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Things go better with [my local soda pop]
May 27, 2014 3:59 PM   Subscribe

How do I create recipe for a new brand of soda pop/cola?

Yes, I want to create my own locally-produced soda pop. Yes, a cola. And I am going to produce it at a local bottler. All my life I have been an avid drinker of canned and bottled sodas. Particularly, Coca Cola and local (Caribbean) tropical sodas—coconut, pineapple, champagne cola.

After several months of contemplation, I have decided to go for it and am producing my own local soda pop. It's a canned soda because I myself prefer canned soda. (Though I am fond of classic, small batch bottled sodas as well. My favorite bottled soda is Blenheim ginger ale.)

My question is how do I formulate a soda pop recipe? Are there companies that do this to my taste and ingredient specifications/preferences? Does anyone in the hive mind have experience with manufacturing soft drinks?
posted by Mike Mongo to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you actually made the soda yet that you want to produce? It's basically just flavored syrup plus soda water.
posted by empath at 4:05 PM on May 27

Before you get as far as thinking about things that involve canning/bottling, I'd just get a Sodastream (or, okay, a lot of bottles of soda water) and start trying things yourself. You can start with a base of simple syrup or juice, Google and there's all kinds of things you can do.
posted by Sequence at 4:14 PM on May 27

empath, no I have not (though I have imagined it), and I'm certain it's a little more difficult than that considering my first order will be 204,000 individual cans* of soda.

*Which is fine btw I'm good at the messaging, audience-building, marketing part. Where I am a noob is in coming up with a recipe for a commercially-produced soda pop.
posted by Mike Mongo at 4:15 PM on May 27

I have a friend who is in the custom bottled beverage industry. Memailed you.
posted by xingcat at 4:18 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]

Sequence, okay I bought a Sodastream. And their site says additional carbonation is available locally. But that's really not answering the question. What I want to know is how to formulate a cola beverage flavor to be used for large-scale production.

I really already know what flavors and character I want the soda/cola to have.
posted by Mike Mongo at 4:19 PM on May 27

If you have the bandwidth to throw money at the problem, Flavorman looks promising; you can request a quote from them online.
Flavorman is a custom beverage development company. We work one-on-one with each client to develop the beverage to that particular client's specifications.
posted by divined by radio at 4:34 PM on May 27

You might want to look into the development of OpenCola (more detailed recipe here). It was a community effort to come up with a cola recipe.
posted by zsazsa at 4:34 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]

This explanation of soda manufacturing seems pretty straightforward and lines up with my attempts to make a lot of tasty root beer. You basically make batches of the sugar/flavor stuff. So long as, in your test batches, what you're making works as well for a few gallons as a lot of gallons, you should be good.

I'd think to get more specific helpful answers you'd need to identify the specific ingredients/ingredient interactions that you're worried won't scale.
posted by michaelh at 4:39 PM on May 27

You cook batches of syrup with various flavoring ingredients, like in pots in your kitchen, carbonate them using your Sodastream, get your friends and family to do some tastings with you, and then scale up from there.

I don't mean to sound overly basic or condescending, but it is not clear from your question or initial responses if you have taken any steps whatsoever to try your hand at making even 1 bottle of cola by yourself with your own desired flavors. If not, start with that. The OpenCola links are probably good to start with if you are at that level.

Or do you need advice in getting specific ingredients that correspond to end-product attributes like "tangy but substantial" or whatever? If so, let us know what some of the ideas are and we can make suggestions.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 5:03 PM on May 27

How do I create recipe for a new brand of soda pop/cola?

Pick a key ingredient and work around that. Examples of unique ingredients:


Pick just one. You need a differentiating center. Jobs created iOS in that fashion. Stay micro as long as you can - don't worry about batch management at this stage. If the product is good, you will be approached with scale options.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:37 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]

If you haven't made it yet yourself, you really ought to save yourself the thousands of dollars. Weekend is coming up, make a bunch of trial sodas!
posted by oceanjesse at 7:16 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]

"coming up with a recipe for a commercially-produced soda pop.
You need a food chemist who can help create a commercial recipe, getting the ph right, scaling the ingredients, etc.. Most small-scale packers (or commercial manufacturers) should be able to recommend someone.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:57 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]

I see OpenCola is covered, so I'll just add this. I recently read the book The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success by Megan McArdle. It's about the perils of not learning from failure, and one of the failures it talks about is that of New Coke.

From above > You cook batches of syrup with various flavoring ingredients, like in pots in your kitchen, carbonate them using your Sodastream, get your friends and family to do some tastings with you, and then scale up from there.

One of the problems with New Coke is that, while it tested well among people who drank chilled 4oz cups of New Coke in a mall in the afternoon, it didn't test well in 12oz pours at room temperature, which is a very typical way of drinking cola...but Coke's researchers didn't test this, or test it enough. After working out some recipes that your friends like test again under real-life conditions: warm, or flat, or shaken, neat or on ice, shaked or stirred, direct from the bottle, or poured in plastic, glass, etc.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:19 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]

The (totally awesome) cube cinema in Bristol has their own open-source cola recipe, which you could use as a base.
posted by beerbajay at 7:19 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]

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