Soda Talk: Exclusive Interview with Zevia

Zevia is a naturally sweetened soda that has no sugar, no calories, and no artificial sweeteners. It is vegan, kosher, and gluten-free. Zevia is not only one of the greatest additions to ever grace the shelves of our local supermarket, it is one of my favorite sodas ever. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Paddy Spence, the CEO of Zevia. Here is what he had to say...

(Q) Hello Paddy. How are you? Great to speak with you. You are the brains behind this amazing brand.
Hey Sarah. I am doing great, thank you. I am so excited to be able to get on the phone today. How long have you been familiar with Zevia?

(Q) I first discovered Zevia when I was searching for the perfect soda alternative that was not only love in calories, but low in carbohydrates. I wanted something that was not sweetened with artificial ingredients such as Aspartame or Splenda. I noticed that when I would drink anything that was labeled diet, I would feel awkward, as if there were side effects to the sugar alternatives. Then, one day I took a stroll to my local supermarket to discover Zevia and ever since, I have been a big fan of the brand. The first flavor I tried was the Ginger Root Beer, which is one of my personal favorites right now. I was thinking to myself "this is so amazing, I have to contact the individual who created this soda."
That is so awesome.

(Q) There is so much that I find amazing about this soda. It's very low in carbohydrates, but there is still enough carbs to give you energy, as well, but the fact that it doesn't have the Aspartame or any of the sugar alternatives in it, is a huge plus for me. As much as I don't believe in brand or product belittling, I think it's evident that am not a fan of Aspartame.
I think, like you, that a lot of Americans are finding out that they are uncomfortable with Aspartame. We don't even know how much we are taking in because there are so many foods and beverages with Aspartame in them. In fact, a lot more than we can expect. That is one of the big benefits of having Zevia. From a no-sugar stand point, Zevia does not include Aspartame.

(Q) Stevia vs. Aspartame, the sweet dirty truth. It's evident that Stevia is natural and Aspartame is lab created. I wanted to ask you Paddy, what are the benefits and concerns of consuming both of these?
I think when it comes to Aspartame, it's less about having that one can of diet coke. Is that one can going to impact you? It's more about the quantity that one person is consuming. When you think about it, if you were to drink four cans of diet coke a day, over the course of one year, you are getting something like a kilo of Aspartame. So, huge quantities and I think that is where people really get concerned. The various health impacts that you see, whether it is concern over weight gain, etc. Recently, there was a big study that the University of Iowa conducted on menopausal women and they found that for folks who are consuming two cans or more of diet soda a day, there is an increase in cardiac arrest and stroke. So, things like that are important because this study consisted of thousands of people. So, pretty reliable data and I think that is where people are really getting concerned.

(Q) Wow, very interesting. There are a lot of problematic health issues when consuming this ingredient. I just want to say that I love the fact that you don't use this ingredient in your soda.
Well, thank you. I really appreciate that.

(Q) I have to ask, I notice that you use monk fruit in Zevia. Can you tell me a little more about this fruit?
Monk fruit is a fruit that is cultivated in parts of Asia and specifically parts of China and Thailand and like Stevia, it is a plant-based source of a sweetening ingredient that is 200 times as sweet as sugar with no calories. It is a really fantastic natural sweetener. It's a great compliment or accompliment to Stevia, so we use Stevia which is our primary sweetening ingredient which provides about 80% of our sweetening power and about 12% comes from the Monk Fruit and about 3% of Erythritol which is a sugar alcohol. So, it's really the unique blend of those three sweeteners that allows us to get a really nice, sweet product without the after taste.

(Q) That is amazing. And you know, there is no after taste which I was going to tell you, I absolutely love. When you drink other brands (and I won't mention any names) that do include Aspartame. You can definitely taste "it" and it isn't pleasant or something you want to taste.

(Q) Now I have a question, Zevia is a gluten-free which I absolutely love. I also love the fact that it is kosher, however; is it vegan-friendly? Is it free of genetically modified organisms (or GMOs)?
It is vegan and it is also non-GMO. Actually, if you look on our can, we have the vegan logo, the gluten-free logo, and the kosher logo. We are currently going through the non-GMO verfication process, so we are excited about that. We have been at it for a while, as there is a lot of documentation, etc. We are making great progress so we can use the logo and put on the can that we are non-GMO verified.

(Q) That is amazing. You know, I definitely wish you luck in that journey. It is definitely hard to brand a product like this, however; once everyone discovers what it is all about, it is definitely going to get recognized for what it is. It's already out there on the shelves. I mean, I discovered it and I am sure there are millions upon millions of people discovering this amazing soda as we talk about it. I must confess, I am a huge fan and I drink it religiously. It's like my favorite soda. Now, I have to ask you, what are your most popular flavors right now? Tell me a little more about your best sellers...
Well, the Cola is still our biggest seller, but we are really a variety in the brand. We currently have 15 flavors. Ginger Ale, Cream Soda, and Ginger Root Beer would be the next three, most popular. What is interesting is our fruit flavors are also extremely popular. There are some regional aspects to soda, as well. Dr. Zevia is very popular in Texas. With Dr. Pepper being born in Texas, Dr. Zevia is popular there. If you go into a retail store in Texas, there is a soda section and then there is a Dr. Pepper section. It's incredibly popular. Mountain Dew was born in the Southeast, so there are a lot of Mountain Dew drinkers in the Carolinas and in Tenessee, so that is an area where our Mountain Zevia sells really well. So, it's really neat to see regional pockets of preference. In the Northeast, it is a huge Ginger Ale market. People in New England particularly love Ginger Ale, so we sell a ton of that there. In addition to Ginger Root Beer and Cola, Ginger Ale and Cream Soda are our top sellers right now.

(Q) That is amazing. I have tried every single one of them and they are so amazing. You know, I really love the fruit sodas too. And they actually taste better than any diet fruit soda out there.

(Q) For all of those health enthusiasts and soda lovers that will read this interview, what would you like them to know? What is next for Zevia?
That is a great question. Well, one of the things that is next for us is getting out there into all of the locations where people buy soda. Today, you can find Zevia hidden in your natural products retail store and then in the supermarket and depending where you live, you may find us in Target or Costco, but there are a lot of places that sell soda where we traditionally haven't sold our product. Particularly places like convenience stores, restaurants, stadiums, etc. Starting this year, we became the first independent soda to sponsor a major league baseball team, so we are the zero-calorie soda sponsor for the Oakland A's. It's been pretty exciting. I have been to a few games this year and you can go into the stadium and buy a 16 oz. can of Zevia. That kind of thing is incredibly exciting and you are probably similar. Our fans go places outside of the home and they want Zevia. They go to the movies, they don't want a diet pepsi, they want a Zevia Cola. Some folks keep it in their purse and others request it at the movie theatre, so I think you are going to see our product in a lot more places. Single cans being sold in convenience stores and other places like that.
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