Always Something New at Summer Fancy Food Show


Tea sales continue their upswing. According to the NASFT’s latest specialty food industry research report, specialty teas represented $613 million at retail or almost two percent of total sales at specialty food outlets last year.

Sales are up from 4 percent from $589 million in 2009. These figures represent about 60 percent of the specialty market as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Walmart and private label sales are not included.

The 24,000 buyers in attendance at the National Association for Specialty Food Trade’s 57th Summer Fancy Food Show visited 2,400 exhibitors displaying approximately 180,000 products.
The highlight for the 2,326 entrants in the sofi awards competition is taking home the gold. The acronym stands for specialty outstanding food innovation. A sofi Award is considered the highest honor in the $70 billion specialty food industry.

Two of this year’s gold sofis were awarded to tea companies: Ajiri Tea Company of Kenya and Tea Forte.

The 2011 sofi for Innovation in Packaging Design or Function went to Kenyan black tea producers Ajiri Tea. Ajiri hand-picked black tea is packaged in natural colored boxes as loose or bagged tea. Each box has a handcrafted banana leaf label, with an inner cello bag tied with artisan produced dried banana bark twine and complemented with hand-rolled and lacquered magazine beads inside each box. The suggested retail price starts at $9.

A sofi Gold award for Food Gift went to Tea Forte in recognition of their “Teas for the Heart” gift box. The firm’s beautiful heart-shaped tea box helps raise awareness for WomenHeart, the national coalition for women with heart disease. The boxes contain some, or all, of the following teas, depending upon the size of the box: Green Mango Peach and Jasmine green, both organic, and Oasis, Moroccan Mint and Sencha. The antioxidants in the tea promote heart health. The boxes retail for $12 (6 pyramid boxes) or $20 (12 pyramid boxes). 

Tetulia Teas
Linda Appel Lipsius, Tetulia Tea

Silver sofis

A silver in the Outstanding Hot Beverage category wemt tp Teatulia 100% Organic Single Garden Teas for their Premium 100% Organic Lemongrass Infusion. Teatulia teas hail from a young organic tea garden in Bangladesh established in 2009.

The Diet and Lifestyle award went to Republic of Tea for their Calorie-Free Naturally Sweet Tea: a bagged, black tea sweetened with dried Korean hydrangea leaves (Hydrangea serrata).

Republic of Tea reports that the hydrangea sweetener is the most expensive ingredient that they have ever used in a product, making this a limited edition release. They also make a green tea version. The sweetener might be the next hot thing if the price comes down as it has a light, not cloying or overpowering flavor.

The most recent innovations in tea are in their packaging, format and varieties.

Packaging: What’s Hot?

Tea Forte now has double-sealed airtight loose-leaf canisters that lock in freshness. Their new “single steep” packages eliminate the need for measuring tea to produce a perfect cup. When these neat packages are paired with one of their single cup brewing systems, a loose leaf tea infuser or tea pots, your customers will have perfect tea every time.

T Salon uses a container made from 100 percent recycled paper, printed with biodegradable vegetable-based inks. They offer 20 natural and organic loose teas, including black, white, decaf and oolong, red and fruit, herbal and green.

Teatulia uses an eco-friendly eucalyptus wrapper for the 100 pre-wrapped bags designed for food service. Their other eco-canisters are compostable with labels made from post-consumer paper, printed with water-based inks and dyes, with the tea in biodegradable silken pyramid bags. The retail display boxes are hewn from reclaimed beetle kill pine that would otherwise have to be destroyed. The wood has blue streaks, which company co-owner Linda Appel Lipsius finds beautiful. She said, “I feel good about using this wood because it would go to waste if we didn’t.”

Mighty Leaf’s packaging is corn based, no glue or staples, has cotton string on the bags, as well as having the brewing time printed on each tag.

Numi Tea has completely redesigned their packaging so that the colors of their boxes and individual bags pop on the shelves. The labels feature photos of the “real” ingredients you’ll find in each box of tea, as they don’t use artificial flavors or ingredients.

Stash Tea is also in the process of a complete package redesign expected to be rolled out this fall.

What’s Cool?

Hammad Atassi, Numi Tea’s Vice President of Foodservice reports that 85 percent of tea is consumed over ice. This was apparent in the growth of both ready-to-drink bottled tea, as well as larger bags for brewing and powdered tea that just needs added water. 

Hammad Atassi, Numi Tea
Hammad Atassi, Numi Tea’s

Numi’s latest bottled offering is Organic Pu-Erh tea in six varieties, including Classic, Earl Grey, Jasmine, Mango, Mint and Peach in 12 ounce glass bottles.

Harney & Sons now offers five organic bottled iced teas lightly sweetened with cane sugar, containing only 40 calories per bottle.

Honest Tea’s newest addition is a zero calorie Passion Fruit Green Tea sweetened with stevia.
Rooibee Red Tea, a bottled tea newcomer, offers rooibos tea in 12 ounce bottles in six varieties, as well as unsweetened and in bags. 

Kusmi, originally a Russian tea company now based in Paris, France, offers a frosted box of 12 tea blends with two muslin tea sachets of each flavor for summer brewing, along with detailed directions for making five minute brewed tea to “help our customers stay refreshed on hot days” according to Sylvain Orebi, president of Kusmi Tea.

Mighty Leaf Tea has four new ice tea flavors: Calypso Morning, Organic Black, Ginger Peach and Sunburst Green. Each box contains four biodegradeable whole leaf pouches each of which brews up one-half gallon of iced tea.

Rishi Tea's Mangosteen Hibiscus & Thai Lime Fruit Teas are new fruit powders made from fresh pressed real fruit and herbs. They are lightly sweetened with unrefined cane sugar. Rishi Tea's Fruit Teas are available in 1 kilogram bags and are ideal for a wide range of tea retailers and food service companies.

In addition, Rishi Tea introduced two new flavors to our award-winning Iced Tea line. Raspberry is a refreshing blend of spring-picked green tea, hibiscus and raspberry. Our new Mango Iced Tea is a quenching and balanced blend of smooth black tea, juicy sweet mango and fruity hibiscus.

Tea ForteWhat’s New and Different?

The tea-for-health platform is expanding throughout lines. Tea Forte has Skin-Smart antioxidant amplifier tea made with green, red or white tea paired with other ingredients from cucumber to coconut to improve your skin from the inside out.

Silence Tea is a new brand formulated for relaxation, with each of their four flavors of tea specially fortified with vitamins and herbs in ready-to-drink bottles.

Kusmi offers five tea blends, Detox, Sweet Love, Be Cool, Boost and Algothe in a Wellness Pack or separately in 4-oz. tins, specifically developed with health in mind.

Suffese TeaSuffese offers red and green rooibos tea with flavored and botanical infusions. The botanicals include buchu, hoodia, scletetium and sutherlandia, which are herbs used in Africa for their wellness effects.

Watch for more chocolate in tea in the coming months. Republic of Tea’s two new chocolate flavors are Red Velvet and Peppermint, in addition to four other chocolate flavors.

Honest Tea offers its cacao infusions under the Honest CocoaNova™ name in cherry, mint or mocha flavors in glass bottles.

The Tao of Tea now offers lightly sweetened chai tea concentrates in 32-oz. bottles that make serving chai simple, creating an almost instant tea party.

Harney & Sons Family patriarch, John Harney, has been busy writing a book on cooking with tea, scheduled to be released this November. With more than 300 tea offerings, the elder Harney has a tough time choosing which tea to drink but reports drinking Sencha daily. Their number one seller is now Hot Cinnamon, overtaking English Breakfast and Earl Grey. One of their newest teas is Jane’s Garden, a bancha green tea and rose petal blend, developed to raise money for a late friend who lost her battle to cancer. Proceeds still benefit cancer patients.

Kaizen TeaThis show was the maiden voyage for the year-old Kaizen Tea of San Francisco which offers 11 types of loose leaf tea in 2 oz. and 3.5-oz. containers. Their tearoom will open later this year in San Francisco.

The tea booths at the Summer Fancy Food Show were hot, cool and innovative with lots of brisk tea tasting and business all around. As a number of the vendors said, “There’s always something brewing in the tea business.”

Jill Nussinow, The Veggie Queen, can often be found sipping tea, hot or cold.