Ditch Coke: Sustainable Drink Alternatives on the Rise

Tractor Beverage Company is working to offer healthier, sustainable beverage alternatives to restaurants across the United States. The company aims to minimize waste and deliver higher returns to farmer partners.

Tractor Beverage Company sources organic, non-GMO ingredients from farms around the world. Its beverage line offers 20 flavors, including Blossom ‘N Spice made with orange blossom, fig, apricot, lemon, ginger, and Mandarin Cardamom made with citrus fruit, cardamom, turmeric, apricot kernel oil, and coriander.

Tractor beverages are sold at restaurants across the U.S., including major companies like Chipotle, Taїm, José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, Umami Burger, and Roti, and five universities. By partnering with restaurants, rather than grocery stores, the company is taking steps to reduce packaging and shipping costs.

Travis Potter, a farmer, founded Tractor Beverage to create a healthy, sustainable beverage alternative for his children–one with an ingredient list that did not include chemical preservatives.

As beverage manufacturers, “if we can do a good job of supplying [our product] at a good price and we’re smart about how we do it, there’s no reason to have the junky stuff, especially if it tastes better,” Potter tells Food Tank.

Potter’s agricultural background helps to inform his role in the beverage industry. He explains that his experience helped him identify an opportunity to invent a product line that was healthier than name brands.

The company minimizes waste by using parts of ingredients that often go to waste but still offer taste and health benefits. Examples include cassia bark used in their root beer flavor and lemon peel used in their Lemonade flavor.

Using these upcycled ingredients “makes a better-quality product for consumers and adds health and wellness,” says Potter.

Potter also strives to deliver higher returns to farmer partners. He works to source high value ingredients including cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger that simultaneously offer greater profitability to farmers and create a tastier, more complex product.

Potter hopes that farmers will feel incentivized to abandon conventional agriculture and adopt organic practices. To do this, he believes that consumer education will play an important role.

According to the latest IBISWorld report, soft drink consumption in the U.S. has fallen every year since the late 1990s at an average annual rate of 0.8 percent. This trend is due to consumers’ growing health concerns and the prevalence of diet and weight-related illnesses such as diabetes. Many consumers are seeking healthier substitutes, while others have completely cut out sugary drinks.

In the U.S., sugary soft drinks are the single largest source of added sugar in the American diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Excess sugary drink consumption is also associated with a number of chronic illnesses including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, making it a public health priority.

And as socially and environmentally engaged consumers work to avoid traditional soda, they are often turning to new carbonated drinks.

With the rising demand for sugary drink alternatives, Potter is looking to continue innovating his product and business practices and expand restaurant partnerships. For restaurants “pushing the envelope on health and wellness,” Potter tells Food Tank, “carrying our beverages is making a difference.”

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Photo courtesy Mohamad Babayan, Unsplash

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