Milwaukee Sprecher Takes Over Chicago In Craft Soda Wars

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Milwaukee’s Sprecher Brewing Co, producer of award-winning Craft Soda, is taking a lead position in the Craft Soda beverage segment, acquiring several brands from WIT Beverage Company

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In a war no one knew was happening, Milwaukee’s Sprecher Brewing Co.—producer of award-winning Craft Soda, is taking a lead position in the Craft Soda beverage segment with an acquisition and big expansion plans in Chicago. Sprecher Brewing Co. has acquired several brands from WIT Beverage Company, including the historic Green River and WBC Craft Soda brands of Chicago, which will accelerate growth!

The Craft Soda Category, as measured by IRI MULO 52 Week Ending September 5, 2021 syndicated data, is in excess of $470 million and is a sub-set of the broader $24B Total Soft Drink Category. Sprecher is a Top 20 leading Craft Soda Brand and is outpacing the Total Soft Drink Category growth rate by 30%, and Sprecher Craft Sodas generally are sold at a 25% price premium to Traditional Sodas which make them attractive to retailers in terms of sales growth and profit potential.

Sprecher’s Craft Sodas are one of the fastest growing Brands in the Craft Soda Category up +38% as measured by IRI and are the #1 Brand in the Milwaukee Market, and with the acquisition of the WIT Beverage Company brands the combined portfolio of Craft brands will become #2 in the Chicago Market and poised for National expansion and growth.

The WIT Beverage Company brands acquired by Sprecher include Green River, WBC Craft Sodas, Caruso’s Italian Style Craft Sodas, and Oak Creek Barrel Aged Root-beer! These, along with several other Wisconsin-based brands, will join Sprecher’s Craft Soda family, led by its award-winning Fire Brewed Root Beer with Natural Honey. The new portfolio designates Sprecher Brewing Co. as a category captain in Craft Soda, and will bring growth in key major markets starting with Chicago.

Meet The Family – Sprecher’s Chicago Street Cred

  • Sprecher Craft Sodas—Handcrafted, small-batch, with unique flavor innovations. Fire-brewed for bold flavor and made with all natural Wisconsin honey! SKUs include Root Beer (Original, Lo-Cal, Maple, & Caffeinated), Orange Dream, Cream Soda, Cherry Cola, Grape, and more.
  • Green River—The 102-year-old lime soda brand (since 1919) with a unique green color resembling the Chicago River on St. Patty’s Day, was manufactured during Prohibition at the iconic Schoenhofen Edelweiss Brewing Company located in Pilsen, Chicago.
  • WBC Chicago-Style Craft Sodas—Made with real sugar and caffeine-free, this classic brand got its start at Goose Island in Chicago in 1988. Includes Root Beer, Spicy Ginger, Vanilla Cream, and other flavor favorites.
  • Black Bear Soda—Wisconsin classic flavors like Black Cherry, Blue Raspberry, and more, since 1920.
  • Oak Creek Barrel Aged Root Beers—Barrel-aged Root Beer made with premium ingredients, featuring a Blonde Barrel-aged Root Beer made with brown sugar.
  • Caruso’s Italian-Style Craft Sodas—Founded in 1961, featuring flavors inspired by the “old country,” with Italian-style family recipes passed down for four generations.
  • Claire Baie Specialty Beverages—Award-winning sparkling waters, lemonades, and teas.

Sprecher’s Legacy Continues – Bringing More Flavor to Chicago
Sprecher Brewing Co. has established a legacy of expertise in handcrafted beverages, rooted in 36 years of specialized brewmaster care. Integrating this know-how with the acquisition and a specific focus on growing Chicago (a city that sets an undeniable bar in craft) Sprecher Brewing Co. is set to take on Craft Soda leadership.

As Sharad Chadha, President and CEO states, “We are on a journey to become a National Craft Beverage Company, and this will unquestionably accelerate our growth. Sprecher was already one of the fastest growing Craft Soda brands in the U.S., and a leader in Craft Soda in the Midwest, and the addition of these brands acquired from WIT Beverage Company will further fuel that growth.”

“We are very excited to add such well established historic and classic brands that compliment Sprecher Craft Soda products so well” adds Bill Deakin, SVP Growth and eCommerce. “Now retailers have a one-stop solution for their craft soda stocking, and consumers can enjoy the range of Sprecher’s Craft Sodas for many occasions, from gatherings and celebrations to meals and holidays.

What does this mean for WIT Beverage Company? Not an exit from the beverage category, by any means. According to Jim Akers VP of Sales and Marketing of WIT Beverage Company, “this will allow the larger company affiliate, WIT Group, to focus on its primary business which is customizing, developing and producing Owned Brand beverages for leading retailers across the U.S. We believe the brands being sold will thrive as part of the Sprecher portfolio of Craft Soda brands.”

As Sprecher integrates the acquired brands into its portfolio, the Craft Soda captain will continue to run the business from its Milwaukee headquarters.

About Sprecher Brewing Co.:
Established in 1985, Sprecher is Milwaukee's Original Craft Brewery. Sprecher is one of the only breweries in the U.S. that still uses a unique fire-brewing process that caramelizes the flavors to give Sprecher’s Craft Sodas and Beers big bold flavor. Its Craft Sodas’ are also uniquely flavored with all natural Wisconsin honey. Sprecher brews over 20 different Craft Sodas as well as 12 Craft Beers, including the award-winning Sprecher Root Beer which was named “the #1 Root Beer” in the country by The New York Times.

Sprecher has gone from serving the Milwaukee and Wisconsin area to retail distribution in over 25 states. In February of 2020, the brewery was sold to a small team of Milwaukee investors, led by Sharad Chadha, current President and CEO.

About WIT Beverage Company:
WIT Beverage Company put together a stable of top Craft Soda and Nostalgic brands gaining national distribution. Its larger affiliate, WIT Group, will continue to provide customized beverage solutions, which it has done for over 15 years.

About the Green River Brand:
Green River Soda was created in a small confectionary shop in Davenport, Iowa, in 1919. The brand was later acquired by Schoenhofen Edelweiss Brewing Company and produced in Chicago as a way to survive the Prohibition Era.

More than 100 years after its debut, Green River is still available in Chicago and always sees a spike in sales around St. Patrick’s Day when the city dyes the Chicago River the color of a leprechaun’s hat. There is a rumor that the city in fact uses Green River Soda to dye the river green; to this, we say, No comment.

Once a staple at soda fountains and drive-in movies, the soda even inspired the classic Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Green River.”

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Kathy Bryja
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