Bingo Bango Soda is ‘popping’ up around Winston-Salem
By: Jennifer Zeleski
As the season approaches for days spent on the lake, or just kicking back at the pool, a local soda might start popping up in the family cooler. Bingo Bango Soda, owned and operated by Michael Robinson, is made in Winston-Salem, with freshly-squeezed fruit juice, pure cane sugar and water.
The beverage is showing up and selling out at various locations, and Robinson hardly imagined it would make it this far. Left with equipment from unsuccessful home-brewing attempts, Robinson began brainstorming his other options. He combined the equipment with his grandfather’s juicer, one his mom used to make him healthy juices as a college athlete, and started making soda samples in his apartment kitchen.
“There were so many trials, and so many fails,” Robinson said. “My wife hated it. She would come visit and the floors would be sticky. Everything would be sticky.”
Once he found the measurements he was happy with, he figured out how to keg the mixtures into a jockey box, which gave him a way to transport the kegs, and featured four taps on the outside. Robinson was ready to take to the streets and find some curious consumers. During the summer of 2017, he reached out to local flea markets and festivals, finding himself a few small slots.
But the first attempt at selling went a bit sour.
“At my first flea market I didn’t have a tent, I didn’t have anything, and it was horrible,” Robinson said. “It was sugar and water in a keg, and I was freshly squeezing lemons into a cup. I only sold one cup, so I made $2. I put one dollar on my fridge, and gave one dollar to my mom.”
Robinson was a bit discouraged, but his family offered up encouragement, so the sticky floors and sample flavors continued. He created a repertoire of flavors such as strawberry lemonade and blueberry muscadine, and took them to a few more festivals, driven by the goal to sell more than one cup.
“Folks really liked it, to my surprise,” Robinson said. “They were asking for it by the bottle and the growler.”
Even customers that claimed to not be “soda drinkers” enjoyed his flavors, finding them to be more powerful than other artificial and sugary sodas.
“The [Bingo Bango] flavor really pops into your mouth. It’s like you’re biting into a fruit.” Robinson said. “And what I noticed with others was that we tend to get complacent with the flavor of the drink. If you have a peach-flavored Fanta, then your mind then perceives that as peach.”
Whereas, each selection of Bingo Bango gets its flavor from its respective fruit combination. No added chemicals, unknown ingredients or even caffeine.
“I also found that people are demanding more of that handcrafted flavor now,” Robinson said. “And soda has been around for so long that people haven’t demanded more out of it.”
As Bingo Bango’s popularity has increased, the flavors have expanded to include pineapple apple, apple ginger and Robinson’s personal favorite, lemon peach pomegranate.
To make the beverage more portable and accessible, he started manufacturing. He learned to bottle, cap and label each 12 ounce-serving on his own.
Since the bottles made its debut in January of 2018, various locations throughout the Winston-Salem area have started carrying the product; Colony Urban Farm Store, West Salem Public House and Diamondback Grill, just to name a few. Robinson has relied on local businesses for their unrelenting support and is continuing to find ways to return the favor.
“The small businesses in this area have been incredibly receptive and helpful,” Robinson said. “So anything that’s locally grown, I prefer to use. For a limited time, the strawberries that I am using in the strawberry lemonade are from the Crossnore School & Children’s Home strawberry patch, and all of the proceeds from the sale go back to the Miracle Grounds farm store.”
Robinson has also partnered with local farms to donate his waste from leftover fruit product.
“After I make a batch, all of our byproducts go to local farms so they can use to for compost,” Robinson said.
As bottles of Bingo Bango start to show up in your neighborhood, it’s important to note that each one was influenced by a local touch and Robinson’s personal handiwork, but they each carry the passion behind the company itself.
“I came up with the name ‘Bingo Bango’ from my grandfather. It was a phrase that he would always use when he would describe something that was unique, exciting or awesome,” Robinson said. “Both sides of my family are from New Orleans, and I am Creole American and African American, so I tried to bottle all of that experience up – pun intended – with the arts and innovation of Winston-Salem, into a beverage.”
One bottle is $3.75, with a pop-top rather than a twist-off. Robinson admits that a twist-off lid would have been an easier option, but he chose the pop-top for a specific reason.
“I want people to enjoy it like they do a beer,” Robinson said. “Life is fast-paced in our current state, and I want people to stop, slow down and drink it. Pair it with a meal, maybe a dessert, or mix something in it, but just enjoy it.”
Jenn Zeleski is a student contributor to YES! Weekly. She is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communications at High Point University.