Eighteen years after its founding, Zuberfizz, Durango’s locally made sodas featuring pure cane sugar, is in the midst of a new round of growth.
New business opportunities include a partnership with a Las Vegas product-development firm specializing in beverages. The partnership aims to bring higher-quality sodas to truck stops across the country.
Partnerships also are sealed to bring an energy drink from Tailwind Nutrition and sparkling waters from Ska Brewing Co. to soda fountains, first in Durango and then regionally – perhaps eventually across the country.
Zuberfizz is developing the fountain machines to be price competitive with Coca-Cola and Pepsi, introducing them first in Durango before expanding them into other markets where Zuberfizz sodas are sold – principally Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and California.
“We’ve been working on all these things for the past seven or eight months, and they kind of were slowed by COVID-19, but they’re all coming to fruition at once,” said Dan Aggeler, who co-owns Zuberfizz with Banden Zuber.
Work was recently completed to quadruple Zuberfizz’s production facility on Sawyer Drive in Bodo Industrial Park. Aggeler said the facility produces 12,600 bottles daily and can handle the expansion envisioned with the growing product lines.
What Zuberfizz may soon need, he said, is warehouse space to handle a growing geographical area where Zuberfizz’s products will be available. Distribution will be key in several months when Zuberfizz anticipates it will begin co-branding and bottling its top six flavors as Truck Stop Pop.
Truck Stop Pop was the brainchild of Dennis Durban, founder of Conzumables, a product-development company specializing in beverages.
Durban, who worked with Coca-Cola and Nestle and whose family has background in trucking and distribution, wanted to create a better product than the high-fructose corn syrup sodas that monopolize shelf space in truck stops.
“My entire career has been involved in logistics and trucking, and I understand and appreciate our continuing need for truckers,” Durban said.
His idea was to provide a quality soda to truckers across the country, and that started a search for a smaller maker of sodas that emphasized quality. The search eventually identified Zuberfizz as the best partner.
Truck Stop Pop will donate 5% of its sales to the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund, a charitable organization that helps the families of truckers suffering illness or injury that forces them out of work.
Having a local soda maker out of Colorado helps marketing, Durban said.
“It’s the outdoor lifestyle. If you’re marketing something a little more healthy, I always tell clients do you want to be based in Hoboken, New Jersey, when your launching a brand?”
Aggeler said, “Dennis came up with the concept, and he approached us. We realized we work a lot with truckers. We’re dependent on them and we’ve become friendly with a lot of them. We really liked the idea of working with St. Christopher’s.”
Truck Stop Pop will feature six Zuberfizz flavors – root beer, orange cream, vanilla cream, cola, ginger ale and strawberry rhubarb.
Negotiations are underway for shelf space for Truck Stop Pop, which will first be aimed at smaller truck stop chains before branching out to bigger chains across the country.
“We’re going to start with a handful of truck stops before targeting the big chains,” Aggeler said. “We want to get our ducks in a line and get all the kinks worked out, but I think Truck Stop Pop has a ton of potential. There are hundreds, thousands, of truck stops across the country, and I think there’s a market niche for people who want a quality alternative.”
Tailwind BerryAggeler said fountain machines are currently at Zia Taqueria, Steamworks Brewing Co., El Moro, Bird’s and Brennan gas stations, and will soon come to Father’s Daughters Pizza.
Zuberfizz is looking to perfect its fountains in Durango before expanding regionally to provide restaurants and convenience stores a soda fountain option that uses pure cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.
“We think people are looking for a healthier product that’s locally produced and has a smaller environmental footprint,” he said.
Jeff Vierling, Tailwind Nutrition co-founder and co-owner with his wife, Jenny, said when Aggeler approached him about creating a fountain drink using Tailwind Berry as Zuberfizz’s answer to the Powerades now found on tap, he saw the potential to expand Tailwind’s market.
“Tailwind’s products are primarily available through specialty run, bike and outdoor shops. Having Berry Endurance Fuel available through soda fountains helps us reach people who might not be familiar with Tailwind, but can benefit from hydration, like visitors adapting to high altitude, hunters headed to the mountains, or even those who’ve enjoyed too many of Durango’s excellent beers and spirits,” he said in an email.
Right now, the collaboration is focused on bringing Tailwind Berry to fountain machines, but Vierling said if that goes well, more possibilities could develop.
“We’d be definitely open to partnering with Zuberfizz on a bottled product and maybe piggybacking on their distribution,” he said.
SkaguaDavid Thibodeau, president and co-founder of Ska Brewing Co., said Zuberfizz is using Ska’s Skaguas to provide a sparkling water option for its fountains and is also helping broaden distribution of Skaguas.
“We distribute ourselves mainly in Durango and Telluride, along the Million Dollar Highway loop. But we do a lot of our business in liquor stores,” Thibodeau said. “Zuberfizz they’re selling soda and they hit a lot of stores and shops we miss. We’ll still do the liquor stores, but they’re going to get everything else.”
Currently, Ska is producing about 300 cases of Skagua a month, and Zuberfizz’s fountains open a new path to expand production of the sparkling waters, which come in lemon, grapefruit and watermelon.
He noted if Zuberfizz fountains are able to break into the Front Range, it would be a huge assistance for Ska’s sparkling waters.
One Front Range distribution company, he noted, services 1,500 accounts in the Denver area: “If we get lucky enough to strike a deal with somebody like that, that would be substantial.”
Aggeler said Zuberfizz’s current growth owes a lot to Durango’s business climate that fosters cooperation as much as competition.
“We’ve known and worked with the Ska guys for decades, they’re old friends, and we’ve known the Vierlings for years,” he said. “We’re helping them, they’re helping us. It’s the way Durango has been for years, all the way back to the ’90s. We help each other out.”