Equitea on addressing the ‘relatability’ factor in RTD tea

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/pixdeluxe
Source: Getty/pixdeluxe

Related tags RTD Tea

Equitea, maker of cold brewed USDA organic teas, wants to destigmatize mental health and improve access to wellness products, the company’s co-founder and CEO Quentin Vennie told FoodNavigator-USA during BevNet Live in New York earlier this month.

Vennie founded Equitea in 2020 after his younger son was diagnosed with ADHD. Seeking an alternative to prescription medications, Vennie’s doctor recommended green tea for its l-theanine and caffeine to provide cognitive support.

In 2023, Equitea launched its first ready-to-drink product, Lavender Green Tea, with three more SKUs later, including Black Tea Lemonade, Spiced Hibiscus and Peach Ginger White Tea in 12-ounce cans. Each flavor is sweetened with honey and contains up to 10 grams of sugar per can. The brand landed in Sprouts retailers nationwide in the same year.

equitea (1)
Source: Equitea

For the formulation, Vennie emphasized a clean ingredient label because “I don’t want to give my child something that is not real, and I don’t want to give somebody else’s child or somebody else in general something that is not real.”

He added that although America does not have a distinct tea culture, everyone has “a tea memory,” which contributed to a familiar, yet better-for-you profile.

‘We needed to be able to reach people where they were’

Vennie, a veteran in the wellness space who authored “Strong in the Broken Places” and content for media outlets like Mind Body Green, Huffington Post and Thrive Global, co-created the brand with goop founder, Gwyneth Paltrow, who also leveraged her own platform to raise the brand’s presence in the wellness space.

“What I quickly realized over that first year was that 85% of tea consumed in America is consumed in a ready to drink format. And if we were going to give consumers something that was healthy, better for them, we needed to be able to reach people where they were,” he said.

Vennie emphasized that the RTD tea segment was missing the “relatability” factor that would connect individuals through an overarching mission of establishing equity.

“When you think about all of the things that we are fighting for in America … whether it was the civil rights moment, whether it was the women’s movement, whether it’s LGBTQ+ rights, we are always fighting for equity. Equitable resources, equitable access, humane treatment,” he said.

As a brand, Equitea serves as a “social currency” that represents “the support of marginalized people,” and building a community around authenticity and vulnerability particularly.

Vennie credits himself as representing the few Black founders in the food and beverage CPG space.

With more than 2.6 million Black-owned businesses in the US, nearly 100,000 are in the food and beverage industry and generating more than $100 billion in revenue a year, according to the US Census Bureau​.

However, analysis​ from the Brookings Institute shows that despite a 14.3% increase in Black-owned businesses between 2017-2021, the overall share of Black-owned businesses remained disproportionately low compared to the US population.

“[Black founders] do not have the same lived experiences, nor the same access to resources as our counterparts. We do not have the option of being inauthentic. Every Black founder that I know is in [this] space [is] for a reason. We are solving a problem … that existed for ourselves, for our children, for our families, and then we are making that available to other people,” he said.

Along with retail partnerships, Vennie grows Equitea’s brand awareness through community engagement opportunities like donating products to food banks, homeless shelters and public schools, among others.



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