The Occhipinti family took a year to create the flavors found in their new soda line, Okola-homa Soda, and are now expanding to grocery stores across the metro after the Oklahoma Restaurant Association named the company the Most Innovative Exhibit at a Made In Oklahoma trade show.
It all began with a dad joke.
The Occhipinti family have always been close. John and Cynthia, their twin sons, Everett and wife Sierra, and Garrett and wife Andrea, have always enjoyed spending time together.
At a family picnic in 2017, John said to his sons, “As much Dr. Pepper as you drink, you ought to start your own soda company.”
They laughed and the picnic went on, but the idea took hold.
“The following week, we did some research,” John said. “Turns out, no one was making soda here in Oklahoma, and there was a huge market and demand, thanks to my sons.”
In addition, OKC Soda Co. is also in the market, making Okola-homa now one of two soda companies in Oklahoma.
John Occhipinti came from the corporate world.
“I’ve done brand-building and placing products,” he said. “But I was so excited at the thought of going into business with my family. It would give us an excuse to see one another every day.”
In 2018, Okola-homa Soda became incorporated. The family kept developing their business idea, but not much changed until the pandemic hit.
“During the pandemic, we were often standing around the kitchen counter, dreaming together as a family,” he said. “That’s when we had time to work on the product.”
In their warehouse, shelves of jewel-toned soda bottles glisten in the afternoon light.
“We hired a company to create flavors with us,” he said. “We worked as a family for almost a year, sending samples back and forth, to create these flavors. We have seen over the last nine months — the customer feedback on social media, the emails, the raves and our customer following. It’s clear that the time we spent has been worth it.”
Okola-homa has four flavors of soda — root beer, cream soda, Kola, and Mr. Twister. Mr. Twister is named after Everett and Garrett, to honor their storm-chasing hobby, and their previous love for Dr. Pepper.
“It’s not Dr. Pepper,” John said. “It’s a cherry vanilla spice. It’s gained quite a following.”
In addition to the individually crafted flavors, the company also chose to bottle the soda in glass bottles instead of aluminum cans.
“You put fine wine in glass, not aluminum cans,” he said. “We worked so hard on this product, and I want people to see it. Everyone is doing canning now. We found a bottling line that was no longer in use and we made some modi cations. State-of the-art bottling line. Automated, and the only one of its kind in Oklahoma that we are aware of.”
Okola-homa Soda built a few hundred cases of their sodas last May and joined the Made in Oklahoma Foundation. At the MIO trade show at the Fairgrounds, the Occhipintis quickly sold out of everything they brought. The Oklahoma Restaurant Association awarded them the Most Innovative Exhibit Award.
“Eight days later we had sold all 300 cases,” he said.
The Occhipinti family has stepped up production of their sodas, and they are expanding sales into many grocery stores and businesses across the metro. And, it’s all because of an off-the-cuff dad joke just a few years.