Raleigh-based Slingshot Coffee Co. has been serving up ready-to-drink coffee beverages for nearly ten years. The company has grown a lot—now offering whole bean coffee, innovative coffee sodas, and last year launched sister-brand Needs & Wants, a new line of lightly sweetened and caffeinated sparkling beverages.
Needs & Wants combines cascara, fruit juice, botanicals, and sparkle and comes in four varieties: peach mint, citrus elderflower, blueberry jasmine, and blackberry hibiscus. The blends are designed to combine nutrient-dense and antioxidant rich products. The 12-ounce beverage, housed in a handsome aluminum can, contains 40mg of caffeine, 40 calories, and around five grams of sugar. A delightful combination of not too caffeinated and not too sweet in the health drink category that’s heavy in artificially sweetened energy-bombs.
The product is marketed to support daily immunity, stress, and digestive health. It’s fascinating to see the evolution of cascara marketing—from its look at me! heyday in the early aughts to these more creative approaches to reach health-conscious American consumers who still can’t figure out what the hell cascara is.
Needs & Wants and Slingshot Coffee Co. both source their cascara from Aida Batlle of El Salvador. Batlle has been carefully harvesting high-end cascara for nearly a decade. “Inspired by Aida’s friendship and work, and all women who feel under-represented, I set out on a mission to source the highest quality ingredients for Needs & Wants from companies that are either owned by women or have women in leadership positions,” says founder Jenny Bonchak.
To learn more about this new product line, we spoke with Jenny Bonchak.
Tell us how Needs & Wants fits in the Slingshot family!
Needs & Wants is an evolution of the Cascara Tea we’ve been brewing and bottling for 10 years now under the Slingshot banner. We were the first company to work with Cascara in a brewed/bottled format. I’ve always been deeply interested in this as a product that not only brought me closer to the partnership we have with our grower, Aida Batlle, but as a part of our values to craft innovative products that could introduce larger audiences to a holistic story about sustainability—both environmental and fiscal—that went beyond the typical “fair trade” rhetoric. You could say that this has been a passion project of mine for years now, and Needs & Wants is finally the manifestation of what I always wanted this product line to be.
The label says it’s “by women from crop to can.” Can you tell us about some of the folks that make this possible?
My dear friend and farmer partner, Aida Batlle, is our sole provider of Cascara. A few years ago I visited Aida in El Salvador and was awestruck by the women who work on the farms. As someone who myself grew up on a 300-acre fruit and vegetable farm, I know the power of women in an agricultural setting. Working with Aida these last 10 years, digging deep into my experience as a female entrepreneur, and the inspiration of women around me was the impetus to bring women to the forefront of Needs & Wants. A few years ago, in the depths of exhaustion, isolation, and burnout I remember coming home form work on a Sunday and telling my husband that all I wanted to do was sit on the couch with a good drink and stare at the wall. And it’s exactly what I did. But in that moment, I began thinking that the only reason I could do that is becaase I had the time—and money becuase I had a paycheck coming in—to enjoy that kind of refreshment and rejuvenation on my terms.
That made me feel powerful. And it really made me think of so many women who don’t have time or money to make those same choices—which means they don’t have power. In that moment, I realized that the Cascara cocktail I’d mixed up to sit on the couch that day was a symbol of power. And that power came from time. And that time came from money. I decided then and there that every ingredient that went into Needs & Wants was going to be purchased from a company that was either owned by a woman or had a woman in leadership, working in our own small way to put real money into real women’s pockets—and build a community of women (and men) across the United States who wanted to be a part of that mission alongside us—one delicious can of Needs & Wants at a time.
The flavor varieties are peach mint, blueberry jasmine, citrus elderflower, and blackberry hibiscus. How long have you been developing these combinations? Are there any combos that didn’t make it?
I’ve been working on flavor combinations for years, but really spent the better part of 2020 in recipe development. I craft all the recipes for Needs & Wants (as well as our sister brands, Slingshot Coffee Co. and Bright Side Beverage Club) myself, which is one of the most rewarding and fun parts of my job.
What’s the best way to enjoy a can of Needs & Wants? Have y’all experimented with Needs & Wants as a mix-drink?
Needs & Wants is perfect as a non-alcoholic beverage (we often say its kind of like a non-alcoholic amaro), but excellent as a mixer. In fact, when I do recipe development for any of our beverages, I’m also developing the flavor alongside a spirit so that any of our beverages can be used as mixers that balance perfectly with a recommended spirit.
Slingshot was among the first brands to bring cascara beverages to US grocery store shelves. How has cascara grown since?
Cascara is still extremely fledgling, but we’re here to change that! It’s great to see more and more folks exploring Cascara, but just like any product, there’s always going to be a spectrum of quality and intentionality to discern as it becomes a more recognized product.
What’s next for Slingshot Coffee Co.?
We have a lot of growth in store for 2023 and we’re excited to grow our footprint with our incredible retail partners who can taste the difference in our beverages and are excited to give us the platform to reach more people to expand the idea of what coffee can be.
Needs & Wants can be purchased online ($21 for a pack of 6) and is available in Whole Foods Markets in the South, as well as most Publix stores. “We have incredible indepenet retailers nationwide, as well,” says Bonchak. Contact Needs & Wants to learn about wholesale opportunities. Follow Needs & Wants on Instagram to learn more as it enters new markets.
Ready To Drink is a new feature series on Sprudge Media Network exploring the wonderful world of RTD coffee beverages. Interested in seeing your product featured on an upcoming edition of RTD? Give us a shout.