Blazing Their Own Trail
Siren Shrub Co. Creating Something for Everyone
Tommy Enright, Communications & Special Projects Coordinator
Siren Shrub Company is a women-owned beverage company based out of Central Wisconsin focused on creating an inclusive drinking experience for everyone around the table regardless of their beverage preferences.
Founders Mindy McCord and Layne Cozzolino met back in 2010 working at a coffee shop in Stevens Point. Their relationship was incubated amidst a unique environment of local food and community connectivity.
“We have always been makers,” McCord says. “Our friendship has revolved around cooking, canning, fermenting, and now shrub making.”
What is it?
Shrubs are a sophisticated mixer dating back to the 1800s; made from apple cider vinegar, a natural sugar and a fruit, root or herb that create a concentrate. Shrubs are used a splash at a time to craft complex delicious flavors with or without the addition of alcohol.
McCord and Cozzolino make tangy shrub mixers that are best served in sparkling water or splashed into a cocktail or mocktail for a complex and exciting taste experience. They also use mixers to create a ready to drink, canned Siren Sparkling Shrub that can be cracked open and enjoyed anytime, anyplace.
Each shrub that Siren Shrub Co. creates has just three ingredients, and one of those ingredients is rooted in a Wisconsin farm partnership. Sourcing directly from Wisconsin farmers is one of the company’s values; some of their farm partners include WFU member farms such as Whitefeather Organics, Bird and the Bees, and Tapped Maple Syrup.
“Siren Shrub Co. is built on relationships. Our decision-making revolves around valuing the entire process from the field to your glass. We are committed to not cutting corners, but instead focused on building community wealth one shrub at a time!”
How it started
In the summer of 2015, the duo stumbled upon a shrub recipe and started playing around. The next summer, when Cozzolino found out she was pregnant; they realized that shrubs are the perfect replacement for alcohol. McCord started making shrub recipes with all the local produce she could get her hands on. Soon after, their fridges were brimming with shrubs.
“I’ve always been into preserving the season's bounty,” says McCord. “Somehow over the years word got out that I was interested in canning and I’d often find myself with mountains of produce from neighboring gardners that didn’t want to see the fruits of their labor go to waste, but they had no desire to can themselves. Shrub making felt kind of like that: what is available, seasonal and might taste good as a shrub.”
They found out rather quickly that most things shrub well … but not all things, so the shrub experiments are ongoing and the flavor possibilities seem endless.
“Interestingly enough, sometimes flavors are born from suggestions of our neighboring farmers ... so everything leading up to becoming a shrub maker has been full circle."
The pair knew they were onto something.
“Shrubs felt new and different from anything else we were seeing at the grocery store. It doesn’t take but a glance to see that the salsa, jam and other typical farmers market staple categories are a dime a dozen. Of course, people can succeed in these categories, but the competition is steep. The differentiation and uniqueness of shrubs was clear, so we decided to really go for it….low and behold Siren Shrub Co. was born.”
Prior to launching their business, Cozzolino was the executive director of Central Wisconsin local food community hub, Central Rivers Farmshed, whose mission is to grow a resilient local food economy. Cozzolino is also a longtime member of the Wood-Portage-Waupaca chapter of WFU, representing the chapter multiple times as a delegate at convention. She also represented Wisconsin as a participant in the 2015-2016 cohort of National Farmers Union’s Beginning Farmer Institute.
“In many ways, Farmshed was my first start-up experience, growing upon something from the ground up,” says Cozzolino. “My time spent building relationships, developing programming, and honing my skills at Farmshed absolutely crossed over to Siren Shrub Co. The most clear correlations are related to sourcing from local farms and understanding how to navigate food licensing and production but it goes so much deeper than that…most of my business acumen was crafted during my time there.”
Siren Shrub Co. was established in August of 2018. At this time both McCord and Cozzolino had full-time jobs and were building Siren Shrub Company in the off hours. In October of 2019, Layne took the leap to work for SSC full time. McCord followed suit in September of 2021 after transitioning out of her position as the Administrative Assistant to the Portage County Executive. Together with their community connections and complimentary, but different, expertise they are now able to focus on growing the company full time together.
“We are very committed to continuing to grow with a small to small focus. We are interested in growing as a national brand, but much more in a niche way. We are not ready or necessarily interested in mainstream markets and want to continue pushing back against most of the traditional models of growth. Something we are really jazzed about is our limited release collaboration flavors. These limited release flavors are produced bimonthly in partnership with a business or organization that we love, and a portion of the proceeds go to support our collaborating partner. It is also an opportunity for us to get back into the kitchen to craft flavors that we love that will likely never make it to the mass market.”