Rooibos Granted Geographical Indicator Status

SOUTH AFRICA – The European Union has granted South Africa’s Rooibos the coveted Geographical Indicator affording trademark protections worldwide.

WTN rooibos 2The decision means that South African Rooibos and Honeybush producers retain exclusive naming rights to these indigenous herbal teas.

“No other country can claim or buy or own this terminology in any way. Both teas grow naturally only in South Africa and ownership of their names is vital to affirm true origin,” says Tobias Gress, general manager of Khoisan Tea (Pty) Ltd. The Company produces 4,000 of the estimated 15,000 metric tons produced annually.

Rooibos, which means “red bush” in Afrikaans, has demonstrated health benefits and is a popular refreshment beverage. Most Rooibos is harvested in the Cederberg Mountains 150 miles north of Cape Town. Annual sales of red and green Rooibos have grown to more than $60 million in recent years.

“As rooibos’s popularity has increased abroad companies in America and France have made audacious bids to trademark the name,” according to a report in The Guardian. Rob Davies, South Africa’s trade and industry minister, told the newspaper that from not on “it will be the rooibos tea manufacturers of South Africa which will have ownership of that particular name and that term will be applicable only to products that come from and are approved by us.”

“Rooibos is already big in the European markets; other countries we are trying to make entry to are the Asian markets,” Rooibos Limited spokeswoman Gerda De Wet told South Africa’s Star newspaper. Rooibos Limited is the largest producer of South African Rooibos.

The South African Rooibos Council had to intervene last year to stop an attempt by a French company to trademark the name, fearing that it could secureWTN rooibos exclusive use. De Wet added: “It took a long time and we are now relieved that it is over. And that similar situation will not happen in future with the regulations in place.”

“The Rooibos Council’s mandate is to grow the industry, so these regulations are not intended in any way to inhibit companies from using Rooibos in their products. What we do want to prevent is spurious or misleading claims that products contain Rooibos and by implication deliver its benefits if they do not,” explains Martin Bergh, a director of the Rooibos Council.

Rooibos grows in semi-arid, high altitude plateaus. Once the needle bearing limbs are cut the harvest is crushed, sprayed with water and allowed to oxidize for 12 hours before being spread out and dried in the sun. Green Rooibos is processed without oxidation. South Africa began exporting small quantities of Rooibos in 1904 but sales did not accelerate for another 100 years.

CATEGORIES
News
Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.