In the words of White Rock Beverages president, Larry Bodkin, “It’s one thing to say you’re a product of the 70’s, but few can clarify that they mean the 1870’s.”
Once one of America’s most recognized brands, White Rock Beverages recently celebrated its 140th year in existence. The company was founded in 1871 and enjoyed widespread popularity throughout the first half of the 20th century. Just how popular? White Rock Beverages were featured at the coronation banquet of England’s King Edward VII and its sparkling water was chosen to christen Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” prior to its historic flight.
While White Rock is less of a household name today, the company continues to sell over a dozen different flavors of seltzers, water, mixers, flavors and specialty beverages to over 40 states and 10 foreign countries.
Bodkin, who is only the fifth president in White Rock’s long history, said that much of the company’s continued success has been based its consistency in providing premium products to a customer base that values the reputation surrounding the White Rock brand name.
“White Rock is a great brand,” said Bodkin. “And when you look at companies that have survived over the years, it’s usually the great brands.”
Bodkin also noted the importance of White Rock’s ability to evolve and offer a variety of products based on their relevance to their times. He specifically noted that while White Rock beverages once competed with Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr Pepper products, the company now shuns direct competition with the so-called “big three.” Instead, White Rock focuses on offering varied lines of specialty and “good-for-you” products to a relatively upscale consumer base.
“Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr Pepper control 90 percent of the [beverage] market. Any hope to compete against them is virtually nil,” Bodkin said. “Also, consumption of highly sweetened, highly carbonated beverages are on the decline. Our products are either healthy, unique, or both and positioned in different niches.”
Bodkin points out that in a fluctuating economy, the diversification of White Rock beverages into several niche categories was a key to the company’s overall profitability and consistent with the type of business planning and strategy that has become a hallmark of White Rock over the years.
In addition to its iconic seltzer waters and mixers, White Rock introduced Sioux City Sarsaparilla in 1975, and expanded its offerings and distribution to a national audience over the following decade. In 2003, the company acquired the Olde Brooklyn brand of beverages and soon after, became one of the first beverage companies to launch a line of organic sodas.
As for the next chapter in the company’s history, Bodkin said that it was White Rock’s brand name that has been and will continue to be the cornerstone to its success — and that protecting its image was crucial for the years to come.
“Many beverage companies that became focused on price or value have come and gone,” Bodkin said. “We’ll never do anything to cheapen the White Rock name and see a lot of upside for the brand in the coming years.”