If global brand names are the locomotives of our industry, then small businesses are the fuel that keeps them going. More than one-third of our industry is comprised of small businesses. Their names may not be as recognizable as The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, or Dr Pepper, but their contributions to their communities and the economy are massive.

The soft drink life cycle begins with the syrup producer, moves to the bottler, then merchants and finally the consumer. Small enterprises are part of the process at each stage and vital to it. Many of these companies have long histories, in some case dating back to the 19th century.

At its core, the soft drink industry is a microcosm of American commerce, with mom-and-pop shops, international businesses, and everything in between all having a unique role to play in the industry’s success. So the next time you hear about “Big Soda,” remember the thousands of American small businesses that help keep our store shelves stocked and our refrigerators full.