“Jars with the wide mouth have a lot of potential for other uses,” David Key, in charge of production and operations at Up Mountain Switchel, told FoodNavigator-USA. “We have a social media campaign, #Reswitchel, where we have people posting pictures of how they reused their jars.”
The packaging design shows Up Mountain’s roots as a small-batch company selling at local farmer’s markets in Vermont, hand packing its drink in mason jars. Its product is one of a few others out there that is contributing to switchel’s revival, a drink dating back to agrarian America, when farmers would drink this mixture of water, vinegar, and a sweetener to quench their thirst and get a boost of energy.
Roots, Fruit, and Sap
Ever since its establishment in the summer of 2012, Up Mountain Switchel has been taking baby steps to continue its expansion, but as it grows, the ingredients remain as wholesome as they always have been.
The founders—Ely Key and Garrett Riffle—went through old switchel recipes that date back centuries, but the recipe they ended up with came from their own trial and error: Apple cider, ginger, water, and maple syrup.
“We made it by hand for almost two and a half to three years, it started in a barn in Vermont, and then we moved to Brooklyn in 2013 and we made it by hand in a commercial kitchen space,” Key said. “It wasn’t until January last year that we switched and partnered with a co-packer.”
The team wanted to stick to using real ginger roots in their beverage instead of ginger flavor or powder, so finding a co-packer that was able to meet their specifications wasn’t that easy. It was the company they bought their glass jars from that referred them to a co-packer that was able to give the team what they wanted.
A friends and family effort
The product comes in four flavors: Original Switchel, Lemon Switchel, Mate Switchel, and Cayenne Switchel. Based on their online store, a 6-pack of switchel can be bought for $40.
As of now, other than online retail, Up Mountain Switchel’s distribution is concentrated in the Tri-State Area and the Northeast, with some distribution in California, Texas, and Tennessee.
“We sell in a lot of specialty groceries, and we sell in Whole Foods in the Northeast,” Key said. “And we’re definitely interested in the bigger retail chains.”
The issue with this, Key said, is that many of the larger, conventional retailers require a large number of free products to get started with, and it can be hard for a company whose capital mainly comes from personal funds, friends, and family.
“At our point as a small business, it’s a big risk to take, especially without the amount of capital that a lot of [other] companies have,” he said about the initial plunge into conventional retail channels.
“But we’ve talked with a lot of people at trade shows, there’s definitely interest, it just takes time.”