With extensive media coverage during the past decade relating to sugar and the onset of non-communicable diseases, it’s not surprising that “consumers are looking to reduce sugar intake,” noted Maria Mascaraque, global industry manager at London-based Euromonitor International. In her article titled “Sugar and Sweeteners: Consumer Priorities Triggering Change,” Mascaraque added: “As consumer attitudes increasingly see sugar as incompatible with health and wellness, brand owners are responding.”
As such, with its mission to take sugar out of society, New York-based Swoon, the zero-sugar beverage company founded in 2019, believes that healthy living starts by consumers replacing their favorite sugary drinks — without sacrificing sweetness.
“Consumer insights tell us Americans are actively looking to consume less sugar, and beverages are the number one source of added sugar,” says Swoon’s Co-founder Cristina Ros Blankfein. “Yet, we see that a large number of consumers still want a pick-me-up, especially something a little more interesting than water or seltzer.
“[M]ore consumers are beginning to learn about plant-based sweeteners, like monk fruit, which is the basis for our sweet flavor in Swoon, and steer away from sugar alcohols as sweeteners for their digestive complications,” Blankfein continues. “My co-founder, Jennifer Ross, is a Type 1 Diabetic, so she can’t have much sugar. Through our friendship before founding Swoon, we chatted a lot about how it’s not just diabetics who should stay away from sugar.”
Further, as a mom of three, Blankfein notes that, outside of Swoon products, it has been a struggle to find drinks that her kids enjoy without giving them a major sugar spike.
“Too much sugar is bad for everyone, causing a slew of health complications (diabetes being one of them) and sweetened beverages are a leading source of added sugar in our diets,” she says. “We decided to create that perfect balance of a sweetened indulgence that doesn’t have sugar.”
Standing out from the crowd
As health and wellness trends continue to drive the overall beverage market, Swoon differentiates itself by offering unique options, Blankfein notes.
“Our beverages hit a sweet spot missing in the market, with a bit of nostalgia,” she says. “Swoon’s flavor profile is bolder than a seltzer, which is much of the naturally zero-sugar market, and it feels more like a treat because of that.
“Similarly, many functional beverages in the market still have quite a bit of sugar,” she continues. “There’s nothing wrong with that discovery, but we love that we offer something approachable and nostalgic like lemonades and iced teas, minus the sugar.”
In addition to offering a diverse portfolio of Lemonades, Iced Teas, Simple Syrups and Mixers, Swoon’s product lines are designed to complement each other.
“Every one of our products is actually built around the Swoon Simple Syrup, which is monk fruit-based,” Blankfein explains. “The Iced Teas, for example, are then built upon the simple syrup with brewed tea. Similarly, the mixers are created with each flavor profile added to the Swoon Simple Syrup as a base.”
Moreover, Swoon takes pride in bringing naturally sweetened favorites into the modern era.
“Our most popular SKU is the Pink Lemonade and we believe it’s because it is so deeply rooted in our brand ethos — nostalgia. Pink lemonade is about celebration and joy,” Blankfein says. “Yet, so many of us have steered clear from this carnival-sweet beverage that’s traditionally loaded with sugar or made sweet by chemicals like aspartame. Ours is flavored like a ripe strawberry lemonade that makes you crave another.
“Sweet Tea is particularly nostalgic for our Southern customer base,” she continues. “Our founding team member and Texas native Whitney Taylor Hemy suggested it, and it’s been a huge hit. We had a high bar to meet her mom’s knowledgeable pallet. Our Northern customers also are getting behind it since it’s a very satisfying, whole sweetness.”
From local to national
Although Swoon started out more focused on local distribution, Blankfein notes that the company’s retail growth has expanded to major shopping destinations across the United States.
“We are thrilled to share that we’ve just entered 260 Target locations throughout the country,” she says. “Retail growth has been a major goal of ours this past year — and it’s been paying off.
“We started by focusing on our hometown (NYC) and gaining as many points of distribution as possible (from mom and pop bodegas to local grocery chains) while simultaneously expanding our reach nationally into major cities like LA, Chicago and Austin through both local and national retailers like Whole Foods,” she continues. “This has really been possible because of our ‘rad’ sales team — there’s nothing more impactful than a passionate team with strong retailer relationships able to secure displays and acceptance into many stores in one geography.”
eCommerce has been a major component of Swoon’s retail strategy as well, Blankfein says.
“We love our eRetailers like GoPuff both because they’re incredible for customers looking for discovery, but also because they do a great job of creating sampling opportunities for products like ours,” she adds.
More in store
Similar to other beverage companies, unfortunately, Swoon has been impacted by supply chain issues, Blankfein notes. However, “we’ve worked hard to insulate our customers from these issues and have had great success keeping product in stock while retaining our price point,” she says.
More recently, Swoon also released a collaboration with Internet personality Emma Chamberlain’s coffee brand, Chamberlain Coffee.
“The brand created their own Matcha so we paired it with our lemonade for a perfect-for-summer Matcha Lemonade,” Blankfein says. “The new launch is a sugar-free melding of two favorite flavors; the earthiness of the matcha beautifully compliments the bright citrus tang of the monk fruit-sweetened lemonade. It’s been incredible to see our fans mesh with hers (there’s a lot of overlap).”
As far as what’s in store for Swoon in the future, Blankfein says “zero-sugar is the future of beverages, especially as consumer health concerns increase and delicious alternatives to sugar like monk fruit exist.”
“We’re excited to lead the charge in our unique niche of Simple Citrus and Calm Caffeine, and are eager to continue to expand,” she concludes.