Swig is known for dirty soda and other drinks served in drive-thru format. / Photo courtesy of Swig
Swig, the fast-growing Utah-based beverage chain, has a new owner who it hopes will help it grow even faster.
The Larry H. Miller Co. (LHM), a well-known Utah group of companies that once owned the NBA’s Utah Jazz, has taken a controlling interest in the 45-unit drive-thru concept, the companies announced Tuesday. The capital is expected to accelerate Swig’s expansion across the country.
Swig’s previous owner, Utah-based Savory Fund, will retain a “significant” minority interest in the company, as will founder Nicole Tanner and partners Chase Wardrop and Dylan Roeder.
The amount of LHM’s investment was not disclosed. But Swig executives said it will help take the brand to the next level.
“It’s definitely a sign that Swig is here and we’re growing at a very aggressive yet very solid pace and pace,” CEO Rian McCartan said in an interview. “We’re now at the pace where we want Swig coast-to-coast.”
Founded in 2010 in St. George, Utah, Swig is best known as the originator of Dirty Soda – a customizable concoction of fountain soda, flavored syrup, heavy cream and other toppings served on silica ice. A 2018 investment by Savory’s predecessor Four Foods Group has helped propel growth to 45 locations in five states.
Swig sees a lot of white space in the soda sector, McCartan said, and will add more corporate locations over the next four to five years. But much of its growth will come from a new channel: franchising. Swig has already sold 300 stores to partners who will start opening within four to six months.
“There’s no shortage of top-line growth in the pipeline,” McCartan said.
And it likes the alignment with LHM, which sees it not only as a funding source but also as a true partner who shares its focus on community and philanthropy.
“They have the same goals as we do, they have the same values as we do,” Tanner said in an interview.
It doesn’t hurt that the company is also based in the Beehive State and, like Swig, was founded by a woman.
“I’m proud to invest in Swig, a company founded by a woman whose approach to community building aligns with ours,” LHM owner and co-founder Gail Miller said in a statement. “Nicole and the team invest in their leaders and people, and their values are strongly reflected in their day-to-day operations.”
Miller and her late husband Larry were once majority owners of the Utah Jazz, and LHM retains a minority interest in the team. It also has interests in real estate, healthcare, and entertainment, including a group of movie theaters and the Salt Lake Bees minor league baseball team.
Swig expects to embark on some of those connections. For example, it is planned to enable Swig customers to have their reusable cups refilled in LHM cinemas.
Otherwise, not much will change in the chain under its new owner. McCartan will remain CEO and the company’s headcount will remain the same. This also applies to on-site operations, although field staff will swell as new stores open.
“Once we really go into franchising at a very momentous time, we’re going to be going coast to coast,” McCartan said.
“Swig deserves to be in every city in the United States and will be,” Tanner added. “You’re going to see a lot of swigs east of the Rockies.”
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