Next year, if you’re on a cross-country road trip, you may not have to worry about missing your Utah dirty soda fix.
Last week, the Utah-based Larry H. Miller Company announced that it had acquired a majority stake in the drink chain Swig — also based in Utah — from the private equity firm Savory Fund, as well as Swig’s founder, Nicole Tanner, and partners Chase Wardrop and Dylan Roeder, who will all retain minority stakes.
“I am proud to invest in Swig, a business founded by a woman whose approach to community building aligns with ours,” Gail Miller, owner of the LHM Company, said in a news release. “Nicole and the team are invested in their leaders and employees, and their values are strongly reflected in their everyday operations.”
Tanner told The Tribune that she thought what caught the company’s eye was that “we have a great thing going. We have an amazing brand. … They don’t want to come in and reinvent the wheel, or change it. They want to come in and just add support and love and make it even better.”
Swig is one of the leaders of Utah’s dirty soda craze, in which carbonated drinks are augmented with extra flavorings — including syrups, fruit or cream.
Tanner said she will continue her current role, of visiting stores to make sure the Swig culture feels good and consistent. She also will continue to be the spokeswoman for Swig’s nonprofit, Save the Cups, which assists women with breast cancer with their medical bills. (Tanner herself is a breast cancer survivor.)
With the purchase announcement, LHM Company also said it would start offering “a Swig experience” in LHM-owned Megaplex Theatres in 2023 — with both the theaters and Swig locations selling refills of each other’s refillable containers for a limited time. Megaplex has 14 locations in Utah, from Logan to St. George, and one in Mesquite, Nev.
Savory Fund, which bought Swig in 2018, has focused on expansion, doubling the company’s footprint. By the end of the year, Swig will have 46 locations nationwide, with 25 more in the works for 2023.
In the last year, Tanner said, Swig has expanded to Oklahoma City, where it now has three stores open and two more coming online before the end of the year. Swig also has three stores in the Dallas area, with another one opening in early December, and more to open across Texas next year. Previously, the company has opened stores in Twin Falls, Idaho, and in the Phoenix area.
“All of those stores have landed well, and are already toward the top of the pack,” Tanner said. Even if dirty soda has its roots in Utah, she said, “it’s not just a Utah thing. People love their drinks all over the United States. … We have stores coming to Las Vegas, to Kansas, to Missouri. We’ve already started down the franchise road. So we think it will go across the nation.”
Shauna Smith, Savory’s CEO, said, “we were already set on a growth trajectory that was pretty strong.” Besides the 25 new stores in the pipeline for 2023, she said Swig will likely start franchising the brand. “What that means for our customers is that there are going to be more and more popping up, not just the 25, but it will be that times two, three, four here come next year.”
Tanner said Swig stores will start bringing in more savory menu items, like its pretzel bites, as well as variations on its sweets. It recently launched mini cookies that come in a cup, so they’re easier to eat in the car. She said the company also is looking to add merchandise — such as T-shirts, hoodies, tumblers, keychains and even air fresheners.
“We’re trying to branch out a little bit and simplify at the same time,” Tanner said. “So we have a few savory items and, of course, that classic pink sugar cookie.”
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