Drink to dental heath: Aussie functional beverage brand targeting further APAC growth with prebiotic product

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

Swirlit is intended as a substitute for sugary and acidic drinks, with oral health functionality as a bonus.
Swirlit is intended as a substitute for sugary and acidic drinks, with oral health functionality as a bonus.

Related tags: Oral health, functional beverage, Australia

Australian functional beverage brand Swirlit is eyeing overseas expansion with a product marketed as a nutritious alternative to sugary drinks that also boasts oral health benefits.

A tea-based beverage that also contains prebiotics, Swirlit has the 'added benefit' of being able to replace the caustic mouthwashes people often use.

In addition, it contains xylitol instead of sugar, as well as a proprietary blend of vitamins and minerals.

Founder Angie Lang, a qualified dental surgeon, came up with the concept of Swirlit after noticing a prevalent problem among her patients.

Dentally detrimental

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia​, she said: "A lot of the problems I saw every day in my dental practice were caused by sugary drinks, so I wanted to develop something that was just as enjoyable but wouldn't cause such problems. Ultimately, I wanted a drink I would recommend to my patients."

She added that it wasn't just the high sugar content of soft drinks that damaged teeth, but the acidity in such drinks as well — in fact, she found that even sparkling water was acidic enough to dissolve tooth enamel if consumed regularly.

"In 2007, I started doing some research into the ingredients and the kinds of properties such a drink would have — it took a while to find the relevant evidence and organise all the research, as well as to find a factory that could make this drink, because it's a bit of a unique process.

"It needed to be pH-neutral, as that would make it a better-for-you product from a dental perspective; I'd seen a lot of damage caused by acidic drinks and wanted to create a healthier alternative."

The oral and dental health aspect was important to Lang also because of the negative effects of mouthwash she had observed — its ingredients, she said, could be detrimental to dental health if mouthwash were to be used for more than seven consecutive days.

Furthermore, traditional mouthwash often relies on alcohol and strong anti-bacterial agents to give users a fresh, minty mouthfeel.

Swirlit, on the other hand, contains only food-grade ingredients.

Lang said, "It's a drink intended as a substitute for sugary and acidic drinks, and the oral health functionality is a bonus.

“It gives you fresh breath and makes your mouth feel clean and hydrated without feeling like you've had to use any strong alcoholic or anti-bacterial ingredients, though it's not intended to be a mouthwash.

"These days, there are prebiotic and probiotic drinks like kombucha, which is great for gut health. Essentially, Swirlit is to oral health what those other drinks are to gut health. There are prebiotics in Swirlit as well, and all the vitamins and minerals in there are designed to support good oral health."

She further said that for the most part, Swirlit's ingredients — which are fully fair trade and non-GMO — are sourced within Australia, with the tea coming from India and some of the vitamins in its proprietary blend coming from the US.

New markets, new flavours

After nearly a decade of research, Lang was finally ready to begin production of Swirlit in 2016. She sold her house and dental practice to do so, and after about two years, the drink debuted in the Australian market.

Currently, the Australian-made product is available on its official website and Amazon Australia, as well as convenience store EzyMart, BP petrol stations in New South Wales, and a local restaurant chain.

Lang is waiting to hear back from one of the country's large grocery store chains, and is in discussions with hotel groups, airlines, pharmacy groups and vending machine operators to carry Swirlit.

In terms of overseas expansion, she plans to make the brand available on Amazon in the US "very shortly"​, with South Korea as Swirlit's primary APAC target.

Lang said: "South Korea is actually the overseas market we'll be moving into first, as we have a big group over there that wants to take us on. We've been working on developing that market for 18 months through large-format pharmacies similar to Walgreens.

"Singapore is definitely one of the countries we want to get into, especially since there's a big expat market over there. We're also developing our markets in Hong Kong, the UK and US, but we don't have a retail presence in those countries yet."

Lang also plans to launch new flavours of Swirlit this year: at the moment, only the green tea and cinnamon flavour is available, but white tea and rose, rooibos, and black tea with blueberry will launch soon.

Besides new flavours, the company is also considering different formats.

"We are looking at different formats, for convenience and environmental considerations. It's top secret at the moment, but there are a few innovations we are actively working on,"​ said Lang.

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