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Company continuing to grow after more than 25 years

Sqwincher a driving force in industrial drink market

COLUMBUS — There are plenty of activity drinks on the market today, but only one that was developed in Columbus.

Touted as “the drink of industry,” Sqwincher, first introduced in 1975 as a sports drink, is an electrolyte replacement drink formulated to replace mineral salts and replenish fluids and sugars. It prevents or reduces the severity of heat stress disorders and provides a supplemental source of energy. Tommy Howard, president and CEO of the Sqwincher, is happy to be providing the activity drink to the industrial market.

“We were the official drink of the USFL and had retail exposure,” Howard said. “But we quickly found out that was a dangerous thing to do unless you have a bottomless pit of money.”

So after a couple of years stuck on the shelf in the mid-1980s, Sqwincher found its niche — in the industrial market. Now more than 25 years after its formulation, Sqwincher is running with the big dogs, and winning. The drink is sold throughout the U.S., as well as in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

It may be true that Sqwincher is one among many activity drinks, but it’s composition sets it apart from the others, said Howard.

“It’s got half the sodium and twice the potassium of Gatorade,” Howard said. “That’s one of the main things we’ve played on throughout the years.”

Howard’s father, Mack, developed Sqwincher because he felt Gatorade needed a competitor. After speaking to an athletic trainer friend about his idea for a new sports drink, his friend suggested a drink with less salt and more potassium.

“He was a big sports enthusiast,” Howard said of his father, who now owns MPAC, a fruit drink manufacturing company for the institutional market, based in Scottsdale, Ariz. “My father is very creative. He’s always coming up with new products. So Sqwincher was definitely his brainchild.”

It wasn’t until 1985 that Tommy Howard’s brother Cal got involved in the business, and Tommy followed suit in 1987. In the mid-1990s Cal and Tommy purchased the company. Today, Tommy is the only family member who still works for the company, although Cal still has ownership in the company.

A crowded market

Tommy said that while it is difficult to compete in such a crowded market, it’s not impossible. Sqwincher, after all, has grown up in the industry.

“We do have competition, including Gatorade,” Howard said. “But we are the leaders in this market.”

And now with some new manufacturing and distribution points in Australia and New Zealand, the company is growing even larger. Those new markets, Howard said, have been wonderful for Sqwincher because they offset the seasonality of the product.

“We do sell all over the place and over the years I think hopefully we’ve established ourselves and shown consistency and continuity,” Howard said, although he acknowledged that he does try to stay below the radar screen. “We just try to do our business and move on and it’s been effective,” he said.

Even so, business can be frustrating.

“One of the frustrating things about Mississippians is that they don’t support their own,” Howard said. “We do sell to a lot of Mississippians but it’s been somewhat frustrating. Mississippi should really support Mississippi.”

But Howard shrugged off the problem. “There may be a lot of people out there who didn’t realize we were a Mississippi company,” he said.

Sqwincher advertisements can be found in such publications as Occupational Hazards, Plant and Safety Maintenance and pretty much anything that relates to industry. Company representatives also can be found at 15 or more trade shows each year, including the National Safety Show, the Industrial Hygiene Show and the World of Concrete Show, to name a few.

“I feel very fortunate,” Howard said of Sqwincher’s success.

Sqwincher has become a real force in the activity drink industry. With more than $10 million in sales annually, the company is debt free and expanding internationally. Aside from the nine flavors and 13 packet sizes the company offers they also now manufacture their own coolers.

Sqwincher will also be introducing some new products this year.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.


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