Lipton may be larger and globally better known, but R.C. Bigelow Tea represents the essence of American specialty teas.
In the past year Bigelow earned $158 million in bagged and loose leaf sales in grocery and department stores according to IRi, a leading global provider of market research based in Chicago. Included in that total is $10 million in Keurig-licensed tea capsules. The total makes Bigelow the second largest U.S. tea seller behind Lipton. Bigelow accounted for about 12% of packaged tea sales in the U.S. for the 52 weeks ending March 15, according to IRi. The total does not include significant online sales and export. Bigelow annually produces 1.7 billion teabags. In the specialty category it ranks No. 1 with 24% market share.
Ruth Campbell Bigelow’s taste in tea was impeccable. An interior designer, she first experimented with chai during the Great Depression. Her family recipe, a blend of orange spiced tea introduced in 1945 led to “Constant Comment” and to this day remains a top seller nationally. The firm today produces 130 varieties of tea and continues to innovate. The company introduced a popular Salted Caramel Tea for the holidays, a flavor based on the chocolate mint and caramel and coconut Girl Scout cookies and launched an innovative line of wellness teas. Tasters at the company, which operates in three states, brew and evaluate up to 40,000 cups of tea annually.
The company operates the country’s largest working tea garden near Charleston South Carolina on Wadmalaw Island where it produces teas sent to men and women in the armed service.
Bigelow is proud to be family owned and focused solely on tea, according to CEO and President Cindi Bigelow, 54, the third generation to lead the company.
“We are tea people,” she told The Hartford Courant, drawing a contrast with competitors including Lipton, a brand belonging to multinational giant Unilever; Twinings, owned by Associated British Foods; and Celestial Seasonings, part of the publicly traded Hain Celestial Group.
“We are artists still left in the tea industry, and we stick to what we know is the best tea in the world,” she said.
Source: IRi, The Hartford Courant, R.C. Bigelow Tea