Twrl Milk Tea Co-Founder Pauline Ang Talks About Her Pitch Slam Win
Twrl Milk Tea was inspired by a love of boba tea, Asian heritage, innovation and sustainability. These organic milk teas are made with Fair Trade brewed tea from biodiverse family farms in China and Japan. These drinks contain 45-50 calories and 6-7 grams of sugar per serving and come in three flavors: Hojicha Roasted Green Tea, Supreme Jasmine Pu’erh Tea, and Original Black Milk Tea. Plus, this shelf-stable drink is nitro-infused, gluten-free, and made with non-GMO pea milk.
Not only was this (relative) innovative newcomer a finalist in the Best New Beverage category of the Natural Products Expo West 2022 NEXTY Awards, but the brand was also recently named a Grand Prix and winner of the People’s Choice Award at the 2022 Naturally Bay Area Pitch. Click. As part of the prize, Twrl Milk Tea won a free booth at the upcoming 2022 Natural Products Expo East, $5,000 in cash from Aspect Consumer Partners, a market research report worth $10,000 from SPINS and a personalized suite of professional services.
Additionally, Twrl will join nine other emerging natural product brands – representing first and second place winners from five regional Naturally Network pitch slam events (Austin, Boulder, San Diego, Chicago, Bay Area) – for the Natural Products Expo. East 2022 Pitch Slam Competition, to be held September 28 in Philadelphia.
We spoke with Twrl CEO Pauline Ang to learn more about how she and co-founder and CMO Olivia Chen prepared for the Pitch Slam experience, and what they’re looking forward to at Expo. East.
How has winning the Naturally Bay Area Pitch Slam impacted your business?
Pauline Ang: Getting our name out there and being recognized was a perfect moment. This introduction has opened many doors for us. It was one of the most valuable things that happened because now we are starting to look for investors and a lot of them have come to us directly. It takes a lot of capital to build a beverage business. To be able to have a stand [at Expo East] is huge because we didn’t plan to go there because we couldn’t afford it as a small business. But now we are. I am grateful and excited for the opportunity to be able to expand our business across California.
How did you prepare for the competition?
PENNSYLVANIA: We were assigned an amazing mentor through the Naturally Bay Area network who helped us tremendously in refining our pitch deck. She gave us a very different and important perspective and I really have to thank her for helping us win. Other than that, it was just a lot of practice. I recorded and timed myself over and over until I was able to give the pitch in full in the allotted time. I [also] made notes on areas needing more clarity or emphasis. Looking at each other isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I think that’s what helped me figure out exactly what I needed to work on to refine my speech.
What was the inspiration for Twrl Milk Tea?
PENNSYLVANIA: As adults, we longed for the childhood drink our parents made for us. We were milk tea fanatics, but we couldn’t have it every day because of the high calories and [amount of] sugar. We wanted something to fill that void. Tea rooms being closed during the pandemic, we decided to test it in our kitchen. We’ve tried over 20 types of plant milks to make sure [the result] would pass our taste buds. I will not market a product that I do not drink every day.
Does your tea have any added benefits?
PENNSYLVANIA: Teas are generally rich in antioxidants and L-theanine. But pu-erh tea goes even further since it is a fermented tea that [supports] gut health and digestion. It is good to drink it after a meal. It also contains the highest number of antioxidants of any tea. Our teas contain L-theanine, which is ideal in the late afternoon or early morning for calm, clean energy without the crash.
How is your tea grown?
PENNSYLVANIA: One of our teas is grown on a misty mountain slope using natural spring water. It’s almost wild. It’s not on some giant commercial tea farm – it’s grown where it was supposed to be grown. [where it develops] lots of flavor and antioxidants. Organic tea tastes so much better and has a much richer flavor than non-organic commercial teas.
How does your tea have a positive and lasting impact?
PENNSYLVANIA: We ensure that our teas are grown on an organic and fair trade family farm [by people] who truly care about the land they [cultivate]. We worked to find something that tasted great, but was also durable. We use aluminum cans instead of plastic, so the product is fully recyclable and has less impact on the environment once used.
Are there any trends you would like to see at Expo East?
PENNSYLVANIA: I’m always interested in plant-based innovation – any type of plant-based meat and new plant-based milks and also what might be an even better option than pea milk. I’m always on the lookout for new trending flavors on the market. I’m also really looking for something that can be recycled, that’s the next step.