If you’ve been tracking with us this summer, we’re in the midst of a series that focuses on the local Minnesota food and beverage start-up scene. This time around, we feature Superior Switchel and its founder Melina Lamer, the recipient of the inaugural JTM Scale Award. Over the past year, we had the opportunity to partner with this local entrepreneur to identify ways to propel the brand forward.
WHAT IS SWITCHEL?
The product itself is a key factor in Superior Switchel getting “the W” last year. Switchel is a refreshing, thirst-quenching beverage that is based on simple ingredients: carbonated water, ginger, apple cider vinegar, and a natural sweetener like maple syrup or wildflower honey. Lamer’s take on the 17th century recipe is unique and flavorful, with three variations that suit replenishment for many occasions—Honey Cinnamon Kick, Orange Maple Splash, Lavender Lemon Lift.
In addition to taste, Superior Switchel plays in the rapidly growing functional beverage category. As consumers continue to look for ways to use food as medicine, Superior Switchel offers a number of health benefits: it boosts recovery by replacing electrolytes, supports immunity, digestion and can help promote energy. As we’ve seen Kombucha take over the ready-to-drink (RTD) space on shelf, the broader category of shelf-stable functional beverages is $3.3 billion in sales, an increase of 11.7%. And Superior Switchel is shelf-stable, with the added perk of being delicious both hot and cold!
PARTNERING TO PROPEL
We were both new to this approach to partnering, and we spent time early on to identify how to best leverage the $75K JTM Scale award to impact the Superior Switchel business.
Brand work can be tough for an entrepreneur to commit to with an agency – it is real money for resources that can feel a bit…intangible. But as a rapidly growing brand, we knew it was critical to do this work upfront – especially as the Superior Switchel story was beginning to be told by people other than Melina, who does so with passion and expertise.
Expo West is a huge opportunity to gain exposure with retailers, investors and industry influencers. So, it was exciting to help Superior Switchel bring the refined brand work to life at this years’ event – and in a way that was repeatable for other important tradeshow opportunities throughout the year. The right event strategy is an important avenue for emerging brands. Being at the right place, at the right time, with the right product to build awareness can accelerate growth.
For many entrepreneurs, social media is part of how their brand was built. Regardless of personal appetite for social media, it is often a necessary piece of the puzzle as the business grows, and approaching it through content strategy becomes more important in order to scale appropriately. With the goal of maintaining a high level of ongoing, quality engagement, we worked with Melina to develop a strategic framework for thinking about her channels and social presence strategically– and one that made planning out future content both simple and scalable. To supplement her current approach, we provided assets that could be dispersed in timely, relevant ways.
In reflecting on the last year of work, it is pretty cool to see how much one entrepreneur can inspire so many advocates around them. Through Melina’s personal story, passion and dedication to her business, our team was energized by our partnership. It was easy to want to do more and to go further, which is a testament to the brand she is building. It’s also a reminder that advocates can become resources – through a formal partnership or by leveraging this community of food experts in the local community.