as Monster and Red Bull, cocktails such as Blue Buzz, which consist of Red Bull, Blue Raspberry, and Coconut.

It also specializes in a range of cookies, including its pink frosted sugar cookie, snickerdoodles, and during the holidays, its mint fudge cookies.

It doesn’t offer any sandwiches or food beyond that, and Auernig concedes that “we’re not a lunch or dinner destination.”

They sometimes tried to sell breakfasts and other sandwiches, but learned that “our customer comes to us for his soda and a cookie,” he says. As it has its own bakeries and produces the cookies, it keeps its costs low and its margins high.

Someone once said to Auernig, “You run a glorified lemonade stand. His answer: people want it and why spoil success?

While it doesn’t specialize in dining, it has fairly long hours, opening at 8am and closing at 9pm and later on weekends. It also increases sales by using a third-party delivery service, DoorDash.

He describes his target audience as most customers stopping on their way to work in the morning, parents who come after dropping their kids off at school, professionals for an after lunch break, and soccer moms. stopping before their children’s training.

What makes Sodalicious different from competitors like Swig and Fitz? Auernig replies that he sells more than soda. “I sell experience. It’s like ‘Cheers’ where everyone knows your name, but we know the regulars’ orders, ”he says.

He describes the effect of the pandemic on Sodalicious’ s business as a “roller coaster”. We had to close our lobbies for a while and only use the drive-thru window. Since most of its business is driven by drive-thru sales, its sales were only slightly affected.

He had to “re-evaluate our production capacity and find ways to move cars more efficiently, which resulted in increased sales,” he says.

In the past, it has taken over and renovated a variety of retail stores, including restaurants, bicycle shops, and insurance offices. But since it relies more on the steering wheel windows, it requires less space. His new stores don’t even have halls, he says.

In two years, he hopes to have doubled his number of outlets, “elevated the brand and found new ways of working with customers and suppliers.”

He describes the three keys to his future success as: 1) Retaining the current workforce and attracting new workers, 2) Being innovative, 3) Maintaining his culture of fun, play and fun. lack of judgment.

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