Monday, March 29, 2010

Manufacturing Your Own Brand of Certified Organic Teas

Organic production is a system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program (NOP) develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards.

Clients call us every day to ask how they can have their own brand of teas packaged with the USDA Organic Seal on the outside. The first thing I mention is that use of the Organic Seal is not only an indication of a product that was grown organically, but that the product has continued to be handled and processed through the supply chain in accordance with CFR Title 7, Part 205.

To ensure compliance, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers will contract with a certifying agent who will conduct the necessary reviews, inspections and reports. If you intend to physically handle organic products and marketing them with the USDA Seal, I strongly suggest you speak with a consultant who can help you prepare an Organic System Plan. Consultants in this area can also help you plan and allocate resources, as the responsibility for compliance continues without interruption throughout the year.

A faster, more streamlined approach to offering certified organic products is to establish a contract with a packer, sometimes referred to as a co-packer, that already participates in the National Organic Program. They will be very familiar with organic standards, can facilitate filing of required documents, and will physically pack your tea into retail ready boxes, canisters, and foils. In a nutshell, the process is simpler because in the end you are handling the finished goods just like a retail shopper. Should you choose this route, do your homework and make sure the packer you choose is currently in good standing with the National Organic Program and that their license has not been surrendered, suspended, or revoked.

Still interested? Here are some good reference materials to start with:

If you are looking to market your organic products internationally, your packaging will need to adhere to the requirements (including written language) of these other countries.

Your local state may also have their own State Organic Program (SOP) which you should research in addition to the above.

Lastly, it is possible through your review of the above regulations to think this is your only responsibility in terms of package labeling. Of course, this is not the case. More on this next time...


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Placing New Organic and Fair Trade Teas into the National Food Distribution Channels

Our typical customers buy from us in bulk and repackage for resale under their own brand name. This works fine for smaller companies and regional distribution centers, but our capacity at Kopius Teas also allows us to contract pack for much larger, food service distributors, especially those seeking to private label organic teas with their own signature blends of teas.

Major food distributors carry a large selection of ready to retail tea products, from boxed loose and tea bag forms all the way to ready to drink national brands. Is there room for private label recognition without a heavy investment in marketing? I think there is, especially when one looks at price. The typical grocery store brand of tea bag may be 5 - 15% lower in cost than a similar name brand product. With tea there's almost a limitless range of flavors to help carve out a healthy following. Even if you go with an Earl Grey, just how many Earl Grey's does one find on the grocery shelves today? Five, six or more? Why not make one of those your own brand, especially if you are carrying other health oriented lines, such as spices or water or soda.

Most of my comments on this blog relate to capacity to build something - make a premium organic, fair trade certified blend, incorporate spearmint and lemons and tangerine with touches of crystalized honey and pink amaranth - take the blend and put it into retail or food service pouches - limit the packaging to instructions, ingredients, weight and tracking information. Not too complicated, you're right. It just takes a bit of initiative and vision.

Let's hear about a line of tea you've created or are thinking about creating? How was it formulated? How quickly can you work the products into distribution channels. Is it all about selling up in the distribution chain? And if you're a current regional distribution, do you think there's a potential to build a natural product from scratch and immediately distribute in along side national brands?