Eat, Drink & Be Merry: Gourmet drink kits gain momentum
From teas to cocktails, gourmet drink companies are taking the gift industry by storm.
U.S. sales of specialty food and beverages reached nearly $194 billion in 2022 — up 9.3% from 2021 — and are expected to reach $207 billion by the end of 2023, according to the Specialty Food Association’s state of the industry report.
Gourmet beverage kits make for well-packaged, easily giftable items for shoppers. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a fancy beverage from time to time?
The Whistling Kettle was founded in 2004 with the mission to “democratize” tea, according to co-owners Kevin and Meahgan Borowsky. The company owns several cafes in New York’s Capital Region and also sells its teas and paraphernalia wholesale to retailers.
“We sell hundreds of different types of tea along with a complete set of accessories,” Kevin said. “Some of our top-selling teas include Earl Grey Crème, Snowflake, Happy Tea, lots of breakfast teas, Sleep Tight Tea, Carrot Cake Tea, Purple Tea and our Kettle Iced Tea blend.”
Its tea accessories include the Nordic Tea Pot (sized for one person), double-walled porcelain cups and stainless steel infusers.
According to Meahgan, tea sales have steadily increased every year, “partly because of an untapped market of people who are unfamiliar with loose tea and only familiar with grocery store tea. Once they stumble upon the gourmet tea market — maybe through a friend or social media — it’s hard to go back to whatever they were drinking before.”
Additionally, the husband-wife duo believes growth can be attributed to people looking to make healthier swaps in their diets, such as omitting high levels of caffeine.
“By switching to tea, they still can have that morning ritual of something hot (or iced) to drink. Whether they want caffeine or caffeine free, there are many options to choose from,” Kevin said.
While seasonal flavors — pumpkin, apple cider donut and s’mores, for example — remain popular, non- traditional herbal teas with an added wellness benefit are also trending, with ingredients such as Greek mountain tea, moringa, chaga mushrooms, bee pollen and turmeric.
“We also find that a lot of our teas blended with a focus on anxiety and sleep are doing extremely well,” Meahgan said. “Hemp is another ingredient we started playing with that helps with mood and relaxation.”
The Whistling Kettle’s extensive product collection means their teas can be enjoyed throughout the day. For example, Meahgan and Kevin said they opt for German Breakfast Tea in the morning. They switch to iced tea such as Golden Starfruit or hot teas like Milk Oolong in the afternoon, and in the evening, they wind down with Chamomile Bilberry Bliss. They even enjoy it as a post-dinner sweet treat.
“If we’re in the mood for dessert but don’t want the calories, we reach for Carrot Cake,” Meahgan said.
Added Kevin: “Some people may get overwhelmed with all the different teas available, or they may think making tea is complicated. But in reality, it’s really easy. If you can make chocolate milk, you can brew a cup of loose tea.”
COCKTAILS & MOCKTAILS
Courtney and Erik Legenhausen founded Noble Mick’s in 2022, but they are no strangers to the gift industry, as they have been a part of it for over 17 years with their parent company, Lotus Jewelry Studio.
Leaving the final show of the 2022 winter market season, Erik had decided he wanted to bring an entirely new product to the industry.
“This new product had to be light and flat for logistical reasons, it had to be made in the USA, it had to be unisex, it had to fit into any kind of store, and it had to be easy for sales reps and stores to sell,” he said. “With tons of liquid mixers and cocktail infusion products on the market, the idea of a powered mix in a single-serve packet had never been introduced into our industry.”
Thus, Noble Mick’s was born, a single-serve craft cocktail company. Its product selection includes 12 classic cocktails — think Moscow mules, palomas and a variety of margaritas — as well as themed gift packs and multi-serving mixes.
“There are so many cocktail infusion products on the market,” Erik said. “They are beautiful and make a great gift. However, Noble Mick’s makes creating a craft cocktail easier. It’s instant and has everything needed right in its packet — ready when you are with no waiting. Perfect for tailgating, camping, apartment living or anywhere, anytime.”
Right now, espresso martinis are enjoying a moment in the spotlight and are a current best-seller. As a bourbon drinker, Erik’s personal favorite is the Old Fashioned. And while these are designed to be enjoyed with alcohol, they are mocktail-friendly — just add water and skip the liquor.
“Nothing brings people together more than a party, whether it’s a cocktail with friends at the end of a long week or sitting around a campfire at a family campout,” he said. “We wanted to create something to make that easier.”