The purveyor of one of Miami’s most iconic beverages, Carlos Blanco, Sr., of Ironbeer fame is boldly bringing the Sunshine Bottling Company into the 21st Century.
Text by Ryan Jarrell
A story that perhaps would be better suited for a feature film, the beginnings of the culturally beloved beverage known as Ironbeer has a narrative so rich it seems to leap off the page. It was a summer afternoon just over a century ago in 1917 that Manuel Rabanal gently steered his wooden, mule-drawn wagon laden with a spicy, satisfying draught not only into the interior of a popular cafeteria in Havana, but into the memories of decades of Cuban émigrés who have since made Miami their heartfelt home. The iconic can of Ironbeer, with its flexing strongman, elicits fond memories of sweltering summer afternoons for Miamians of all stripes and ages, shapes and sizes. The man currently responsible for the stewardship of this significant soda, Carlos Blanco, Sr., takes great pride in the place his product has etched out for itself.
The inheritor of the company from his father, Pedro Blanco, Sr., who rose from immigrant truck driver to owner of the concern he once worked for, Carlos’ life, as any great businessman, is intimately tied to his industry. “Growing up, I was always involved in the company,” he says. “My father was strict — you had to be on time, you had to produce. He was involved in every aspect of the company, from coming up with new ideas for products to hitting the streets and selling the brand, and he expected the same thing from us.”
Convinced of the power a family brand can bring to an increasingly impersonal business environ (Carlos’ son and daughter are both heavily involved in his work), he firmly believes that, though rigorous, his father’s mentorship and savvy helped him steer the company toward success. Responsible for nearly doubling the company in the past 4-5 years and the helmsman of over 60 brands, Carlos is a firm believer that the age-old ideals of hard work and determination pay big dividends. After facing bankruptcy in 1999, his father wanted to sell the company. “It was very difficult to stay afloat,” he says, “but we were determined to keep this thing in the family, and worked hard to develop the brand…and now we’re seeing success!”
When it comes to Blanco’s plans for the future of this revolutionary refreshment, hold on to your fizzies! There’s huge news on the horizon. “We’re going to redesign the can and celebrate the 100th Anniversary,” he says. “You’re going to be seeing a lot more of Ironbeer for generations to come;” SunshineBottling.com.