This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
UPDATE: Since this story was posted Monday, a flame war between Sodalicious and Swig loyalists erupted. Here's the link to the story on the backlash.
Lehi • Lei Pakalawi considers herself a "Swigaholic."
Three, sometimes four times a day, she waits in a line of cars at the drive-thru soda shop Swig to get a 32-ounce "Dirty Dr Pepper" a Dr Pepper with a shot of coconut syrup and a squeeze of lime, plus half-and-half.
Pakalawi holds up her current "Frequent Swigger" punch card which rewards her with a free drink for every 10 she buys. This is her 205th card, meaning she's downed more than 2,000 Swig drinks since the Lehi location opened last year.
At Swig, Pakalawi says, she's treated like a VIP.
"[The staff] knows me," Pakalawi says. "We didn't drink soda until Swig."
Tami Anderson sits in a similar drive-thru line daily. Her drink of choice is a "Dirty Diet Coke" the soda plus lime and coconut. The staff also knows her name.
"Just the usual?" an employee asks Anderson, as she hands over her 64-ounce red-and-white-striped mug.
But Anderson isn't at Swig. She's at Sodalicious.
"Swig makes me feel dirty," she says.
Pakalawi has the same dismissive tone about Sodalicious. "They don't have the quality."
As Utahns guzzle from dozens of specialty soda shops that have popped up in the past five years, Swig and Sodalicious are battling in court over who has dibs on the trend, and who gets to play "dirty."
'Little fizzy things go off in their head' • The concept is simple flavored soda in cute packaging served, for the most part, via drive-thru window.
Swig claims to have been the first of its kind in Utah. Owner Nicole Tanner says she and her husband had the idea because they love soda. They opened a small drive-thru-only building near Dixie State University in St. George in 2010 and offered ice cream, snow cones and sugar cookies outsourced from a local bakery.
But its flavored, or "dirty" sodas, are what makes its drive-thru line spill out of the parking lot into the street.
Today, in addition to Swig's 10 outlets, there's Sodalicious (three locations in Orem and Provo), Fiiz (eight locations in Davis County), Sip-N (in Payson and Spanish Fork), not to be confused with Sip-It in Ephraim, The Slurp in American Fork (not to be confused with Slurp's Up in Cedar City), Straws in Cottonwood Heights, and many more, including Soda Pop Culture in Roy, Pop Shop in Riverton, Bev's in Nephi and Fryz in Hurricane.
At Sodalicious, an "It's Not Me, It's You" is Pepsi with raspberry and vanilla. A "2nd Wife" is Mountain Dew with blood orange and mango. A similar concoction (Mountain Dew with mango puree) at Sip-N in Payson is called "Lions Roar." At Fiiz, a "Threat Level Midnight" is any soda with raspberry puree and blackberry. Some stores let customers create their own recipes from the dozens of soda, syrup and puree additives.
"When someone drinks [specialty sodas] for the first time, you watch their brain chemistry change," says Sodalicious owner Kevin Auernig. "You watch bells and whistles and little fizzy things go off in their head and they realize there's something more here."
Soda, the lesser vice • Owners of Swig, Sodalicious and Fiiz each estimate the majority of their customers upwards of 70 percent are women. Most are mothers of young kids. Not having to get your kids out of the car on a quick errand is a must, soda lovers say.
"I never understood drive-thrus until I had a baby," says Alison Faulkner, a popular Utah blogger who says she gets at least one Sodalicious drink a day ("Let's say I just get one," she jokes). "I was like, 'Oh my gosh, drive-thrus are the best thing to ever happen to moms!'"
Those percentages defy state statistics more Utah men than women drink at least one soda every day, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the Utah Department of Health. Nearly 60 percent of Utah adults drink one soda per day, and 8 percent drink more than one a day, according to the survey.
Those statistics, combined with the Starbucks-like soda shop expansion, have some state health officials concerned.
"We're overloading our bodies with sugar, and it really is the main cause for diabetes, heart disease and obesity," says Rebecca Fronberg of the Environment, Policy and Improved Clinical Care (EPICC) program, which operates within the state health department.
Fronberg tries to encourage healthy eating habits and to convince fast food restaurants to not offer soda as an option in children's meals. But her goals are made difficult by the state's LDS culture.
"Sugar tends to be the default drug of choice for Mormons, since other drugs are not allowed," says Fronberg.
Fiiz owner Jason Anderson confirmed this lesser-of-all-evils mentality, quoting his soda-drinking dad. "He says, 'I don't have a lot of vices, I don't smoke. I don't drink. I don't run around gambling. I've got my Diet Coke and I love it. If that's the worst thing I do, then I'm all right.'"
Fronberg, however, is worried that the new soda shops are "especially popular among youth. They're forming habits that will possibly cause harm to them later in life."
What about that sugar cookie? • Virtually every store offers a similar sugar cookie with pink frosting. The details vary (some have blue frosting), but the cookie is ubiquitous. A simple search for "sugar cookie recipe" on Pinterest will yield results entitled "Swig sugar cookies."
But that title doesn't tell the whole story, since the "famous" cookie has its roots at Dutchman's, a popular convenience store in Santa Clara.
"Nobody can claim to be the original cookie," says Nick Frei, owner of Dutchman's and Craving's Bakery. "We have been making this cookie for 30 years."
When Swig started to expand, they found a baker to make a similar cookie, and parted ways with Dutchman's, saying Dutchman's couldn't keep up with the demand. The company now has its own bakery, as does Sodalcious.
Frei has tasted Swig's copycat of the cookie and says "it's not quite right," but wouldn't divulge the ingredients he believes Swig is cheating on.
Tanner claims the credit for making the cookie famous, but Dutchman's still supplies to more than 18 different locations in Utah and Idaho that are "doing exactly what Swig is doing," Frei says.
Taking 'dirty' to court • At nearly all the shops in Utah, drinks are served in white styrofoam cups with colored straws.
But Swig is targeting only Sodalicious in its April lawsuit, which contends Sodalicious is "a near exact knock off of Swig's business concept."
Among Swig's complaints: Sodalicious sells drinks with flavor shots and uses the same manufacturers for its products. It has a similar oval and bubble design for its logo, and a comparable red and blue color scheme for its menu. It sells similar treats including the cookie and uses similar cups, straws and pebble ice.
Then there's Swig's biggest peeve against Sodalicious: the term "dirty."
Swig has a registered trademark for "dirty," which it defines as concentrates, syrups or powders used in the preparations of soft drinks, or any type of drink like tea, energy drink, ice cream soda or Italian soda.
Swig's attorneys, Mark Bettilyon and Mica McKinney, say the company is seeking damages and profits from Sodalicious. In its response, Sodalicious argues "a model of business is not protectable."
Amelia Rinehart, a trademark law professor at the University of Utah's S.J. Quinney College of Law, said the Swig registered trademark doesn't ensure them a win.
Sodalicous might be able to show the trademark never should have been registered because the term is too generic if, for example, people have been calling flavored sodas "dirty" in a common, accepted way, like aspirin, she explained. Or Sodalicous could try to show it uses the word "dirty" in a way that's merely descriptive, not infringing.
The ubiquitous sugar cookie is also under fire: Sodalicious, Swig claims, "sells virtually the same treats as Swig sells, including Swig's signature Swig Cookie."
For Swig to win might be difficult, Rineheart says, because it has to show that customers may actually be confused by Sodalicious.
"The question will be whether consumers thought they were getting Swig's 'dirty' sodas and 'Swig cookies' from Swig when they went to the Sodalicious drive-thru," Rinehart says.
Other shops use different terms to signal soda flavoring. At Fiiz, you can get your soda "nailed." At Sip-N, you get it "spiked."
Sodalicious owner Kevin Auernig says when he and his wife opened the store with friends, it didn't feel like copying. Anne Auernig and co-owner Anna K. Findlay had been making flavored soda on sets of films made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the drinks were so popular the pair decided to sell them.
"Anybody can flavor a soda and anybody can use ice and Coke and Pepsi products," Kevin Auernig says.
The Auernigs opened two more locations and a soda truck within the first year. Kevin Auernig says he thinks "there's room for everybody," and adds he has helped advise other soda shop owners when they were getting off the ground.
"We were happy to share that information for each other," he says. "We're just having fun."