VALPARAISO | If you're hankering for something new to drink or even a blast from the past, you may want to quench your thirst with Twist O' Luck, a new lip–smacking fizzy bright green soda created by a Valparaiso High School graduate.
"We've had many people say 'Oh my gosh, this is how soda used to taste in the good old days – it tastes like a real fountain drink,'" said Hannah Hupp, a senior at St. Mary's College in South Bend.
"They used to go to the corner store after school to get a penny soda. Everyone said the pure cane sugar gave it the real taste they remember growing up. And for the younger kids its very sweet."
Hupp, 21, and classmates Lindsey Downs, 22, of Elkhart, and Hanna Vicary, 21, of Erie, Penn., have officially incorporated TOL Soda Co. after creating and marketing the product as part of a class project this past spring at St. Mary's.
The fizzy, green–colored specialty drink was originally developed as an homage to the South Bend community and the spirit for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Hupp said.
The group secured a loan for $1,900 from the school's business department.
"It was a real–world feel because we realized if the product didn't sell, we'd owe the school hundreds and hundreds of dollars," said Hupp.
The soda was a success and Northwoods Soda of Williamsburg, Mich., now bottles the citrus–flavored beverage in recyclable glass bottles. The 130 calorie, non–caffeinated soda is made with pure cane sugar instead of high–fructose corn syrup.
The product is available at 11 locations in South Bend. A case sells for $34.80 and they have sold more than 200 cases.
Hupp is pouring life into a industry that could use more fizz. In 2010, carbonated soft drink dollar sales dipped 1.3 percent to $18.5 billion, according to The Nielsen Co. in Schaumburg, Ill. Sales have been down for the past six years.
Full calorie soft drinks took the greatest hit with sales dropping 3.6 percent. Low–calorie sodas fared better with a 1 percent decrease in sales and remained relatively flat in volume.
But Hupp isn't comparing Twist O' Luck soda to major brands because it's a novelty soda.
"We're not competing with the big guys," she said. "In hard times it's the best time to be entrepreneurial.
"People are starting small businesses. The soda industry for big corporations might not be great but it may be the perfect opportunity for giving others a chance to excel and do something different," Hupp said.
Hupp is going to wait for graduate school and is obsessed with her hometown.
"I just love Valparaiso – its such a great place," she said. "I'm so proud of the city itself and owe a lot of who I am today to the school system."
She also credits her parent and the St. Mary's College entrepreneur club.
"It sparked my interest in doing things I wouldn't have dreamed of before," she said. "The more I learn, I know I want to learn more. That's why I know this is where my passion is because I'm craving more and more of it."