Guest edited by Sarah Wildman-King, co-founder of specialist creative agency Wonderworks Communications.
Here’s part 3/8 of our Wonderworks series for International Women’s Day: Celebrating awesome women in drinks – with a new story being published each day this week. Read more about Wonderworks and their inspiration in part 1 here.
THE SODA SISTER
Robyn Simms, Square Root Soda
Robyn is the CEO of Square Root Soda, a range of delicious sodas for grown-ups. Soda made right – from seasonal fresh produce for those who “don’t want to drink but don’t want to miss out.”
As the CEO she gets involved in all aspects of the business from deciding what new flavours to make, to which new customers to should target, and how many of each drink to produce every month.
So how did you get to being CEO of Square Root Soda?
I’ve been in the drinks industry for about 8 years now. I developed a passion for drinks from my first job out of uni – bartending at the Euston Tap. This was back in 2012 when craft beer was just starting to become a thing and I would meet people every week who were starting their own brewery and bringing in their new beer samples so it was a really inspiring time to quit and start my own thing.
100% the best part of what I do is finding new inspiration and using that to work on new recipes. I do it all the time, even in my home kitchen on weekends (I currently have about 5 shrub infusions on the go in my fridge!). It’s also great to be surrounded by a team of people who are all interested in the same things and are super willing to give me feedback on my fridge experiments and share their own ideas for new drinks.
Why have you focused on being part of the no & low sector?
I haven’t drunk alcohol for over two years, so I have a personal and vested interest in the category – every move forward brings about a better experience out in bars for me (and other people like me of course!).
It’s so new and is changing and developing so rapidly so it’s exciting because I get to try new things almost every week right now. It definitely feels like there’s a lot of choice out there for non-alcoholic drinks now, but not a lot of places stocking them so it’s totally possible to go on a night out and know about all these different great drinks but still not have access to them. That needs to change!
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learnt since being involved in no and low?
No matter what you do, 90% of people are still going to say something along the lines of “this would be great with a huge measure of X in it” (X being gin, vodka, rum, the list goes on…)
Niche and a passing fad? Or growing category and the future of drink?
I definitely think the category is growing. Being a non-drinker myself people love to talk to me about cutting down themselves and ask me how I did it. I’m seeing it more and more and from people who 2 years ago would never have even considered stopping drinking and the more it’s on people’s minds, the more demand there will be for no and low.
I think the no/low category is so interesting because, perhaps for the first time, consumers are driving demand. It’s consumers who are championing not drinking or drinking less and are demanding better drinks, so operators and bartenders need to get on board and keep up.
Does being a female in the drinks business create barriers or opportunities?
There are so many opportunities in the drinks industry, way beyond bartending, but I think women hold themselves back. It’s hard to picture yourself in a role that is typically associated with men because you’re not seeing someone like yourself in that position. From that perspective, I think being female and in the drinks business can create barriers which is why I have so much respect for other women like me who are pushing through and forging their own path – it’s genuinely changing the industry!
What inspires you?
Fruit inspires me! I love the natural world and learning about how different ecosystems work. Fruit is at the forefront of all our drinks and when we make a new recipe our ultimate goal is to deconstruct it and add the parts that make the whole back together into liquid form. But it doesn’t just stop there. Nature is also just this unstoppable force that despite humans building on top of it or cutting it down, always finds a way to push through and exist and I think that’s a really inspirational mindset to put yourself in.
What are your secret powers?
Not drinking is my secret power! It lets me stay out all night, find out all the secrets and gossip and then get up early the next morning and do it all over again without feeling anxious or hungover or stressed.
For a woman coming into the industry would you have any words of advice?
Getting into the industry is easy but stopping yourself from adapting to be who people want you to be is hard. Don’t let yourself be what people expect you to be – stick to your guns and stand out for being yourself!
And finally, what are your plans for the next couple of years?
Take over the fizzy pop world – one Square Root soda at a time!
Stay tuned for part 4 tomorrow!