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The many facades of tea.




Blue Ridge Tea & Herb Co., is a private label teabag packer. Paulette and Roger Rigolli have a unique business. Besides packing and blending black and flavored teas, the company specializes in the formulation of herbal beverages and medicinal tea blends made to order. Black teas include those from China, India, Africa, South America, and Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

How and when Blue Ridge began its product line is an interesting story. About 18 years ago, Paulette was blending and flavoring medicinal herbs for her customers in her gourmet shop, Gourmet Gallery.

While she was also selling gourmet coffee beans, her customers inquired as to whether or not she could flavor the coffee beans for them. When some of the coffee companies heard about her flavoring activities, they requested Paulette to flavor coffee beans for them. At that time, Paulette was also blending herbal teas and some of her customers asked her if she could pack them into teabags. So, Paulette and Roger began researching teabagging equipment. Two years later, a teabag plant was set up.

Today, Paulette is well known in the industry as a specialist in the area of herbal teas and functions as a consultant to various regional, national, and international companies.

"When a customer contacts me with an idea for a tea blend, I will evaluate the product for flavor, packability, and effectiveness and make suggestions. Product availability is also a big factor in formulating a blend," she said.

"Europeans use more herbal and medicinal teas, although these teas are definitely growing in popularity and use in this country. My business has its little niche. I generally cater to the smaller customer, which offers me the opportunity for greater diversity."

According to Paulette, the trends are in more and different flavored teas, such as the ready-todrink iced tea market. Paulette was also involved in the development of a well-known iced tea presently on the market. "People want an exciting beverage, something different. I think more tea companies should look to make a quality product for the quality-minded consumer."

Charleston Tea Plantation,

Inc./Charleston South Carolina

Promoted as the only company that grows its tea in the U.S., in Charleston in fact, the Charleston Tea Plantation markets its tea under the American Classic Tea brand name.

The product line is in both teabags for hot tea, iced teabags, and ready-to-drink brewed tea. Hot teabags include 20 count with string tag and overwraps sold under the "original" label. Iced tea is sold in 70 count tagless ice teabags. Four ready-to-drink products include 64-oz. sweetened ready-todrink tea, 64 oz. ready-to-drink tea plus lemon, with both these teas are available in 16-oz. containers, as well.

"We sell our teabags in specialty shops in every state, although we do not have national supermarket-type distribution. About 90% of our sales are in iced tea products, which is 10% higher than the national average for iced tea consumption. Our best seller is the 70 count iced teabags," according to owner Mark Fleming.

In terms of packaging equipment, we use the MAI and the Pneumatic tea bag units.

When asked about trends in the tea industry and the direction of the market over the next five years, Fleming said he sees an increase in the ready-to-drink category, which will drastically increase in the Southeast. Hot tea sales will continue to be steady and stable. "Further research will show that tea is a healthy beverage, and I think its popularity will grow in relationship to that aspect of the product," he said.

When asked about new shapes in teabags, Fleming felt that they were mainly a marketing method. "A market can be built around any product that has enough advertising around it, especially anything different or with a new twist."

China Mist Tea Co.,

Scottsdale, Arizona

According to John Martinson, president, China Mist packs only iced tea, with 100% of its business in black tea products. The company's brand name is China Mist which is packed for foodservice, exclusively for use in iced tea brewing machines for any institution that sells liquid iced tea beverages, such as hotels, convenience stores, restaurants--the full foodservice realm.

The teas are packaged in bulk portions for brewing in automatic brewers in sizes 3/4-oz., 2-oz., and 6-oz. packages. The company currently uses a vertical form-fill-andseal packaging machine.

The company also features China Mist Gourmet Flavored Iced Tea in 11 flavors: Passion Fruit, Raspberry, Black Currant, Apricot, Peach, Strawberry, Berry Blend, Mango, Hawaiian Spice, Fiesta Fria, and Prickly Pear. "Our most popular flavors in this group are Passion Fruit, Raspberry, and Black Currant," Martinson said.

In terms of new products, China Mist recently announced its new China Mist Caffeine Free Gourmet Herbal Iced TeasRaspberry Frenzy[R], Tropical Frenzy[R], and Lemon Frenzy[R] which were introduced at the National Restaurant Show. The line will be in national distribution in June. We have interest in all our products from the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, and Eastern Europe.

The most popular herb flavors at the show were Raspberry and Tropical Frenzy[R]. "We stay away from decaffeinated teas since they often require the removal of caffeine with a chemical process," Martinson said.

According to Martinson, it is the company's distribution program that is unique and has been most effective in marketing the product to diverse food service outlets. "The way our program works is to set up independent distributors in geographically exclusive territories. We do not sell our tea through big full-service companies," he said.

"In contrast, some companies set up several distributors to get maximum distribution, but, in doing so, they set up competition. Some companies retain 'house' accounts. We don't do that. Every case of tea sold in a distributor's area is that distributor's profit," Martinson said.

"We set up relationships for the distributors with manufacturers for brewing machines, filters, and water filtration. The distributors then purchase what the customer needs from the manufacturers. We supply the tea and the promotional materials," Martinson said.

"Our long-term goal is to build strength of brand name through high-quality service, as well as the best product," he said. "China Mist supports its distributors with extensive point-of-sale marketing materials such as posters, table tents, and flyers.

"We also do as many as 30 national, state, and niche trade shows a year, providing broad exposure to our product and company," Martinson said.

* This series will continue in the October issue.

Liz Fader writes frequently on the packaging industry and is published regularly in related trade publications. She resides in New York City.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Fader, Liz
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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