Boozy can selters don’t usually remind us of the world functionally – but the new PLANT brand is here to change that notion. Developed by Asian-American alternative health care expert and herbalist Simone Wan, whose imagined career was derailed when she was severely burned in an unusual accident at home, the company has brought an antioxidant-rich, vitamin-rich natural vodka to the shelves in cans . As if that weren’t tempting enough, with ingredients like ginseng, goji berries and dandelion root, it is also bursting with beauty-promoting and energizing benefits. We drink to that! This is how Wan’s idea came about.
How did you start your career?
My mom is a nurse and my dad has a PhD in engineering and they always wanted me to be a doctor. So I started studying biomedical engineering at USC, but after working in cancer hospitals and seeing an autopsy at age 18, I realized that I needed some art in my life to balance it out. I graduated from NYU with a film degree and a pre-medical degree.
How did you discover Eastern medicine?
After working in film and television for several years (Warner Brothers, Weiden + Kennedy), I had a terrible burn accident from a pressure cooker explosion that took me to the intensive care unit for over a month. My whole face had second degree burns and my body had third degree burns. I had skin grafts and had to wear a burn garment 24/7 for a year. Doctors prescribed opioids and antidepressants and I hit a wall and had to switch to other therapy. I discovered herbalism and acupuncture which really helped with my symptoms of pain and anxiety. I then decided to study Eastern medicine and completed a four-year master’s degree in alternative medicine.
How has Eastern medicine changed your life for the better?
Eastern medicine – which includes acupuncture, herbalism, diet therapy, meditation, and massage – helped me recover from opioid addiction and anxiety attacks. It helped me understand what self-care really was and taught me to take control of my life using natural medicine and natural methods for pain relief, relaxation and focus. Not only did it change my personal health, but it also gave me a mission to help other people, which I have been doing for 20 years; from helping women with pregnancy to helping cancer patients in cancer hospitals. I’ve spent the last five years of my career working with cancer patients.
What inspired you to found PLANT and when did you start the brand?
I never thought I’d work in the alcohol industry one day! But while I was working on my other business, IN: TotalWellness (an herbal effervescent drug for inflammation, anxiety, and sleep), I found other countries are adding botanicals to their cocktails to prevent hangovers, boost immunity, and increase stamina increase ! I decided to bring this concept to my family and friends and now to the open market. The idea was born in 2017 … so it took a while! On the one hand, it was a challenge to start a business during the pandemic. There were many material shortages and retailers were not very open to new products. On the other hand, I had to quarantine at home so I could focus on building the business. Raising money was definitely a process and probably one of the hardest things to do; to convince my family and friends to invest in me despite knowing nothing about the alcohol industry. But we collected what we had to raise for the market launch and I am so grateful to our investors and their trust in us! The fun part is when big retailers are super responsive to our presentation and want to wear us in their stores! I think it’s because we’re a unique product in a crowded category with an authentic story. Now it’s about scaling with current demand and conveying our brand pillars to our consumers! We focus very much on ingredients with added benefits, sustainability and a great time!
What do readers need to know about the drink?
I’m a control freak when it comes to our ingredients! And taste! I’ve tried so many selters so I wanted to make sure we got something out that people would love to drink and grab again and again. Firstly, the product is mostly water, so we use a reverse osmosis process to make sure our water is the best possible and doesn’t taste like tin. Our water comes from Yakima, Washington, which I chose because of its low pollution and clean water. I use the same herbs that I give my patients in our formulas, which means our botanicals are the freshest and most effective. Our goji berries help skin glow, are rich in antioxidants and boost immunity. I also use them to relieve anxiety. Dandelions are great for detoxifying. Ginseng helps with physical and mental endurance, who doesn’t need that? And I use angelica root as a general tonic. We created the flavors in our kitchen by testing each fruit puree, flavor, etc. to make sure they taste good. My partner and I are currently working on our tequila seltzer and we decided on tangerine and guava because these fruit juices and purees were so tangy and fresh! After all, in Napa our vodka is distilled in copper stills by a real artisan. The vodka alone tastes better than any other vodka I’ve ever tried. Plant Botanical Vodka, which hits the market this fall, is made from sorghum, a very environmentally friendly grass that needs half as much water to eat as corn or wheat. It’s also safe for people with celiac disease and therefore hypergluten free. I have two family members who are gluten intolerant and I don’t eat gluten either … unless I’m in Europe!
What are the uniqueness and advantages of PLANT in the market?
I believe we are the only hard seltzer made by a naturopath. We are unique because we are enriched with functional plant substances, made from real fruits, keto-friendly (with 1 g of sugar and 1 carbohydrate), plant-based, gluten-free, kosher, GMO-free and with no added sugar.
The design is cute! Tell us about the packaging.
Many Thanks! My husband owns a branding agency called CO OP, which has saved us a lot of money. Then my partner’s mother (I’ve known my partner since college in NYC!) Painted the fruits and her friend drew the botany that’s on the vodka bottle. So it was a real family affair!
What are your preferred holistic lifestyle practices?
I love them all! But meditation, yoga, and acupuncture are my favorites. Or wait, maybe massage comes first!
What’s next for the brand?
The botanical tequila and botanical tequila seltzer, which will be launched in early 2022. It’s super exciting for us! We also hope to get into some of our favorite national retailers. Whole Foods and Target in California took us over, for which we are so grateful. We were also just picked up by Breakthru Beverage, the third largest distributor in the US. We will enter many more states in the next few months and in 2022.
Do you have any fun summer plans? What are you looking forward to
We just got back from visiting our Besties in Sweden! It was so nice and I just love the food in Europe. Their food standards are much higher than they are in the US so I tend to just let off steam when I’m there. I have to travel a lot for the brand. I love going out on the streets selling direct to restaurants, hotels and independent retailers – so I have a full summer of work ahead of me!
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