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A stash of tea to please your palette.

To say that tea is a product which is hot is not just a play on words, but an understatement as well. Numbers worldwide for consumption of tea are mind-boggling.

Joy Edlund, quality assurance manager at Tigard, Oregon's Stash Tea Co., says, "Tea is the number one beverage consumed in the world, next to water, accounting for 700 billion cups every year." The 25-year-old company's goal, however, is to make tea even more popular. They say, "[We're] helping an ancient drink 'turn over a new leaf'." Through their innovative flavors and product line, the company is doing just that.

From its modest beginnings - starting out in 1972 selling loose herbal teas and bulk herbs to natural food stores - it is now a full-scale specialty tea packing operation. They pack herbal teas and specialty blends for foodservice, grocery stores, specialty stores, natural food stores, and directly to consumers through mail order catalogues.

Stash's diverse product line consists of specialty teas, including traditional black teas, flavored and spiced teas, herbal teas, green teas, and specialty iced teas; tea accessories; and specialty food products such as tortes, cookies, and cake/muffin mixes. Their Stash Tea line consists of approximately 28 flavors, of which about half are herbal infusions. The Exotica[TM] tea line, which consists of rare and exotic teas, comes in nine flavors. In their catalog, staying close to their roots, they still carry loose teas.

The company's keen sense of marketing is another way that they have helped themselves gain recognition while helping the industry as a whole. They promoted the act of ordering tea in restaurants through their "a choice for a change" list. Very much like a wine list, it's presented to customers to select their favorite tea. The company noted that restaurants and customers alike appreciate this "elegant touch."

Catherine Trapasso, public relations coordinator, describes how their mail order division uses consumer input when considering new items. "We run many surveys asking our consumers what types of products they would like to see in the catalogue," she says. They also use this survey data to determine what new products they should consider marketing to the retail and foodservice markets.

Stash's production philosophy is one designed around creating quality tea. All of their teas are blended in small batches and they have a policy of not using stems, that part of the tea bush which, notes the company, is added for bulk, not flavor, and indicates an inferior product. To ensure freshness, the herbs and spices they use are milled right before blending for improved taste; the flavors and extracts blended with the teas are all-natural. Working with mint farmers they developed relationships with back in the early 1970s, the company sources their peppermint in Oregon, noting that Oregonian peppermint is recognized as the world's finest by tea manufacturers.

Stash's sales, according to Trapasso, break down into the following: mail order 24%, foodservice 14%-15%, with the rest being sold to the retail trade. The ability to make your product available in different venues can dramatically increase profits while also gaining brand recognition.

Another savvy business practice is Stash's decision to engage itself in private labeling. They've private labeled for one large West Coast coffee roaster for the last 10 years, and in response to companies' growing requests for private labeled tea, have stepped up this facet of their business during the last three years. For certain customers, the Stash name is included on the packaging, for others not. They can blend according to a private label customer's specifications or pack their own Stash Tea blends. Their ability to be flexible helps them to acquire and retain customers.

With their quality product and diligent customer service, Stash Tea Co. is a real success story.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Stash Tea Co.
Author:Levine, Michael J.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1997
Words:625
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