VOL. 131 | NO. 152 | Monday, August 1, 2016
Locally Produced Drink Concept Memfizz Expanding Around City
By Andy Meek
The owners of Otherlands Coffee Bar didn’t realize at first they had a hit on their hands, one with wider commercial potential.
Memfizz founding partner Steve Cantor’s concept for a natural, probiotic soda is expanding throughout Memphis - now on the shelves at a dozen locations around the city.
About a month ago, Otherlands owner Karen Lebovitz and her husband Steve Cantor took a fizzy, natural probiotic soda they’d been offering at the coffee spot out to the wider world. They branded it Memfizz, hooked up with Memphis-based consultancy Southern Growth Studio, and after just a month have put the product on the shelves in 12 Memphis locations.
The soda – which tastes like a light, fizzy lemonade – can be found everywhere from Muddy’s Grind House and Curb Market in Midtown to Miss Cordelia’s in Harbor Town. Evan Katz, a project lead at Southern Growth Studio and one of the partners in the Memfizz venture, said it’s currently raising funds for expansion from local investors.
The plan is to also expand beyond the current three Memfizz flavors, which are ginger, cranberry and lemonade. All in all, not bad for a concept that as of a month ago was an unbranded offering at Otherlands that Cantor had been making for a year for friends and had been producing for Otherlands customers for months.
“People kept telling me how refreshing it was to find a delicious, fizzy drink that was actually good for them,” said Cantor about the drink, which has become something of a hit at a time when Memphis-made brews are a similarly popular offering.
The product is made with water from the Memphis aquifer, with ingredients that include an all-organic mix of lemons, figs and other fruits added for flavoring. The “fizz” comes from infusing the product with a living, probiotic culture, of which the carbonation is a naturally occurring byproduct.
Katz said Southern Growth Studio handles the business side of things related to Memfizz, while Cantor and Lebovitz handle production and the actual creation of the drink. It’s made, by the way, in kitchen space shared with Mollie Fontaine’s.
“It’s a type of probiotic drink that’s similar to kombucha in its health benefits,” Katz said. “Kombucha has been gaining a lot of popularity over last five years or so.
“For someone who’s more of a mainstream beverage drinker and they’re looking for something that’s both healthy and tasty, there isn’t much out there for them. Memfizz aims to be something that’s delicious, fizzy and fun, but that also has probiotic benefits you’d find in a more health-oriented drink.”
The team behind Memfizz would like to also expand regionally, while keeping a central focus on Memphis. To that end, conversations with a few large supermarkets in the region already are under way.
Speaking of that focus on Memphis, Katz said it was an organic decision inspired by the people involved with the product. Everyone involved, he says, lives in the city, and many are lifelong Memphians.
“We also felt that it was important that the drink was made with as many locally sourced ingredients as possible and really rely on the pure Memphis water,” he said. “We saw there were a lot of alcoholic drinks Memphis could call their own – a lot of craft breweries – and that’s awesome. But there really weren’t many beverages that people could drink and say, ‘This is from Memphis. This is made locally.’
“So for people who do support local businesses and shop local, we wanted to put something out there.”