Meet the new Kombucha drink on the block SODADA, here to seriously disrupt the sugary, sweetened and largely boring soft drinks industry. Founder Zach launched SODADA last year and talks about his startup journey; from watching brewing videos on YouTube, setting up a stall at their first farmer’s market to being stocked in Planet Organic! Zach is honest and totally relatable and has his finger firmly on the pulse-catching onto the buzz of CBD by infusing it into some of their drinks. SODADA also takes a strong ethical position, recycling their glass bottles, using Fairtrade tea leaves and running a zero-waste brewery operation.

Name: Zach Pinfold

Age at time of interview: 27

Where’s home? Holmfirth, West Yorkshire – nestled into the corner of the Peak District

Profession: Kombucha Connoisseur

Company Name: SODADA

If you went to university was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do?

I had always thought I’d try to set up my own business out of Uni, but I had no idea it would end up being in soft drinks. It was a pretty awful work experience, that I had while on placement that paved the way for me setting up my own business. I witnessed first-hand how a few terrible decisions made from higher-ups can have such a horrible impact on their employees. I wanted to choose my own path.

What is SODADA and when did you launch?

SODADA is here to seriously disrupt the sugary, sweetened and largely boring soft drinks industry. By combining innovative brewing and fermentation methods with great tasting, locally sourced ingredients, we think we’re in just the right position to offer people something so much better than what’s currently available on the shelves.

We launched SODADA in the middle of last year, where I worked on the business in my spare time. Things kicked off properly in 2019, as I moved into the business full-time and started focusing on growing the business outside of just local stockists.

Taking a strong ethical position, we recycle our glass bottles, use Fairtrade tea leaves and run a zero-waste brewery operation.

How did the idea for SODADA come about and how did you get the ball rolling?

It was all about my Mum, Sue. She’s not a big alcohol drinker and doesn’t really fancy sugary, sweetened soft drinks. Feeling like she deserved something so much better, I started brewing soft drinks with low sugar contents in my spare time. Eventually, I landed on the weird and wonderful drink that is kombucha.

Initially I didn’t think people would take to the flavour because of the lack of sugar, but my parents convinced me to attend the local Farmers’ market with 80 bottles of ginger and elderflower booch. The bottles cost £3 to make and we sold then for £2.50, so the day wasn’t very profitable, but we ended up selling out with the first couple of hours! So it really kick started the Kombucha adventure.

How did you even know where to start with brewing and are there any regulations on health and safety when sharing with consumers?

Brewing came through trial and error! I had never made or brewed any kind of drink before, so had to rely on brewing books and YouTube. A lot of the brewing methods for Kombucha are stolen from beer brewing, so there’s plenty of information out there.

From the age 15 until I graduated at 24 (with a few breaks here and there), I worked in hospitality. This experience gave me a good grounding on hygiene and safety and was partly responsible for us earning a 5 star hygiene rating.

What were the initial challenges in getting the ball rolling for SODADA?

People (especially in the North) weren’t very keen on the idea of stocking a fizzy fermented tea, it took a lot of time and dedication to get into our first stockists. This became a lot easier as time went on and I started learning the tricks of the trade.

In the very early stages there were so many issues with sediment in the bottles, it just didn’t look very appealing and we lost a few stockists because they weren’t happy with the bits. Lots of headaches and testing with different filtering methods got us there in the end.

How long did it take you to go full time on SODADA?

Approx 1 year.

You’ve moved into CBD infused flavours. Tell us the backstory with that…

I’ve always been a big believer in cannabis’ medicinal properties and I received an email last year about CBD products taking off in the US. I decided to get hold of some samples here in the UK to test the claim. I definitely noticed the difference, I had more mental clarity, it felt like someone had lifted clouds off my shoulders. My sister started taking a drop every morning, and to our surprise, her IBS completely cleared up, she’s struggled for years with IBS and there is little out there in terms of medication.

We were in talks with Planet Organic at the time, and they were really keen to get a CBD Kombucha line listed, merging two very on trend foods into one.

You have made it into Planet Organic. What three pieces of advice would you give someone looking to get listed?

Persist – We were actually approached by Planet Organic, but it took a further 5 months to get listed with one of their distributors, easily the hardest single thing I’ve had to contend with to date.

Be different – Planet Organic were interested in us because we have flavours unlike any other brand.

Communicate – I give the Planet Organic buyers a call every week to see how things are doing, it creates a connection between the two businesses. Get the buyers on your side from day one.

SODADA has had a lot success up north, where you are based full time. How will you juggle the business as it expands down south?

We have a distributor in London now, this makes things a lot easier from our end. You still need that personal touch though and we still have to sell the product into stores down south, so we’ve recruited someone to help with sales in the City, this will be a game changer in allowing us to grow nationwide.

Is there anything in hind-site you would have done differently?

Honesty very little, it’s always important to take challenges as they come. I don’t think the business would have grown into what it is now without all those little mistakes along the way.

What’s a typical day for you working on SODADA?

Monday/Tuesday is brewing, labelling, bottling and storing.

Wednesday is an admin/brewery spill over day (in case we need to make more stock for the week)

Thursday is delivery day.

Friday is a delivery day too, usually admin spills into this day.

Selling fits into the week as and when, usually when we’re high on stock levels (we haven’t had to do much selling recently).

My weekends have become one on-one off. One weekend will be taken up with markets, in-store sampling, or extra brewing. I’ll take the next weekend off (if I can), it’s pretty intense right now though as we deal with growth.

Do you experience self-doubt?

All the time, from day one. Still today if we don’t have an order from a stockist one week I’ll think they’ve dropped us (they usually haven’t)- the CBD has been helping.

Any fuck ups along the way?

I seem to have a regular brewery fuck up every month or so. Last month I accidently bottled up the wrong batch of Kombucha which was due to be ready the following week, it took an extra 2 days to clean, sanitise, and re-fill the bottles.

This month I knocked one of the taps off one the brewing vessels, Kombucha flowed everywhere and the brewery turned into a pool of Kombucha – not the easiest clean.

What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up SODADA?

Seeing someone drinking your Kombucha out on the street is still pretty wild. When you’ve spent so much time researching, testing, brewing, and bottling a product – it’s great to actually see it in someone’s hands, to be honest this will never get old.

What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?

Take the time to understand your strengths, your market and the product you’re thinking of launching.

Focus on a brand identity, for us it was ethics – from day one we wanted to focus on reusability and local sourcing.

What do you think is next for SODADA in the next year?

Growth, growth, growth! We have a stockist number target to hit by the end of the 2019, from which we’ll hopefully be pushing to move out of our current premises into a larger space next year.

What’s the dream? 

Become the UK’s best-selling Kombucha, then travel.

Just for fun

Three startups U 30 I admire are.. Other-side fried, Dash Water, Spotify (founder Daniel Ek was U30 at the time),

The Twenty Mile Club is…. A great place for anyone to peak under the surface and see what it’s really like to start something new.