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"Dirty soda" pioneer Swig sells stake to PE

Illustration of a soda can with a quarter as the top.

Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

Private equity firm Savory Fund sold a majority stake in "dirty soda" pioneer Swig to fellow sponsor Larry H. Miller Companies, the chain announced.

Why it matters: Dirty soda — soda or sparkling water with added flavorings — a trend once limited to Utah a little more than a decade ago, is now growing in popularity among consumers due to the efforts of Swig and its founder, Nicole Tanner.

  • No financial details were provided, but the chain generated some $30 million in revenue in 2020, according to PitchBook.
  • In the last two years, Swig has doubled its footprint and intends to have 46 locations by the end of this year and then add another 25 locations next year.

Details: Savory as well as Tanner and her partners, Chase Wardrop and Dylan Roeder, will each retain significant minority stakes in the business, according to the news release.

  • Rian McCartan, a veteran retail executive who was named CEO in October, will retain his role.
  • Larry H. Miller's holdings include the Utah Jazz, RunBuggy, Recyclops and Larry H. Miller Megaplex Theatres, which plans to incorporate the Swig concept.

The intrigue: The beverage, which counts entertainer Olivia Rodrigo as a fan, is viral on TikTok and generated coverage in numerous national and regional news outlets.

Flashback: Swig was founded in 2010, while Savory made its investment in 2018.

  • The concept quickly gained traction in a state where members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints make up almost 61% of the population and are instructed not to drink beverages considered harmful such as coffee and alcohol.

State of play: Swig was quickly followed by Sodalicious, which now has 26 locations according to its website, with more on the way.

  • Other competitors include Fiiz, Thirst, Twisted Sugar and Quench It.
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