Danica Dias Talks Grown Folks: Infusing a Creole Heritage Into Soul-Food-Inspired Hard Seltzers

The popularity of hard seltzers, where crisp refreshment meets tantalizing flavors, is rising as flavors diversify. From beachside bliss to backyard festivities, these fizzy delights are taking the beverage scene by storm. Danica Dias, founder of Grown Folks, is broadening the selection for consumers with the first soul-food-inspired flavors influenced by her Creole heritage. Noticing a complete lack of alcohol products that spoke to her and her cultural background, Dias made it her mission to create one-of-a-kind beverages representative of sweet-focused soul food dishes that everyone can indulge in.

The idea for Grown Folks was born during the COVID lockdown. As Dias explored her late Grandma’s many recipes, recreating the beloved Peaches N Dumplin recipe sparked her entrepreneurial journey. With an array of nostalgic and comforting flavors to choose from, the opportunities to infuse them into alcoholic beverages are endless. Growing up, Dias and her younger cousins would always observe the “Grown Folks,” watching them laugh, dance and have a good time while drinking alcohol, which was considered a privilege and only reserved for the grown-ups. Each generation of her family passed along Southern Black heritage and traditions from their shared experiences always surrounding beloved soul food dishes. The brand not only connects with people of her culture but also serves as a new and exciting flavor profile for people who don’t have alignment with Southern Black culture.

The first three flavors coming to market are Peach Cobbler, Ambrosia and Key Lime. These sweet-focused flavors, associated with joy, happiness and love, are set to create the ultimate sparkling sensation in each sip. More than just a product, these seltzers create a story of turning tradition into something beautiful, bursting with meaningful flavor. 

Ambrosia Hard Seltzer
Peach Cobbler Hard Seltzer
Keylime Hard Seltzer

To learn more about this soul-food-inspired beverage brand that is creating a legacy, CONTRAST spoke to Danica Dias, founder of Grown Folks.

Note: This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Can you share the story behind Grown Folks and what inspired you to start the first brand for soul-food-inspired hard seltzers and craft beer?
Having worked in food and beverage for decades, I saw a complete lack of alcohol products that spoke to me and my cultural background. The flavor profiles represented by existing brands didn’t resonate with me. In 2020 during the COVID lockdown, I was at home with my two-year-old son going through an old accordion 3 x 5 card catalog recipe book with my late Grandma’s handwritten recipes. As I was recreating her famous Peaches N Dumplin recipe, the idea to create an alcoholic beverage featuring these familiar flavors came to me.

How have your Creole heritage and Southern traditions influenced the flavors and choices of beverages?
The flavors that I chose for our hard seltzer were intentional in that they are representative of some of the most beloved sweet-focused soul food dishes that my family has enjoyed for generations. They are nostalgic and comforting for many, but also new and exciting for others who don’t have any alignment with Southern Black culture. Being that my ancestors had a connection to sugar cane in the South, as they often would add sugar to dishes for flavor when ingredients were limited, it was essential for me to create a sugar brew-based hard seltzer with sweet-forward flavors. For our beer Front Porch, there is a deep connection there to my memory of my Great-Grandpa who would relax on the front porch, chewing on a piece of sugar cane in one hand, with an old school can of Budweiser in his other hand.

Did you face any challenges when introducing a new concept like soul-food-inspired hard seltzers?
Of course, some people were fearful of sweet-focused flavors. What’s interesting is that “sweet” is a taste profile that universally all people associate with joy, happiness and love. Yet, when applied to alcohol, there seems to be a somewhat negative connotation. The reality is that our flavors are so distinct and delicious that often I hear feedback from consumers whose minds have been changed about “sweet” flavors after trying Grown Folks.

What are your plans for Grown Folks, and do you see any upcoming trends in the industry that might shape the brand’s direction?
We plan to expand our points of distribution in the California market and launch in additional markets later this year. We are leading with taste and culture, so you can expect to see us continue to innovate with new flavors and categories in the near future.

How does it feel to navigate the beverage industry as the founder of a Black-owned brand, considering the unique representation it brings to the market? After working for decades in the industry, few people looked like me in leadership and founder positions. The world has changed and so must the industry. It feels great to be able to bring my perspective to the industry and land real estate on shelves that are representative of voices that have been undervalued and overlooked.

As a mother to two young boys, how do you balance the demands of entrepreneurship with parenting?
I am still trying to find that balance, but the support and help of my extended family is essential. It truly does take a village to raise kids. My mother helps a ton with my kids and also runs errands for me for the business.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly those looking to enter the food and beverage industry or start a brand that reflects their cultural identity?
Find a test market, whether it be family & friends, an event, a tasting panel, etc… taste your target audience and gather feedback so you can go back, reiterate and refine.

Are there any key lessons you’ve learned throughout your entrepreneurial journey?
Everything takes longer than expected. R & D, manufacturing, supply chain issues, licenses and permits…so, plan accordingly. If you think it will take 8 weeks to produce something, it will likely take 16 weeks.

Can you share a favorite memory you have while formulating your hard seltzers and beer?
I have a really sweet picture of my oldest child sitting on our dining room table opening the box of our first hard seltzer liquid samples.

If you were able to collaborate with any celebrity to create a limited-edition drink, who would it be, and what flavor combination would you choose?
I’d love to collaborate with Drake. The flavor combination would likely be something with cinnamon. That is all I can give you as of now…let’s put this out there in the universe and see what happens.


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