Zest Tea Launches RTD Line

After three years of jolting its consumers awake with its flagship line of highly-caffeinated bagged teas, Zest Tea has launched its first ready-to-drink (RTD) products.

The new 12 oz. cans of “High Octane” sparkling energy teas, launched in December for sale via the company’s website and Amazon, mark a large growth opportunity for Zest Tea, which is positioning the three-SKU line as an alternative to both coffee and traditional energy drinks.

Zest Tea founder and CEO James Fayal told BevNET the Baltimore-based brand is in talks with several buyers about retail placement for the RTD line and that he hopes to launch at stores in either Los Angeles or New York.

“Rather than go store by store, we’ve been in contact with some large DSD distributors, some large chains with the possibility of maybe doing an exclusive, and we started those conversations before we had product,” Fayal said. “We hope to line up some sort of retail distribution for hopefully late Q1 or early Q2 [of 2018] so we have something in place going into the summer.”

The suggested retail price for the line is between $2.49-$2.99 per can. The flavors are unique from Zest Tea’s existing bagged products and include Sparkling Masala Chai, Sparkling Citrus Hibiscus black tea, and Sparkling Pomito Lime green tea varieties. Each SKU contains between 137 mg and 150 mg of caffeine per can and ranges from 25 to 35 calories with 5 g of sugar.

Along with caffeine, each SKU also contains B vitamin and l-theanine, Fayal said.

Initially funded via crowdsourcing, Fayal said he was interested in launching an RTD line for Zest Tea since day one, but did not have the resources at the time. He also noted he wanted to be sure that the product branding was established and perfected before putting in the cost and labor required to make a liquid product.

“Historically, our customer base has been split between tea drinkers and coffee drinkers,” Fayal said. “About half of our consumers are what we call reformed coffee drinkers, and we think we’ll do something similar with the RTD tea, energy drink, and maybe even some of the cold brew coffee drinkers.”

Although Zest Tea’s bags are now in roughly 700 stores, much of its business still comes via ecommerce. Fayal said the company intends to promote the canned products similarly: Subscription models are being offered and a revamped website that is more conducive to promoting the company’s full portfolio is set to launch soon.

Fayal has also conducted Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) sessions on Reddit to reach out to the brand’s fans and has promoted the line via its email list, which includes more than 10,000 subscribers. Fayal also noted a strong Instagram following and said the RTD products would be more effective for influencer marketing than the bagged products.

As the brand continues to expand into retail, Fayal said he hopes it will sit nicely with other innovative energy drinks.

“I could see us kind of falling into similar categories as the HiBalls and High Brews, even Runa and those kind of brands,” he said.