After paying his dues in the world of big food marketing, including a stint at one of the big multinational pop producers, John McEachern decided he’d like to make soda that people could “feel good about drinking”. Just Craft Soda is the brand he launched this year, using 60% fruit juice, cane sugar and natural flavourings. And what interesting flavourings they are: McEachern, who acts as the CEO of the company that makes it, founded the brand with Matt Cherkas, one of the owners of the now defunct Your Truly restaurant on Toronto’s Ossington strip. Determined to offer something different, Just craft Soda currently comes in five flavours: Lemon and Lemongrass, Pear and Vanilla (think cream soda), Peach and Habanero (yes, it delivers a burn), Apple and Ginger (more ginger beer than ale), and Cherry and Cinnamon (remember Big Red gum).
McEachern recently brought his sodas and story to the GFR offices, explaining that most commercially made sodas “are designed for the palate of a 13 year old boy”. Just Craft Sodas, which are made at a facility in Niagara, follow a more subtle flavour design, always matching a fruit with a spice. McEachern is targeting consumers directly through retail sales (where they sell for a little over $2 a bottle) and through hospitality sales. The drinks are meant to be versatile enough to be enjoyed on their own or as a mixer. McEachern says vodka and gin are the favourites with Lemon and Lemongrass, and rum with cherry and cinnamon. For a small company, Just Craft Sodas is growing fast with distribution across Canada. A map on their website shows participating retailers here. For now, the former advertising executive is concentrating on trying to get as many people to try it as he can, with appearances at food shows like Toronto Food & Wine scheduled. And, while he maintains the five current flavours are all selling well, he’s always on the lookout for new combinations that fit Just Craft Soda’s formula. Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.