Cheerwine / Carolina Beverage to get new leader

Cheerwine / Carolina Beverage to get new leader

Cheerwine to get new leader


The parent company of one of North Carolina's favorite homegrown soft drinks, Cheerwine, is about to get a new leader.

Mark Ritchie, president and chief executive of Salisbury-based Carolina Beverage Corp., says he will step down in March to pursue a career in Christian teaching.

Ritchie, who has led the privately held company since 1992, announced the move to employees Dec. 22. The company began mailing letters to customers this week about the change.

Ritchie, who will turn 50 next year, said he decided to leave about five years ago. Since then, he has worked with his brother, Cliff, to create a smooth transition.

Cliff Ritchie is president and CEO of Cheerwine Bottling Co., the production and distribution arm of the family-run business, and is expected to succeed his brother as president and CEO of Carolina Beverage, pending approval of the business' board of directors.

Carolina Beverage handles marketing and licensing for the cherry-flavored Cheerwine soda and other brands the company owns.

"Cliff and I have worked quietly for two years to figure out the structure," Mark Ritchie told the Salisbury Post. "It's the best time in the time since I've been here for this type of change. We're well staffed in upper management."

Mark Ritchie said his last day will be March 2.

The Ritchie brothers have each worked for Cheerwine and Carolina Beverage for nearly 30 years. During that time, sales have grown from fewer than 1 million cases of Cheerwine a year to 30 million cases of soft drinks annually.

The company employs 400 workers and has five bottling lines at its Charlotte plant. It also makes a bottled water brand, Blue Mist, and recently unveiled the energy drink Savage Energy.

The company serves the Carolinas and parts of Georgia and Virginia.

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