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'Toba soda favourite from '70s, '80s rising from ashes

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Pic-a-Pop is about to rise for the second time from the soda pop graveyard.

The popular discount brand from the 1970s and '80s resurfaced after a decade-long absence in 2005 but it disappeared again after its bottler, Angostura Canada, shut down its Winnipeg plant four years ago.

Now the retro pop's owner has signed a deal with Canadian Gold Beverages Inc. in Marchand, Man., and at least some of its rainbow of colours and flavours could be back on store shelves as early as mid-November.

"The deal and the handshake are done," said Peter De Jong, owner of Canadian Gold. "We're just waiting for the labels."

"We definitely want to restart the Pic-a-Pop line. We are finalizing the dots (on the agreement). It should be in stores six to eight weeks from now."

Pic-a-Pop's first comeback was in 2005 when Bart Hruda was running a pair of Sugar Mountain candy stores, which specialized in retro treats. He received so many requests for Blue Razzberry, Black Cherry, Grape and other Pic-a-Pop flavours he tracked down its last owner in Texas and offered to carry the line if he would relaunch it. The man was retired and wasn't interested in re-entering the beverage game, so he offered to sell the brand to Hruda, who quickly agreed.

Hruda said he had as much produced as possible before Angostura shut its doors and stored it in a warehouse but once it was gone, it was gone.

He would like to do some small production runs to assess the consumer demand and then ramp it up from there if it starts to fly off the shelves.

One element from the past that won't be revived is Pic-a-Pop status as a discount brand.

"We're going to maintain it as a premium beverage," Hruda said. There are two Sugar Mountain locations in Winnipeg, at Polo Park and St. Vital malls. There is also a seasonal location inside a rail car at The Forks. The original Corydon Avenue location is under renovation and is scheduled to reopen in 2014.

Now living in Ottawa, Hruda was in Marchand a couple of weeks ago going over the ingredients and selecting which of the nearly 40 recipes he'd like produced.

Producing soda in glass bottles in another province or state wouldn't be profitable because of shipping costs in a razor-thin margin game, he said.

"It makes sense if you're going to consume it in Manitoba, you should produce it in Manitoba," he said.

Hruda knows the Canadian Gold plant well, as it produced Pic-a-Pop when it first returned to the market. But as the batches required grew, he moved production to Angostura.

But now with a change of ownership at Canadian Gold, which installed a second production line that handles glass, the two companies are poised to do business once again.

De Jong bought the plant last fall after it had been closed for about a year. Canadian Gold makes its own branded sparkling, still and lemon water and it also does a brisk private-label business. It ships across Canada, the U.S. and to China, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2013 B6


Updated on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 7:05 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline

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