AAPI-Owned Drinks Brands to Have on Your Radar
Consumers are craving diversity in their drinks, and these fast-growing Asian-American and Pacific Islander-owned brands are delivering the goods
“Supporting minority-owned businesses is not only the right thing to do – it is smart business.” This is the counsel of Bill Sanders, the chief marketing officer for Napa-based Yao Family Wines. “Consumers, particularly millennials, want to understand the corporate principles of the companies they patronize.”
Yuan Ji from Erstwhile Mezcal, a label working closely with Oaxacan families, concurs. “I believe that as label proprietors, small or large, it’s our duty to inform and educate to the best of our capability,” she says, noting that the internet’s progressive dissemination of knowledge is a fantastic resource. “I am passionate about advocacy and specifically underrepresented voices in any industry, and I knew other consumers were out there who share my values. So that’s how the company started, by problem-solving.”
Indeed, statistics from Drizly show that customers are tapping into the wealth of available information to make purchasing decisions: In the past twelve months, Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)-owned brands accounted for over 0.5 percent share of sales on Drizly, an increase of six percent year-over-year. Similarly, the number of AAPI-owned brands on Drizly has increased 28 percent from 2022 and 60 percent from 2021 – emphasizing the escalating significance of variety and brand principles with consumers. Currently, 66 percent of merchants on the Drizly platform stock at least one AAPI-owned product.
In 2023 to date, the top-selling AAPI-owned products span popular drinks categories. The list skews toward liquor, including best-selling spirits Teremana Tequila, Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, Kasama Rum, and Yobo Soju. In the popular hard seltzer category, AAPI bestsellers include Lunar Hard Seltzer and Two Robbers Seltzer. Mija Sangria and 90+ Cellars are the most popular AAPI-owned wine brands on Drizly in 2023.
To celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in May, BevAlc Insights spoke with the pioneers behind popular and rapidly growing AAPI-owned beverage brands so retailers can highlight their distinctive products. We encourage merchants to support these and other AAPI-owned labels, not just this month, but throughout the entire year. To promote more diversity and equity in the beverage industry, Drizly is executing marketing strategies to feature these brands across channels, including its website, social media, email, and more.
For retailers looking to showcase diverse brands, Ji suggests harnessing technology. “We have a responsibility to ourselves as consumers and as industry professionals to do a little research and ask questions,” she says, adding that affinity groups like Women’s Cocktail Collective can be a great resource for retailers seeking to diversify their shelves. “There’s a lot of information available just with a quick Google search … Ask yourself, ‘What is it about the work that they’re doing and their values that resonates with you?’ And then it’s a win-win situation.”
Read on to learn about some of the top AAPI-owned brands available on Drizly.
Founded by siblings Anika and Niki Sawni, Grüvi is a producer of non-alcoholic beer and wine. With a mission focused on delivering drinks that don’t require consumers to choose between alcohol and taste, their award-winning products are quickly gaining fans as the NA segment expands.
Cheeky Cocktails crafts shelf-stable versions of the flavorful mixers and juices preferred by professional bartenders so consumers can recreate their favorite drinks at home. Launched by industry veteran April Wachtel, Cheeky Cocktails products combine innovative flavors like honey ginger syrup with classics like agave and lime so bar-quality drinks can be replicated anywhere.
Soku is America’s first sparkling soju-based seltzer, created by beverage industry veteran Carol Pak. Inspired by her Korean heritage, Park launched Soku and its sister brand Màkku – a canned makgeolli that is one of the best-selling AAPI-owned products on Drizly – to bring traditional Korean beverages to discerning American drinkers in an inclusive fashion. Made with real fruit juices, Soku seltzers are naturally gluten-free and ring in at just 6% ABV.
Slowly brewed to a traditional Indian recipe which includes three varieties of hops and less carbonation than most beers, Rupee Premium Lager Beer is specially crafted to enhance the flavors of spicy Indian and world cuisine. Founded in 2020 by brothers Vanit and Sumit Sharma, Rupee has quickly become a highly awarded product with legions of fans.
When Ji couldn’t find mezcals from the family-owned and operated distilleries she loved in Mexico, she was determined to bring those bottles to American drinkers – and Erstwhile Mezcal was born. Today, Erstwhile partners directly with Oaxacan families to bring authentic, small-batch mezcal to American drinkers. “We are committed to helping as many families as possible,” Ji says of their commitment to equitable collaboration.
Inspired by the native botanicals of Southern California like Meyer lemon, honeysuckle, and avocado leaf, Future Gin is putting a new spin on this classic spirit. Proudly women-owned from distillation to distribution, Future Gin was co-founded by four female friends: Amy Atwood, Mary Bartlett, Freya Estreller, and Natasha Case. Their slogan is “We believe in a brighter future,” and the team donates 10 percent of their sales annually to social justice causes.
te Pā Wines
Founded in 2011 by Haysley MacDonald, who can trace his Māori ancestry back over 800 years, te Pā wines is a proudly independent New Zealand winery. Based in Marlborough, the country’s Sauvignon Blanc epicenter, te Pā produces wines from over 500 hectares of vineyards which they farm themselves.
A seven-year-old rum from the Philippines, Kasama is a unique spirit distilled from fresh sugarcane juice. Launched by Alexandra Dorda, Kasama brings a youthful attitude to the Philippines’ classic spirit, which the team crafts in small batches to produce a unique and flavorful rum.
A coconut cream liqueur that blends coconut water, sweet cream, and gin, Coco Sky was first released in 2017. Founded by Karan Dalwadi, Matthew Flack, and Jason Palmer, Coco Sky strives to appeal to health- and eco-conscious drinkers by focusing on natural ingredients, healthier science, ethical sourcing, and exceptional taste.
Born from a combination of creativity and chemistry, Glyph Spirits is a one-of-a-kind brand created by Alec Lee and Mardonn Chua. Unlike traditional spirits which require long aging regimens, Glyph spirits are made with specific aroma and flavor molecules sourced from nature, which mimic the flavors of traditional distilled spirits – and can be crafted in 24 hours. With innovation and experimentation at heart, Glyph is proud to do things differently from ground to glass.
The first brewery in Asheville, North Carolina since Prohibition, Highland Brewing has been making a splash with its suds since Oscar Wong founded the brewery post-retirement in 1994. Regionally distributed across the southeastern United States, Highland is the largest North Carolina brewery, and proudly family-owned and female-led by Wong’s daughter Leah.
Lunar Hard Seltzer
The United States’ first Asian craft hard seltzer brand, Lunar calls itself “Asian Americana” — a reference to founders Sean Ro and Kevin Wong’s New York City roots. Crafted with Asian fruits like lychee, winter melon, and yuzu, Lunar hard seltzers eschew artificial ingredients for authentic Asian flavors and a bit of real sugar. Lunar also donates a percentage of its monthly profits to AAPI charities to improve diversity and representation for the AAPI community.
In 2015, Carolyn Kim founded Yobo, a premium, modern, American-made soju brand; its name is a Korean term of endearment similar to honey or darling. “Asian-American spirits brands are all about fusion,” says Noe, who notes that Yobo is produced from grapes grown in the Finger Lakes region of New York, making it a fusion of Korean and American culture. “Yobo, like many other Asian-American spirits, is less about a story about what it means to be Asian, but more about what it means to be American.”
Yao Family Wines
The Napa Valley winery founded by NBA star and global humanitarian Yao Ming crafts premium wines from Napa Valley terroir. “Every single bottle of independent winery wines that a consumer purchases matters a great deal to wineries like ours,” says Sanders. And purchases also allow Yao Family Wines to give back, when fundraisers were halted due to Covid-19, Yao Family expanded their charitable efforts significantly. “We reached out to organizations like the Museum of Chinese in America in D.C., the Chinese American Museum in New York, and several Asia Society branches, and created virtual wine tasting experiences for their supporters,” says Sanders. “By supporting these organizations, we do what we can and what we must to support the community that has been so good to us over the years.”
Lucky Envelope Brewing
Lucky Envelope Brewing is centered on the idea of “culturally inspired beer,” and their products — from classic West Coast IPAs to German-style lagers — utilize traditional brewing techniques from around the world. Founded in 2015 by Ray Kwan and Barry Chan, the name Lucky Envelope is an homage to the Chinese tradition of giving red envelopes to celebrate the Lunar New Year. For Kwan and Chan, the name evokes warm memories from New Years past, and happy milestones.
Baird Brewing Company
This brewery is a fusion of its husband-and-wife founders team’s backgrounds: American-born Bryan Baird and Japanese-born Sayuri Baird. Their brewing background crosses borders as well: Bryan and Sayuri traveled from Japan to study brewing in the Pacific Northwest, but launched their venture in Tokyo in 2000. The Baird Brewing Company motto is simple: “Celebrate Beer.” At the end of the day it translates to high-quality craft beers made with intention and sold with pride in both Japan and the U.S.
Asian Brothers Brewery
Asian Brothers Brewery brings together the cultural diversity of Southeast Asia in a drinkable form. With a diverse team representing the Hmong, the Mien, the Lao, the Cambodian, and the Vietnamese people, Asian Brothers strives to celebrate the diversity of Asia. Their handcrafted brews made just south of Sacramento, California utilize regional flavors such as sweet Asian-style hops, mint, honey, and durian.
Drunk Fruit Hard Seltzer
Drunk Fruit Hard Seltzer is committed to sharing the love for Asian fruits and flavors, bottled without any additional sugar. At just 95 calories, these are some of the lightest hard seltzers on the market and offer a unique, colorful option for health-conscious consumers.
Maivino delivers fine wines at a great value by packaging their wines — like Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc — in eco-friendly pouches. Because these pouches are airtight, Maivino wines stay fresh for up to 30 days after the first pour, offering an environmentally-conscious, vegan option for drinkers who may not want to consume an entire bottle at one time.
Carol Pak is the force behind Makku, the first canned version of makgeolli, a traditional Korean fermented rice alcohol. A creamy and slightly tart beverage that’s gluten-free and clocks in at 6% ABV, Makku is a unique beverage alternative perfect for sipping on its own or using as a base for creative cocktails.
Hobo Wine Co.
For nearly two decades, Hobo Wine Company has been crafting wines with a special focus on Sonoma County, where founder and winemaker Kenny Likitprakong was born and raised. An active member of 1% for the Planet, Hobo Wine Company donates a full percent of the company’s gross revenue to environmental organizations.
One of America’s fastest-growing wineries, 90+ Cellars prides themselves on bringing premium wines to quality-conscious drinkers at incredible prices. Working with acclaimed wineries and vineyards from around the world, founder Kevin Mehra has built an expansive collection of wines that is easy to approach and delivers exceptional value at every level, from everyday wines to higher-end selections.
Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
The San Diego-based team behind Skrewball Whiskey is all about letting standard flavors fall to the wayside in exchange for unique, innovative whiskey. Cambodian native Steve Yeng first developed a popular whiskey-based peanut butter cocktail while working as a bartender, and came together with his wife and business partner Brittany Merrill Yeng to launch the brand. A fast consumer favorite, Skrewball is devoted to exploring alternative flavors and having fun.