CHICAGO — Several years ago, a pair of marketing executives at MillerCoors discovered the pursuit of wellness can be, well, overwhelming.
“Honestly, it was a hassle,” said Britt Dougherty, describing the inconvenience of incorporating health-promoting ingredients into her busy lifestyle. “Some of the ingredients were talked about in a way that was not accessible. They were a little scary or we weren’t sure what they were and so it didn’t make us want to lean in, and probably most important they didn’t taste good. We thought, why is this so hard?”
She, along with her friend and coworker Ashley Selman, began developing solutions to the challenges they encountered in adopting healthier lives. The result is heywell, a line of sparkling waters formulated with vitamins, adaptogens, herbs and super berries.
“We started heywell with the mission of making wellness more simple and accessible for everyone, every day,” Ms. Dougherty said. “That’s what our name is meant to be, a simple invitation to wellness.”
Each beverage is positioned around a specific functional benefit and contains ingredients such as amla berry, schisandra and L-theanine. The Energy + Focus sparkling strawberry lemon drink and the Energy + Immunity sparkling grapefruit drink include ashwagandha and caffeine from organic green coffee beans, designed to deliver a boost in the morning or afternoon. The Calm + Restore sparkling blackberry ginger beverage has lemon balm, “which is a great way to calm frazzled nerves,” Ms. Dougherty said, and was created to replace a glass of red wine in the evening. The newest addition, Calm + Hydrate sparkling lime, features electrolytes pink salt, potassium and magnesium.
“We went into the beverage formulation with some thoughts on what ingredients we wanted to use,” Ms. Dougherty said. “We spent a lot of time playing around with juices and purees to make sure we could mask some of those tastes.”
For example, schisandra, an antioxidant-rich berry linked to reduced stress and sustained energy and focus, has a bitter flavor, she said.
“Our goal is to create a sparkling water that tastes like it has a splash of juice in it,” she said. “We did not want to taste the functionalities because we wanted it to be easy to incorporate into people’s lives.”
The brand debuted at Chicago grocer Foxtrot. Soon after, the pandemic temporarily thwarted plans to expand into additional specialty retailers in the region, prompting “a major pivot into direct-to-consumer,” Ms. Dougherty said. The company partnered with online and delivery platforms such as SnackMagic, GoPuff and Good Eggs to build brand awareness.
“Part of accessibility means consumers can find us, and we are definitely looking forward to being in the places where consumers can shop,” she said. “Now we are continuing to expand in specialty retail and the natural channel nationally.”
A portion of sales is donated to nonprofit organizations advocating for inclusion, Ms. Dougherty said.
“Food and beverage and wellness are still really male-dominated,” she added. “We thought there was an opportunity to bring people along on our journey as we’re innovating in this space, and we make a point of working with women- and minority-owned businesses.
“We also think a lot about if wellness is really aspirational right now, how can we make it more inspirational, so that it doesn’t feel like it’s unattainable? How can we invite people in and build community around this mission?”