In today’s digital age, trends appear and spread through information channels faster than ever before. The positive affect is rapid consumer penetration; however, producers and marketers can struggle to identify for fads versus long-term trends. One flavour category in beverage alcohol that has maintained longevity is tea.
Similar to coffee, tea has enjoyed rapid premiumisation with brands like Tea Forte and Tevana. The health benefits of tea-drinking coupled with category innovation in packaging and flavour have led wider consumption across the traditional drinks sector.
Primarily malt-based, most tracked alcoholic teas lie within the FAB (flavoured alcoholic beverage) section of mixed drinks, as tracked by the IWSR. Tea’s natural segues into beverage alcohol has been driven by the popularity of Twisted Tea (+6.5%) from Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams. The brand has not lost its consumer following in a category known short-term shelf life of brands that follow fads.
While sweeter-style alcoholic teas have existed for years, new entrants are coming to market, especially in the premium price tier.
While sweeter-style alcoholic teas have existed for years, new entrants are coming to market, especially in the premium price tier. Boston Beer introduced a less sweet tea alternative, Wild Leaf, to work as a trade-up alternative to Twisted Tea. AB InBev’s disruptor arm, ZX Ventures, launched a subtly sweet brewed alcohol tea, Wandering Whistler, in a can format with flavours like Earl Grey and Elderflower, priced at $13.99 for a six-pack. ZX Ventures already invested in female-founded Owl’s Brew, which announced this year a rebrand of its ready-to-drink (RTD) line called Owl’s Brew Boozy Tea & Botanicals, available in 12 oz. slim cans at a price point of between $9.99 and $11.99 per six-pack.
Outside the FAB category, tea as a flavour is also becoming a boon for craft brewers looking to maximise production and drive volume. In the past two years, 20% of new hard tea label applications have come from craft breweries, according to TTB data analysed by the IWSR. One of the largest craft ‘tea beer’ producers on the market is Wild Ohio Brewing, which offers blueberry, blood orange tangerine, black cherry Bourbon barrel, mango and cranberry lines, all brewed with tea and gluten free. Other brands include MKE Brewing Company’s O-Gii, which is a collaboration with a local Rishi Tea company, and O-Gii, a wheat beer infused with an Asian tea character.
Cider brands are also getting in on the action.
Cider brands are also getting in on the action with McKenzie’s Peach Tea Cider and Nine Pin Peach Tea Cider. Tea is a natural fit with alcoholic kombucha brands like Boochcraft, JuneShine, Flying Embers and Wild Tonic. Collectively, these hard kombuchas increased nearly 300% in 2018, surpassing 100,000 nine-litre cases. In an effort to stay on top of its ownership of the tea space, Boston Beer also launched an alcoholic kombucha brand this year called Tura.
Tea is no stranger to the vodka category either. The use of tea flavouring in vodka began in 2006, when craft distiller Charbay released a Green Tea vodka. That was followed by Firefly Sweet Tea vodka in 2008. By 2009, large suppliers took notice and a wave of products were released: Burnett’s Sweet Tea, Seagram’s Sweet Tea, and Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea. Since then, other vodka-tea launches include Absolut Wild Tea, Belvedere Lemon Tea, and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Hill.
With the health and wellness trend going strong, consumer perception of tea as a ‘better-for-you’ ingredient is a natural win for beverage alcohol producers. The IWSR sees tea-flavoured FABs in the early stages of their trend lifecycle in the US. Watch as more line extensions from established brands, as well as new entrants to the category, are launched over the coming months.