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Cheerwine doubling distribution with partnership

Salisbury-based Cheerwine has taken a big step toward its goal of becoming a national soft drink, doubling its market size by partnering with Pepsi Beverages Co. to expand distribution to Florida, Atlanta and Memphis, the company announced today.
The independent 94-year-old company that makes Cheerwine, which is still held and managed by the family of the founder, said it wants the well-known cherry-flavored Southern drink available nationwide in time for its 100th anniversary in 2017.
“When you boil it down, there just isn’t anything like Cheerwine in the soft drink world, so we feel it’s an ideal time to expand, and we’re fortunate to be doing it with a world class partner,” Cliff Ritchie, CEO and great-grandson of founder L.D. Peeler, said in a press release.
The distribution partnership will initially launch with Cheerwine glass bottles with real cane sugar (The Original 1917 formula) and 12-pack Cheerwine cans on shelves wherever Pepsi is sold in Florida, Atlanta and Memphis, whose combined population of about 26 million people represents a nearly twofold increase over Cheerwine’s current Southeastern distribution area.
Cheerwine partnered with Pepsi Beverages Co. earlier this year in Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga Tennessee and has existing partnerships with Pepsi of Central Virginia, Pepsi Bottling Ventures based in Raleigh and Pepsi of Roxboro.
Tom Barbitta, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Cheerwine, said the company is being pulled into new locations by devoted fans of the drink, and it plans to use social media to identify more across the country and “enlist them in a real way to help us make our lofty goal a reality.”
To herald its arrival in the new markets, Cheerwine plans to reach out to fans via Facebook and host sampling events in Florida, Atlanta and Memphis, along with appearances by Miss Cheerwine who will distribute samples and meet Cheerwine lovers.
Later this year, the company plans to unveil a new package design featuring bolder visuals, including a new logo that incorporates the word “Legend,” which is part of its marketing campaign. The 12-pack cartons will carry Cheerwine billboard ads on one side.

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