By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Mar 13, 2024 at 12:02 PM

After five years operating their women-owned Wisconsin-based beverage business, Siren Shrub Company, Owners Mindy McCord and Layne Cozzolino will be making a big pitch to the moguls on "Project Pitch It," a local television show that riffs on ABC's "Shark Tank". 

During each episode, three local entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of business moguls. The top pitches compete weekly for prizes valued at more than $30,000. 

“The program has been on our radar for many years,” notes McCord. “But we were never comfortable with the idea of pitching our business until more recently.” 

But things changed when the two entrepreneurs signed an agreement with Roundy’s to pilot two flavors (tart cherry and basil) of Siren Shrub concentrate and canned ready-to-drink shrubs for eight weeks in the summer of 2024. 

Basil and Tart Cherry Shrub Concentrate (Photo: Siren Shrub Co.)
Basil and Tart Cherry Shrubs (Photo: Siren Shrub Co.)

“We’ve typically sold our products in specialty stores, liquor stores, bars and restaurants,” McCord says. “So the opportunity to have our product available in a large traditional grocery store is a big step forward.

"It’s higher volume and puts us in front of an entirely different audience. If our product is successful during the pilot run, and we meet the necessary performance measures, Kroger will continue to expand with us. So this is really about looking at the future and growing through larger networks.”

It’s an exciting step forward for the business. But, McCord notes that, as with any growth, the move will require an investment. 

“Since we can’t be onsite to educate consumers about what a shrub is and how to use it, we need to create displays for all 25 stores that effectively communicate what a shrub is and show them how to use it.” 

McCord says they are confident that their shrubs are ready to be showcased in large-scale grocery stores, and they are excited to begin the journey with a Wisconsin-based brand.

“Funding for this next step is definitely a factor," she says, noting that winning $10,000 from the show would make a huge difference for their business.

Siren Shrubs will pitch their idea during Episode 4 of “Project Pitch It” Season Eight, which will air locally on WISN 12 on Saturday, April 13 at 10:35 p.m.

The program also airs throughout Wisconsin, including WKOW-TV Madison, WBAY-TV 2 Green Bay, WSAW-TV Wausau and WKBT-TV in La Crosse. View the full schedule online.

You can view the season's trailer here:

More about Siren Shrub Co.

It was a fateful day in 2015 when Cozzolino and McCord stumbled upon a recipe for a shrub, a vinegar and fruit-based beverage which had its heyday in the 1800s when folks needed ways to preserve their fruit without refrigeration. Intrigued, they began making their own.

As they tested out their recipes at farmers markets and gatherings, they found that the shrub concentrates appealed to a wide variety of people and were perfect for drinking on their own (topped with sparkling water) or as an ingredient in craft cocktails and mocktails.

They started Siren Shrub Company as a side hustle, creating shrubs with natural ingredients like apple cider vinegar, fresh fruits, roots and herbs, then sweetened with cane sugar or maple syrup. 

Each bottled shrub is unique in that it’s based on ingredients from a local Wisconsin-based farm. Honeycrisp uses apples from The Glass Orchard in Eau Claire; Basil use herbs from Whitefeather Organics in Custer; Tart Cherry uses Montmorency cherries from Seaquist Orchards in Door County; and Maple Ginger features maple syrup from Tapped Maple Syrup in Stevens Point.

Listen to our fascinating conversation with Cozzolino and McCord on the FoodCrush Podcast.

Wisconsin Field to Fork cookbookX

Pick up a copy of Lori Fredrich's cookbook "Wisconsin Field to Fork: Farm Fresh Recipes from the Dairy State" to read more about local farms like Whitefeather Organics and get several delicious beverage recipes using Siren Shrubs!

Today, Siren Shrub manufactures five bottled shrub concentrates in flavors like Basil, Tart Cherry, Jalapeno Lime, Maple Ginger and Honeycrisp, plus two canned ready-to-drink sparkling beverages (Basil and Tart Cherry). 

You can find their products at a variety of local restaurants and bars, along with local retailers including Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative, Ray’s Wine & Spirits, Waterford Wine & Spirits and select Sendik’s stores. 

More about “Project Pitch It”

In addition to Siren Shrub Co., the new season of “Project Pitch It” will feature a cadre of entrepreneurs from across Wisconsin, including numerous woman-owned businesses:

  • Atomix - logistics and fulfillment company
  • Bucket of Bread - veteran-owned baking mix company 
  • Buddah Luv - woman-owned vegan catering
  • Harpoon Lures - uniquely designed pull and tension fishing lures
  • Nerdbugs - woman-owned, doctor-created, cuddly anatomical plushies
  • Nommli - woman-owned experiential global meal boxes
  • Pop’s Kettle Corn - family-owned kettle corn company
  • Saffi Saana - woman-owned company creating zero waste packaged oils and vinegars
  • The Travel Coach Network - woman-owned ICF-accredited certification program for international travel coaches

“Project Pitch It” is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee's Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and Biz Times Media Milwaukee. Over the past seven seasons, “Project Pitch It” has awarded Wisconsin entrepreneurs $4 million in cash and in-kind mentoring resources.

Moguls for season 8 of “Project Pitch It” include Jerry Jendusa, co-founder of Breakthrough Strategies; Gale Klappa, WEC Energy Group executive chairman; attorney David Gruber with Gruber Law Offices; Jamie Andrzejewski, founder and owner of Nourish Natural Products; and Harris Turer, governor and chief executive officer of the Milwaukee Admirals Hockey Club.  Guest moguls include Ryan Povlick, founder and co-owner of Scratch Ice Cream and owner of We Paint Doors and More and Steven Gruber, an attorney at Gruber Law Offices.

The show debuts locally on WISN 12 on Saturday, March 16 at 10:35 p.m. View the full schedule online.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.