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Swig gets new majority owner in Utah’s Larry H. Miller Co.

The fast-growing beverage chain is poised to go coast-to-coast with backing from the business group and former Utah Jazz owner.
Swig exterior
Swig is known for dirty soda and other drinks served in a drive-thru format. / Photograph courtesy of Swig

Swig, the fast-growing Utah-based beverage chain, has a new owner it hopes will help it grow even faster.

The Larry H. Miller Co. (LHM), a well-known Utah business group that once owned the NBA’s Utah Jazz, has taken a majority stake 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 stake 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 leaders said it will help take the brand to the next level. 

“It definitely plants a flag that Swig is here and we’re growing in a very aggressive and yet very sound rate and pace,” said CEO Rian McCartan in an interview. “We’re at the pace now where we want Swig to be coast-to-coast.”

Founded in St. George, Utah, in 2010, Swig is known as the originator of dirty soda—a customizable concoction of fountain soda, flavor syrup, cream and other toppings served over pebble ice. A 2018 investment from Savory precursor Four Foods Group has helped fuel its growth to 45 locations across five states.

Swig sees a lot of white space in the soda sector, McCartan said, and will continue to add corporate locations over the next four to five years. But much of its growth will come from a new channel: multi-unit franchising. Swig plans to have 300 units pre-sold nationwide by the end of Q1 2023.

“There is no lack of top-line growth in the pipeline,” McCartan said.

And it likes the fit with LHM, which it views not only as a funding source but also as a true partner that shares its focus on community and philanthropy. 

“They have the same goals that we do, they have the same values that 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 female-founded.

“I am proud to invest in Swig, a business founded by a woman whose approach to community-building aligns with ours,” said LHM owner and co-founder Gail Miller in a statement. “Nicole and the team are invested in their leaders and employees, and their values are strongly reflected in their everyday operations.”

Miller and her late husband, Larry, were once majority owners of the Utah Jazz, and LHM maintains a minority stake in the team. It also has holdings in real estate, healthcare and entertainment, including a group of movie theaters and the Salt Lake Bees minor-league baseball team.

Swig expects to lean into some of those connections. There are plans, for instance, to allow Swig customers to have their reusable tumblers refilled at LHM movie theaters.

Otherwise, not much will change at the chain under its new owner. McCartan will remain CEO, and corporate headcount will stay the same. So will operations on the ground, though its field-level staff will swell as new stores open.

“Once we really turn on franchising at a clip that’s very meaningful, we will be coast to coast,” McCartan said.

“Swig deserves to be and will be in every city in the United States,” Tanner added. “You’ll see many Swigs east of the Rockies.”

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story misstated how many franchises Swig has sold.

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