Chattanooga-based Pure Sodaworks expanding into Cracker Barrel next year

Chattanooga-based Pure Sodaworks expanding into Cracker Barrel next year

December 1st, 2017 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Pure Sodaworks co-founder and CEO Matt Rogers talks with a customer during Pitch Night at The Company Lab.

Photo by Dave Flessner /Times Free Press.

Matt and Tiffany Rogers grew up loving the taste of soda drinks but worried about the negative health effects of the high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings in most popular soft drinks.

So five years ago, the couple decided to start making their own natural flavor sodas with pure cane sugar instead. The half dozen flavors of homemade drinks they soon developed quickly evolved into a business, Pure Sodaworks, that grew by 2015 to annual sales of more than 60,000 bottles, most of which sold at retail for $2 a bottle.

But the machine used to make and bottle the drinks proved not up to the growing volume of the business and distribution of Pure Sodaworks in new markets proved harder than anticipated. So four years after leaving his job at the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to pursue his business dream, Rogers said he was nearly ready to give it up last year.

"What we had wasn't a scalable business and we needed to create a whole new system of business," Matt Rogers said.

Cracker Barrel will begin distributing Pure Sodaworks next year.

Cracker Barrel will begin distributing Pure Sodaworks next...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Pure Sodaworks co-founder and CEO Matt Rogers speaks during Pitch Night at The Company Lab.

Pure Sodaworks co-founder and CEO Matt Rogers speaks...

Photo by Dave Flessner /Times Free Press.

To find a better, more profitable path, Matt Rogers spent the past three months going through the accelerator program offered by The Company Lab in Chattanooga. Along with a handful of other startup companies, Pure Sodaworks and the other participants refined their business plans, made more than 70 pitches to customers and 20 pitches to investor groups to help refine and grow their business plans.

The result, as Rogers announced Thursday night during the CoLab's fall Pitch night, was to land Cracker Barrel and its 648 restaurant stores as a new distribution outlet, starting in February. The initial order for the company's Apple Pie and Cafe Cola brands should top total sales from all of last year.

To meet that demand, Pure Sodaworks is partnering with a North Carolina bottler to mass produce its unique flavored drinks.

"This accelerator program really help us to figure out our business model and secure new business," Rogers told investors and other entrepreneurs gathered at the Edney Building for Pitch night.

Last month, Rogers also appeared on the Pickler & Ben show on CMT television, which reaches up to 8 million households.

"That really gave me the confidence to know this business is going to make it," Rogers said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.


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