The story of Lunar Hard Seltzer is one of triumph. In 2019, longtime friends Kevin Wong and Sean Ro began a homebrewing experiment to bring the beloved flavors of their childhood to life. Like most homebrewers, their process started with a novice kit from Northern Brewer, but what they aimed to achieve was far greater than a small batch brew.
As the pair tell it, the idea for an alcoholic beverage with Asian flavors such as yuzu and salted kumquat was sparked over another of their favorite Asian foods: Korean fried chicken. “I was drinking Bud Light and Sean was drinking a lime-flavored White Claw and that’s where our aha moment happened,” Wong says. “Why isn’t there a drink that resonates with who we are as Asian Americans and better suits the flavors of our food?” The question lingered and kicked off their journey to create Lunar.
At its core, Lunar is a celebration of the many cultures of Asia. So when it came to the name and branding, Wong and Ro wanted something that was all-encompassing. “We wanted Lunar to embrace Asian Americans and that meant capturing as many cultures as we could,” Wong says. The “A” character that features in the logo is used in various Southeast and East Asian languages, and the rabbit — better known as the moon rabbit — is found in many popular folk tales shared across cultures.
In a vast sea of artificially flavored hard seltzers, Lunar is the first craft brand made from real fruits imported from Asia. Much more than just another slim can, Lunar is a product that brings the Asian American diaspora to the beverage industry. Wong, a first-generation Taiwanese American, and Ro, who was born in Seoul, wanted to merge the flavors that they grew up with and their love of craft beer to usher in a new kind of drinking experience.
Like many of their peers, the two spent lots of time visiting Asia during their childhoods, and those formative experiences — biting into fresh lychee and savoring the juicy fruit in the sweltering heat — stuck with them, becoming the core of Lunar’s line.
To perfect those flavors, Wong and Ro headed straight to the source. Several trips to Japan, South Korea, and Thailand allowed them to develop relationships with farmers there in order to procure the freshest ingredients for their drinks.
Once back stateside, Wong and Ro aimed to expand Lunar’s production beyond their apartment but continued to homebrew until finding a flavor house that could work with the unique Asian fruits (the tangy green maesil, sourced from Korea, is the primary ingredient in Lunar’s Korean Plum seltzer, but isn’t commonly processed in the U.S.).
After selling out of their debut flavor, Yuzu, in 2020, Wong and Ro created a full portfolio, which has included limited-edition flavors, a Heritage Line with famed Asian American chefs, and collaborations with some of New York’s coolest restaurants, such as Win Son, Bonnie’s, and Jeju Noodle Bar. It’s also widely distributed in 32 states across the country, and is available at 250 stores in New York City. All of which has led to Lunar’s success thus far. Not only has the company seen six times year-over-year growth within the last year, but it’s flourished within the Asian American community and beyond.
Despite the brand’s very positive reception, Wong and Ro remain humble about any recognition. Sharing experiences through the foods they grew up with keeps the pair grounded, and they are extremely passionate about giving back to and uplifting the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPPI) community of which they are a part. Every month Lunar donates a percentage of its proceeds to a different nonprofit organization, including Send Chinatown Love and Asian Americans Advancing Justice. “Lunar is a one-of-a-kind piece of Asian Americana,” Wong says, “and the more stories we share the more we can fight for a better society.”