Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bingo Bango Fresh Fruit Soda Co.
Meet The Man Behind One Of The Only Black-Owned Craft Soda Brands
Depending on where you’re from the argument is often whether to call it pop or soda. If you live down south, that argument then becomes Coke versus Pepsi.
For Winston Salem native Michael Robinson, it was simply to create sodas that are made from real fruits and ingredients. That is how Bingo Bango Fresh Fruit Soda Co. was born.
Robinson started his journey into the craft soda industry after helping his brother behind the bar of his wine and beer lounge, Carolina Vineyards and Hops, also in Winston Salem. Fresh out of college, he began experimenting with at-home beer brewing in his mother’s backyard.
“My mom’s neighbors would always complain about the smell, or the noise,” Robinson told Travel Noire. “Things just weren’t coming together like I wanted them to. My goal was to really come up with exotic flavors, but it just never worked out.”
Despite the beer not turning out in his favor, he didn’t give up. He took a job with Coca Cola as a sales manager. That role helped him gain invaluable info about the soft drink industry, while also taking a closer look at how things were made.
“One day, I happened to look at the label of a blueberry Fanta. I noticed that actual blueberries were missing from the ingredients.”
That’s when things clicked. His Creole family’s appreciation of fresh ingredients, coupled with the things he learned at Coke and his brother’s lounge, led him to begin creating fresh fruit craft sodas.
He initially tested the flavors out on family and friends, but knew they would only say good things in his presence. So, he went out on a whim and hosted a pop-up at a flea market in Charlotte.
“I showed up with lemons and carbonated sugar water,” Robinson said. “I was literally just squeezing fresh lemon juice into the soda water. I only made $2 that day.”
That $2 profit was the push he needed to really hone in on his skills, and come back bigger and better. Robinson got serious and created all of his marketing and branding materials on his own. From the labels and website, to actually bottling each drink.
The next pop-up that he hosted, he completely sold out.
The Bingo Bango name was inspired by Robinson’s grandfather. He was a New Orleans native who often used the term to describe something that was cool to him.
“My grandfather was also a very hard working man. I got my grind and perseverance from him, so this name actually means a lot to me.”
The small-batch sodas come in a variety of flavors that Robinson creates himself. We’re talking strawberry lemonade, pineapple apple, blueberry mango, lemon peach pomegranate, passion berry (passionfruit + strawberry), cran-apple honey, raspberry ginger ale, and blackberry blueberry.
Currently, the sodas are found in a handful of retailers in cities in North Carolina including Charlotte, Winston Salem, and the RDU area. Robinson also offers home delivery within those cities as well. If you are a business or restaurant, he does sell the sodas at wholesale.
The sodas are not yet able to be shipped because of the preservation of the real fruit. There are no artificial additives in his sodas, so they must be refrigerated.
Prior to COVID, he was in the process of hiring a part-time production assistant to get the bottles out to more places.
“Closer to the end of fall, I plan to ramp things back up. My goal is to eventually start nationally distributing my sodas.”