How to Start a Soft-Drink Business

by Lindsay Kramer; Updated April 16, 2018
Cola & Ice

Like launching any other type of business, launching a successful soft drink business requires substantial time and money investments. Although there are similarities between successfully creating and selling soft drinks and other consumer products, the soft drink industry requires entrepreneurs to develop a keen understanding of consumers' relationship with soft drinks and how factors like flavor, health consciousness and brand recognition fit into this relationship.

Tips

  • Take cues from successful soft drink companies to understand why they connect with consumers. Look at general trends as well as examples within your niche.

Determine your Primary Demographic

Your primary demographic is the segment of the population who you want to have drinking your beverage. This should be a fairly narrow segment. By narrowing it down to a very specific consumer type, you can develop the ideal formula and marketing campaign to reach that consumer. Other demographics who respond to your marketing efforts, but aren’t your primary reach, are known as secondary and tertiary demographics.

Once you’ve determined your primary, secondary and tertiary demographics, you’ll need to research them and their buying habits. Where do they buy soft drinks? How and when do they consume soft drinks? What soft drinks are they consuming now, and what draws them to those beverages?

Learn about your target demographic through market research. Market research methods include:

  • Observations
  • Focus groups
  • Surveys
  • Field trials

Patent your Product

You’ll need to patent your product so other companies cannot make an identical beverage and sell it as their own. A patent is not the same as a trademark or a copyright. Because your soft drink is a unique formula, you must protect it from imitators by patenting the formula with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

You will also develop additional pieces of intellectual property for your soft drink, like its name, its logo and tagline and additional imagery, like a mascot or a symbol. Protect these with trademarks from the same federal agency.

Develop a Production Plan and Put It Into Action

Somebody has to make the soft drink. The first thing to figure out is whether you’ll outsource it to an existing bottling company or if you’ll build or lease space to set up your own operation. There are pros and cons to both options. One benefit of working with a bottler is that you’ll save money and time by outsourcing the day-to-day beverage production, but by doing that, you give up some control over how your drink is produced.

Other components of a soft drink production plan are:

  • Sourcing your ingredients.
  • Hiring staff to produce the beverage.
  • Creating a production budget:

Create Relationships with Distributors to Get your Soft Drink on Shelves

The last step in launching a successful soft drink business is getting your drink into consumers’ hands. After all, the only way your company can make money is if people are drinking your product. You’ll have to get your drink on store shelves first and to do that, you’ll need to pitch it to beverage distributors and wholesalers. When you determined your primary demographic, you should have determined where that person buys soft drinks. Maybe they buy them at grocery and convenience stores, or maybe they go to boutique beverage retailers for their soft drinks. Don’t just think about where the end consumer is buying the drink in bottles -- think about the bars, restaurants, hotels and cafeterias where your consumer is likely to select it from a beverage fountain or order it from a server. Build relationships with the distributors who supply these outlets to get your drink into your target demographics’ hands.

Once your beverage is on store shelves, your job isn’t done just yet. You still need to market it and to do that effectively, you’ll need to determine the marketing strategy that connects with your target demographic best. That could mean a coupon campaign or marketing on social media, or partnering with a snack food or alcoholic beverage manufacturer to market your soft drink as an ideal pairing with their product.

About the Author

Lindsay Kramer is a freelance writer and editor from New Jersey. She loves singing, laughing, cooking, and exploring new places. Aside from writing, Lindsay enjoys surfing and reading tarot cards.

Photo Credits

  • Chris Elwell/iStock/Getty Images
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