Arden Hills craft soda company reaching shelves across Twin Cities


Matt Hudson photos Northern Soda co-founder Jesse Hopkins stands in the company’s tasting room. He and three others founded the Arden Hills-based craft soda pop business in the summer of 2018 to create their own flavors based on classic recipes.

Hopkins said the company wants to have as many as 50 pop flavors available at its tasting room for people to mix.

As a kid, Jesse Hopkins liked going over to the Pop Shop in Inver Grove Heights to mix and match soda pop flavors.

But over time, the old-fashioned soda fountain became less ubiquitous than the corporate canned and bottled machines. The Pop Shop too fell by the wayside.

“And then it just vanished,” he said.

Those drinks that Hopkins had as a kid were on his mind when he and three others founded Northern Soda. Headquartered in Arden Hills, the company is pushing for new varieties based on classic recipes. They’re opening a tasting room, and after a few months in business they’ve secured shelf placement across the Twin Cities. 

Hopkins said that persistence got them in the door, but the product made the sale. “Once we got the soda in front of them, and they were able to taste it and see,” he said.

The craft soda business isn’t completely new to Hopkins. He ran Whistler Classic Soda before selling the company in 2016.

He’s also worked as a teacher and administrator, which is how he met his co-founders. Two of the four founders, Michael Goodwin and Tom Schlehuber, still work as teachers. Hopkins and director of sales Davod Zarghami run the soda business full time.

 

What’s in store

While teaching, Hopkins said he was always making sodas at home. He said he sticks to mid-20th-century recipes, using cane sugar, natural extracts and mellow carbonation. Northern stays away from extra preservatives and acids, he said.

The company began distribution in July 2018 and quickly ramped up production. They’d been working with a designer in Spain who specializes in that retro look. Northern got its Arden Hills warehouse, bought a canning machine and got to work.

Now, Hopkins said the company has landed wholesale contracts to be placed in Kowalski’s Markets, Oxendale’s Markets and some Hy-Vee stores. He’s also working to get kegs sent to breweries in the area. To Hopkins, purveyors of local craft beer should have a local craft, non-alcoholic drink on tap as well.

Northern is also launching its own retail operation, which is based off Hopkins’ days of mix-and-match at the Pop Shop. The company has a space full of soda cans, encouraging visitors to try out different mixes. He said he hopes to have as many as 50 flavors available.

“We have 12 flavors, and then a rotating list on tap,” he said.

The standards include root beer, which sports a hint of cinnamon, as well as orange, cola and cream soda varieties. Hopkins said he’s always trying to develop new variations, like grapefruit and strawberry-habanero sodas. He’s also working on a cardamom.

“That, to me, is the fun part,” he said. “Coming up with the flavors.”

The Northern Soda Company can be found at 3747 Dunlap St. N. in Arden Hills, or at www.northernsoda.com.

 

–Matt Hudson can be reached at mhudson@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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