Most of us in the United States will reach for a sports drink, lemonade or iced tea to counteract the effects of 90-degree weather. But RedFlower is trying to expand that flavor palette with its La Hacienda line of drinks, which are inspired by the flavors of Latin America.
“Where I grew up, we didn’t drink lemonade or iced tea,” said Fidel Crespin, one of the founders of RedFlower. “We grew up drinking tamarind, Jamaica and horchata.”
Crespin was born in El Salvador and has lived in Salt Lake City since he was 8 years old. He still has fond memories of running around his neighborhood on hot summer days and reaching for his favorite drink when he got home.
“When I’d come home after playing, I drank Jamaica, which is a really refreshing, exotic iced tea made from hibiscus flower,” Crespin said. “I always loved that drink.”
Growing up, he noticed the aguas frescas that everyone was drinking in his neighborhood, which was largely Hispanic, were either homemade or purchased at restaurants.
“It wasn’t found in a grocery store or supermarket in a ready-to-drink form,” Crespin said. “And that’s where the business came from.”
Crespin and Patrick Duke-Rosati, high school friends and kindred entrepreneurial spirits, often pitched business ideas back and forth. Bottling traditional aguas frescas was one of those concepts.
Crespin realized that if they had good, authentic bottled drinks, they could have a real business.
Duke-Rosati, a 2010 U business school graduate, liked the idea so much that he asked Crespin if he could use it as the basis to write a business plan for a class.
The business plan caught the attention of Robert Wuebker, a U postdoctoral fellow, and he encouraged Duke-Rosati to participate in The Foundry, a business incubator sponsored by the David Eccles School of Business.
“Our idea was part of the first group of The Foundry,” Duke-Rosati said. “It was The Foundry and the help of Rob Wuebker that were the catalysts for our early success.”
Their road to success was also paved with plenty of labor.
“We spent a lot of hours using commercial-grade equipment, mixing and bottling our drinks by hand,” Crespin said.
Crespin, Duke-Rosati and their business partners were able to gain access to the kitchen of a local restaurant during its off hours to tinker and perfect their recipes for horchata and Jamaica.
“We were working in a 120-degree kitchen,” Duke-Rosati said. “It was miserable, but we were all glad to be doing it.”
Their passion for their work translated to an enthusiastic reception at local farmers markets.
“Every time we’d take out drinks to a farmers market, we’d sell out,” Crespin said. “And we’re talking about hundreds of units.”
Today, La Hacienda drinks are bottled at a large-scale facility and sold at places like Anaya’s Market, Super Mercado and Cafe de Rico. RedFlower also has a commitment from Whole Foods. The national retailer has agreed to stock La Hacienda products in all of its Utah stores by this summer.
“The next step is we want to reach the adventurous Whole Foods crowd,” Duke-Rosati said. “People who are looking for a low-sugar alternative and are willing to try something different.”
*Originally published at The Daily Utah Chronicle.