Food Lifestyle Locally Made

Waynesville Soda Jerks: Southern Appalachia in a Bottle

Waynesville Soda Jerks president and co-founder Megan Brown; vice-president and co-founder Chris Allen; and their son Grady Allen

By Emma Castleberry

Chris Allen and Megan Brown started Waynesville Soda Jerks in 2013 as a farmers market booth in Haywood County. At the time, they were both in the entrepreneurship program at Haywood Community College. “We were simply looking for something fun to do that summer and started what we, in hindsight, lovingly call our ‘adult lemonade stand,’” says Allen, vice president of the company. “We were frequent shoppers at our local farmers market, located just a couple blocks walk from our apartment. The market, a strip of pavement that in the heat of summer could become unbearably hot, offered nothing to drink. We had been toying with making sodas at home with a simple home carbonation system and we took that idea and scaled it for the farmers market.”

Delivery manager Brittany Vinyard; production supervisor Juno Matthews, and Chris Allen process grapes

Allen and Brown had their tiny apartment kitchen inspected and approved as a home processing facility by the Department of Agriculture and used $1,000 from their personal savings to buy a market tent, a keg and some ingredients. “That same year we launched a Kickstarter campaign to acquire some small-scale bottling equipment,” says Allen.

In 2015, Waynesville Soda Jerks relocated to an incubator space and began hand bottling operations servicing its first seven local, wholesale accounts. They landed at their current facility in 2019, where they’ve been able to scale even further. “We now operate our business with a six-head automated bottling and packaging system and service over 150 locations throughout the region,” says Allen.

This year, Waynesville Soda Jerks is celebrating 11 years in business. Throughout it all, working with regionally sourced ingredients has been a priority. The company’s tagline is “Southern Appalachia in a Bottle.”

“As Haywood County natives, born and raised, it is of the utmost importance to us to highlight the wonderful things that our region has to offer,” says Brown, who is the company’s president. “With our brand and products, our mission is to support the bounty of amazing ingredients available in our region by supporting the farmers and producers in our local agriculture system. We achieve this goal by sourcing our primary ingredients for each soda flavor directly from small farms. We love to tell our customers the exact location of the farms and even the name of the farmer that grows our ingredients.”

Waynesville Soda Jerks started its partnership with Rayburn Farms several years ago for the limited-release holiday Ginger Cranberry soda.

“They’re so dedicated to sourcing all they can from local growers and, unlike many of their peers in the local food manufacturing industries, they accept that there will always be the need for flexibility, whether that’s on pricing, availability or changes in production methods,” says farm owner Michael Rayburn. “At the end of the day, it’s not important that companies like Waynesville Soda Jerks source locally, but that’s exactly the beauty in what they do. They don’t have to. They could save money, time, headaches and inconsistencies by sourcing from the open market, but they choose to go this route. And what that effort brings is more financial security to local growers.”

Brown and Allen weather the thrill and disappointments of farming alongside their partners. “When it comes to more tender fruits such as peaches and plums, we’ve had several years where our suppliers have experienced late spring season frosts and lost some or all of their crops,” says Brown. “In that event, we make tough decisions about whether to temporarily discontinue a flavor or seek ingredients outside of our typical radius. For example, in the event that we are unable to source our local Haywood County grown peaches from KT’s Orchard, we might consider an eastern North Carolina or even a South Carolina peach farm.”

Grady Allen checks out some chilis at Smoking J’s Fiery Foods

Waynesville Soda Jerks primarily works in wholesale, selling to local restaurants, breweries, cafés and small grocers. In addition to the Waynesville Soda Jerk brand, the company has a private label soda program. Through this program, they work with clients like Biltmore, for whom they created a Biltmore Blueberry Basil Soda featuring hydroponically grown basil directly sourced from the Biltmore Gardens. At the gift shop attached to the production facility, individuals can purchase mix-and-match four packs and six packs, as well as cases of 24. The Waynesville Soda Jerks online store also has nationwide shipping.

The innovative flavors make these sodas easy to enjoy on ice or straight out of the bottle, and they’re also great for cocktail and mocktail mixing. Mix gin and a squeeze of lemon into their Lavender Lemon soda for a Lavender Lemon Collins, or stir up the new Ginger soda with vodka and a slice of lime for a Moscow Mule. The Raspberry Cream soda—a year-round best seller—makes a delicious soda float when poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. However you find yourself enjoying a soda from Waynesville Soda Jerks, you’ll know the flavor is reflective of the landscape and bottled with an appreciation for our region’s bounty and the farmers who tend it.

Waynesville Soda Jerks production facility and gift shop is located at 35 Bridges Street, Waynesville. Learn more at

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