From the September 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Today, soda has done anything but fizzle out--especially with an emerging trend captivating the carbonated beverage consumer known as the "micro-soda."

Sub-category creator Urban Juice & Soda Co. in Vancouver, British Columbia, for one, distributes a motley line of taste-bud-tickling, sticky-sweet bottles of pop called Jones Soda. These microbrewed beverages, distributed in the United States and Canada at premium prices (as high as $1.59 per bottle, as opposed to the average soda price of $1) captivate consumers with their retro long-neck glass bottles and intriguing labels, as well as their neon rainbow of flavors, including Blue Bubble Gum and Green Apple.

Fitz's Bottling Co., based in University City, Missouri, is also getting in on the trend, taking its line of premium sodas to the next level by offering them in the company's own full-service diners. Fitz's Soda Bar and Grill, with two locations in Missouri, features a fully operational bottling line for brewing premium goods for parched patrons. The soda is also distributed in Kansas City, Missouri.

The appeal of micro-brewed soda is its uniqueness--the kitschy labeling, the tasty mix of flavors, the limited channel of distribution. With Americans gulping twice as much pop as they did 25 years ago and spending $54 billion on it each year, it's apparent soda-lovers will happily embrace this flavorful niche.

Meet The Wiggles

Children's entertainment emerges from Down Under.

An Australian phenomenon bound to mimic the popularity of Barney and the Teletubbies is creating the latest buzz in the U.S. kids' entertainment market. The Wiggles, a.k.a. the "Fab Four for Kids," consists of four young men and four costumed characters who perform interactive song-and-dance routines with educational messages for kids aged 3 to 7.

The musical entourage plans to make itself a U.S. household name through its "Wiggles Across America" tour and Fox Family Channel TV series, which was launched last spring. "In Australia, they're bigger than Barney," says Tim Clott, CEO of Lyrick Studios in Dallas, the show's U.S. audio and video distributor.

Merchandising for The Wiggles will be handled by Sid Kaufman at Nelvana Communications (323-549-4222).

Trend Tracking

MOOSE AND SQUIRREL: Preventing Boris and Natasha from taking over the world, Jay Ward-created classic characters Rocky and Bullwinkle will be Universal Pictures' first integration of 2.5-dimensional computer-generated characters with live-action sequences. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, scheduled for release next summer, should provide promotional opportunities targeted at both kids and adults. For licensing information, contact Universal Studios Consumer Products Group, (818) 777-9001

OOHS AND OZ: On about 1,750 acres of land in Dorothy's own state, Oz Entertainment Co. has plans for a Wizard of Oz-based theme park and resort complex. The Wonderful World of Oz Theme Park and Emerald Resort, located 20 miles from Kansas City, is expected to open its emerald gates by April 2002. If this takes off, there could be a boom in Oz products on the way

GOOD BEHAVIOR: Pet lovers will buy almost anything when it comes to pampering their furry companions. L. Coffey Ltd. makes carrot oil and lavender aromatherapy spray to soothe the harried minds of cats and dogs. There are even pet candles from Fond Moments Candle Co. and chamomile-scented shampoo and conditioner from Upper Canada Soap and Candle Makers . . . . . . STRESSED OUT? Expect 3,000-year-old Chinese exercise Chi Kung (pronounced "chee gung"), a series of limited-movement healing techniques, to grab the attention of all who long to heal the mind and the body.

Contact Sources

Fitz's Bottling Co., (314) 862-5507, bottler@fitzsrootbeer.com

Lyrick Studios, (800) 418-2371, ext. 6775, http://www.lyrickstudios.com

Nelvana Communications, fax: (323) 549-4232

Urban Juice & Soda Co., (604) 654-6050, http://www.jonessoda.com

The Wiggles,http://www.thewiggles.com.au