Soda company bottles nostalgic nectar
You can’t get it just anywhere. Little glass bottles of flavorful soda can be a lucky find.
Now, they are being manufactured right here in New London by a new company named Flavor8.
Dave Talo and John Mathison of the Fox Valley area have joined forces in this new business venture, and bottled their first batch of nostalgic soda last week.
Talo, who worked for most of his adult life as an aircraft mechanic, says his family has always loved the glass bottled sodas. His partner, John Mathison, a mortgage banker for over 25 years, shares Talo’s enthusiasm for the product.
“We grew up together, and have those memories of popping a tab on a cold soda – orange, grape or cherry were our favorites,” says Mathison.
Talo was the first to start investigating the soda pop business when he lost his job due to downsizing. “My wife told me to take some time and really think about what I would like to do, verses what I thought I should do,” explains Talo. “After she left for work, I sat in the kitchen with a coffee cup in my hand. There was a Sundrop bottle sitting on the counter. That started it all.”
Talo spent two years intensively researching soda pop and talking with others in the bottling business. He discovered that the big soda companies went from glass bottles to cans in the 1970’s because it was cheaper to manufacture and ship than bottles. It wasn’t because the public wanted cans.
“You can see the liquid you’re consuming in a bottle,” says Talo. “Besides, it’s better for the environment to recycle glass bottles and reuse them than it is to recycle plastic and metals.”
He also discovered that in taste tests done throughout the nation, people’s taste buds overwhelmingly chose bottled soda over canned soda.
“We use a very simple soda recipe with very few ingredients that was developed in the early 1900s. It contains flavoring and sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. People enjoy the sugar content much more than the corn syrup. It just tastes better,” explains Talo.
In further research, and by his own observations, he found that a 12 ounce soda can be too much to consume in one sitting.
“Ever notice how children will drink half a can of soda and the rest sits there? The same is true for many adults, too,” says Talo.
Talo set to making a business plan and applying for business grants. He and Mathison bought a vintage bottle washer and bottler and painstakingly restored it; they found a glass bottle supplier, formulated recipes and found a location for the business.
“New London is a great fit for us,” says Mathison. “Besides being a medium size town, which we love, New London has great water, due to the fact that there is so much sand here. The city worked with us and we found this location to start manufacturing in.”
Flavor8 will offer eight flavors, as their name implies: orange, grape, cherry, lime, cream soda, punch, black cherry and blue raspberry. Not every bottle will have exactly eight ounces of soda in it. Small fluctuations in the soda levels will indicate that it is not mass produced, but bottled by vintage machines, with the watchful eye of a soda maker.
Twenty-four glass bottles come in cases that you can mix and match flavors in. You pay a $10 deposit for your very first case, and that cost is dispersed through the years that you consume the soda. Bring in your case with the empty bottles in it and exchange it for a full case, paying around $8. The soda will be available year round.
“Bottled soda is great for parties of any kind,” says Mathison. “Packer parties to graduation and birthdays. Soda doesn’t really have a season; it’s more of an acquired taste that everyone craves when they see the bottles.”
Flavor8 is located at 1207 W. Waupaca Street in the fifth ward. Talo and Mathison look forward to having a retail outlet at the bottling company soon. They plan on welcoming interested groups to come and see how the soda is made and bottled. Onlookers will hear the belts and gears moving and see the bottles being sterilized before moving down the line to receive flavored soda, being capped and shaken six times to insure a good mix, before being loaded into cases for delivery. For now, look for the orange and white Flavor8 cases at Festival Foods in New London, Econo Foods in Clintonville, Gilbert’s in Hortonville and RH Liquidators in Waupaca.