Loverboy launch grows the hard tea category

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

People tend to associate tea with health benefits, but that hasn't traditionally been the case for alcoholic tea drinks.
People tend to associate tea with health benefits, but that hasn't traditionally been the case for alcoholic tea drinks.

Related tags: Tea, hard tea, boston beer co, Alcoholic drinks, start-ups

Hard seltzers dominated the alcohol conversation in 2019, and there’s been an uptick in flavored malt beverage (FMB) launches in response. Loverboy brings a healthier option to the small but growing hard tea category.

Kyle Cooke spent years in New Hampshire drinking the Boston Beer Company’s Twisted Tea. And apart from a few short-lived brands and other sugary FMBs, Twisted has never faced much competition when it comes to alcoholic tea.

But Cooke thought he could make a better product, cutting out sugar and calories for the current health and wellness-driven consumer. He first conceptualized his brand Loverboy in the spring of 2018, and now has it in bars and on retail shelves at a few dozen locations in Massachusetts.

It can also be found in New York and southern Florida, and will continue growing in the US through a new partnership with Night Shift Distributing.

The Loverboy drinks are gluten-free and keto-friendly, and contain no added sugars or artificial flavors. They are sweetened and flavored with a blend of organic brewed tea, botanicals and monk fruit.

White Tea Peach, Hibiscus Pom and Black Tea Lemon are the first three flavors in the launch. Each 11.5oz can contains 90 calories, 0g of sugar and a 4.2 % ABV. Cooke told BeverageDaily that Loverboy is a combination between a hard tea and a hard seltzer.

The White Tea Peach and Hibiscus Pom are more fruit-forward with the tea flavor in the background, while the Black Tea Lemon has more of a traditional tea flavor. The Loverboy branding is bright, colorful and geared toward young women.

Retaining early adopters

Cooke now runs Loverboy with his fiance Amanda Batula, and he said she shares the same vision of creating a brand that appeals primarily to women. He believes women are frequently serving as early adopters in the FMB category, and the industry needs a better branding focus to attract and retain them.

A unique tea drink was important to Cooke, particularly one formulated without sugar. The RTD alcoholic tea market in the US is sparse, and beyond Boston Beer’s reach (Twisted Tea and Wild Leaf Craft Hard Tea), smaller brands Hoop Tea and Wandering Whistler round out most of the category.

“Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, and people automatically associate tea with health benefits,”​ Cooke said.

But the current offerings categorized under the FMB umbrella have not been making good on that assumption of health. Cooke believes they all ‘miss the mark’ in one way or another, creating a need for Loverboy.

Cooke and Batula are currently cast members on Summer House, an American reality show on the Bravo TV network. The show has chronicled their relationship for three seasons as well as documented Loverboy’s development and launch behind-the-scenes.

Loverboy will remain a product independent of the show and Bravo network, but will be a featured storyline in the upcoming fourth season.

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