How did two party boys change their tune to become lover boys? That transformation was brought on with some help in the form of hard work, cold hard cash and of course, monk fruit.
Loverboy is the brainchild of Kyle Cooke and his fiancé, Amanda Batula, who some may recognize from the hit Bravo TV show, “Summer House,” where a group of New Yorkers rent a weekend house in the Hamptons for the duration of the season while they party and play together. It was that exact environment that ultimately led Cooke to create the better-for-you alcohol drink, Loverboy.
Fans of the show see the cast mates—which include Cooke and Batula alongside Carl Radke, who is also on the Loverboy team—partying it up every weekend after working in the Big Apple all week. With partying usually comes alcohol, and with alcohol on television comes branding—whether it’s intentional or not. That’s when Cooke decided to blend his knowledge of nutrition with his partying to make a unique beverage in a highly saturated market. The young entrepreneur already had a fitness app, Fenix, in the works but had to shift all his focus and money into the new venture.
“When I conceptualized this, there was going to be a lot of competition in the hard seltzer space,” explains Cooke. “Everybody was trying to be the Bud Light of seltzer, and what I mean by that, is the ubiquitous go-to that you’re grabbing out of the fridge. Everybody wants to be the lower- priced-point light-beer replacement, and I saw that there was so much room to improve. Every hard seltzer out there uses the same formula and it just comes down to branding: You have the alcohol, it gets carbonated and you add natural flavors, and some taste better than the others.”
That improvement came in the form of ingredients. The Sparkling Hard Teas take what you love about the botanicals of a tea and combine them with the bubbles of a seltzer, naturally sweetening it with monk fruit, and flavoring it with tea botanicals for a “guilt-free sip.” That means no sugar, and according to Cooke, no hangover. It’s exactly that innovative nutrition that brought cast-mate Radke on board.
“LoverBoy was kind of the next genesis of nutrition. Something we know and love on the show is drinking, so combining the nutrition with the ingredients and packaging… From the beginning, I saw that him and Amanda were putting their heart and soul into it. I’ve had a lot of success in sales, so it was a good fit and the perfect marriage,” Radke explains.
Cooke explains that when you look at the statistics of how many alcoholic calories the average adult consumes, anywhere from 20 to 40 percent, nutrition is a huge factor. But branding also has a lot to do with what sets Loverboy apart.
“The liquid itself has more personality, and for the brand itself, I saw a very easy way to differentiate because all the other branding is boring,” says Cooke. “It was easy to differentiate because everyone was just focusing on being the cheapest mainstream liquid that’s going to proliferate a fraternity.”
He’s right. You look at Truly, White Claw, Corona Seltzers and even Bud Light Seltzers, and they all look similar. Loverboy on the other hand features bold colors and striking designs for all three flavors—White Tea Peach, Hibiscus Pom and Lemon Iced Tea—and for their premium craft canned cocktails as well.
The pandemic certainly helped kickstart the evolution of Loverboy from throwing parties at bars to focus more on mass production, which led the drink to the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphians can now sip on Loverboy—the drink is available at 300 stores in Philadelphia and surrounding counties and chain grocers, such as ACME and Giant, and you can order your own on goPuff. The delivery service will also be featuring Loverboy’s new limited-edition flavor coming to Philly, the “liquid gold” flavor of the brand, Orange Chai.
The nutritional values and colorful cans do set the drink apart, but so does the manpower behind it.
“I think that’s what makes the loyalty and sense of community around our brand so crucial. ‘Summer House’ is 90 percent play, but when we’re not on the camera, it’s the other way around,” explains Cooke. “We’re not just slapping our name on a wine or we’re not taking a product that was innovated and launched by a huge supplier—we are literally doing everything ourselves. It’s a brand that has an authentic story and I want people to know our origin. And I think we win the vast majority of hard seltzer taste tests.”
Sure, “Summer House” definitely helps with marketing, but when you look at what it took to get here, fueled from parties or not, this brand was backed behind a lot of hard work. And that’s what these party boys turned lover boys want people to know.
“You have to believe in something so much, that you’re willing to write all of the first checks. I can’t tell you how many people catch the entrepreneurial bug, come up with a power point and try and go out and get funding,” says Cooke. “If you believe in something, find a way to get it as far as you can on your own whether that’s blood, sweat and tears or your savings. If you don’t have savings, then you have to keep your day job and find a way to scrap it together. Don’t waste your time trying to get investors if you have the money yourself.”
Expansion is certainly on the horizon for the Loverboy team—both Radke and Cooke are hoping to launch Loveboy beyond the U.S. in the future.
“We really feel like we built a premium and better-for-you alcohol brand,” explains Radke. “We’d like to be in every store throughout the U.S. and we really think we’ve got a unique brand in that you know the people behind it and we’ve got a really loyal audience. I think moving forward, I’d really like to brand internationally, but we’re also a lifestyle brand and we’ve got some really amazing merchandise. I think we can align ourselves with some really cool partnerships down the line. The world is our oyster, but we’re really trying to become more available, more marketable and safe for everybody first before we try to take over the world.”
Catch Bravo’s “Summer House” every Thursday and to learn more about Loverboy, visit drinkloverboy.com