HAMMOND | Swanel Beverage Inc., a producer of fountain syrups and energy drinks, is growing and outgrowing the Hammond location it has occupied since 1977.
The 72-year-old privately-owned company produced more than 950,000 gallons of syrups, juices and other concentrated beverages last year, servicing about 3,800 retail accounts.
They include stores, restaurants, cafeterias, lounges, and any other place that uses a “bag in a box” format where the syrup is mixed with carbonated water to produce fountain drinks or is dispensed through a bar gun to make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic mixed drinks.
“We manufacture and deliver our products to distributors all over the country and to South America,” said Ron Musial, Swanel’s national sales manager. “We make cola and any flavor syrup you can imagine: root beer, lemon-lime, tonic, sweet and sour.
“If it’s not one of our standard items, we have the recipe and formula to make it,” he said.
In 2002, the company began making its Banzai energy drink syrup, which has become a best seller even though it’s only dispensed from fountains or from bar guns to be used in mixed drinks.
Depending on the products being manufactured, Swanel can produce up to 5,000 gallons a day on one shift. During the summer, its busiest time, the company will mix additional product on the first shift and have a crew package it on the second shift, Musial said.
“It’s a very competitive business,” Musial said. “We compete with Coke and Pepsi every day and even though our product may be as good as those, ours don’t have the name or advertising. But they’re a lot less expensive, up to 50 percent less expensive to the retailer.”
The company is owned by Edward Roviaro, whose father founded Swanel in 1941 and moved it to Indiana 30 years later. Two of younger Roviaro’s three sons work in the business and the third, who attends Indiana University, will likely join it when he graduates, Musial said.
Through the years, the company has diversified into several other lines. Besides producing syrups and energy drinks, which remain the largest part of the business, Swanel leases and sells ice machines, nitrogen generators and provides large CO2 tanks for swimming pools and other bulk uses.
As part of its growth strategy, Swanel bought a South Bend-based CO2 company in late January.
“It was a big opportunity for us to pick up syrup business in that area and expand East,” Musial said. “It had 700 accounts that have to buy CO2 from someone. It leaves the door open for us to put in our syrups. Now they can switch to us to get full service.”
The owner of the South Bend company became a manager with Swanel.
“Through his relationship with his customers, we’re picking up a lot of new business,” Musial said.
The recent recession had both a positive and negative effect on Swanel.
“Because we were less expensive, we picked up a little more business,” Musial said. “And Coke and Pepsi raised prices. We didn’t. But a lot of places were going out of business, which hurt.”
Acquiring new business is the hardest part of the job, Musial said.
“The best part and I get a lot of enjoyment out of the long-time customers who are successful,” he said. “It’s rewarding to be a part of that.”
Swanel operates from a 15,000 square-foot space that’s been enlarged through additions to its original quarters.
“Because we’re growing we need more room,” Musial said. ”Within two years, we plan to expand by building a bigger building or purchasing one in the Hammond area.”
The company bought a house located next its warehouse two years ago to provide more office space, but now “everyone’s on top of everyone.”
“We need a bigger place,” Musial said. “But we want to stay in Indiana and in the Hammond area.”