“Basketball was my creative outlet,” said Michael Robinson, who played basketball from high school through to college. He said he loved “the way the crowd reacts” when one scores a basket and the feeling it brings. Since he retired from the game and started working, he said he has never felt anything like that though he admits that making soda is now the closest thing to scoring in a basketball game.
At a time when craft breweries were springing up everywhere, Robinson took interest and experimented with his own craft beer but failed and transitioned into soda making.
He started Bingo-Bango Fresh Fruit Soda Co. in 2018, which specializes in all-natural, fresh fruit soda handcrafted in Winston-Salem North Carolina. His first attempt at selling went sour, he said. “At my first flea market I didn’t have a tent, I didn’t have anything, and it was horrible,” Robinson told YES! Weekly. “It was sugar and water in a keg, and I was freshly squeezing lemons into a cup. I only sold one cup, so I made $2. I put one dollar on my fridge, and gave one dollar to my mom.”
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“There were so many trials, and so many fails. My wife hated it. She would come visit and the floors would be sticky. Everything would be sticky,” he added. Despite the shaky beginning, Robinson persevered and created new flavors such as strawberry lemonade and blueberry muscadine.
He took them to a couple of festivals and people enjoyed them. “Folks really liked it, to my surprise,” Robinson said. “They were asking for it by the bottle and the growler.”
“The [Bingo Bango] flavor really pops into your mouth. It’s like you’re biting into a fruit.” Robinson said. “And what I noticed with others was that we tend to get complacent with the flavor of the drink. If you have a peach-flavored Fanta, then your mind then perceives that as peach.”
Since then, the popularity of the drink has increased, including the addition of more flavors such as pineapple apple, apple ginger and lemon peach pomegranate.
Bingo Bango Soda Co. is now a thriving local business, selling nearly 20,000 bottles and showing great potential for growth largely because of the craft beer mentality Robinson brought to the non-alcoholic soda industry.
Robinson recognizes competition from giants in the industry but is hopeful of growing beyond his company’s current sales record. Also, he wants the company to grow organically, that way, he is able to nurture loyal customers.
“I kind of take what’s left,” Robinson told journalnow. “Just like the craft breweries do, people have an understanding for craftsmanship of beer and wine. … I just let the taste speak for itself. I think the company can grow without me having to fight and push. We all can exist, small companies and the giants. There’s plenty of room.”
Robinson, before getting introduced to craft beer, worked as a bartender at his brother’s establishment, Carolina Vineyards and Hops. He graduated with a public relations degree in 2012. Now into soda making, he hopes to distribute nationally soon.