By Si Chen
First-time and returning exhibitors told World Tea News they are benefiting from strong foot traffic at this year’s World Tea Expo.
Better Educated Consumers
Dan Robertson and Babette Donaldson from International Tea Cuppers Club (ITCC) shared their insight on the increased awareness for professional development among tea professionals. “It has to do with the competition [with other tea businesses] as well as consumers being better educated,” said Donaldson. Japanese exhibitors were observing a similar trend, she felt. “A lot of people coming to our booth already knowing Japanese green tea.”
With newcomers joining the tea industry, existing businesses have to work harder to stay competitive and be ahead of the game. “People are starting to realize how important it is to do a professional tea tour because the travel experiences make you really understand tea beyond buying and selling,” said Robertson.
Beth Johnston, founder of Teas Etc. and a member of the expo education committee explained that careful vetting of program ideas and speakers strengthened the conference this year. The conference “displayed greater balance,” she said.
Energetic, Innovative TeaEO-to-Be
Attendees were stepping up from simply touring the floor to proactively communicating their business ideas with exhibitors, asking practical and meaningful questions. Maria Uspenski, CEO of The Tea Spot, was impressed with how new businesses are “thinking outside of the box.” Attendees are not only inquiring but also bringing their innovative solutions. “From a business idea, involving tea as a component or a creative way to market tea,” Uspenski said, “the newcomers are bringing fresh ideas to the industry that a lot of us can learn from.”
The Expo has allowed both attendees and exhibitors to benefit from the tea industry’s collaborative effort. “No one company can do everything,” said Uspenski, “there is so much energy coming from attendees. I just love it!”
Truly “World” Tea Expo
Bob Krul, CEO of Boreal Wildcraft Tea Company, which was promoting The Wall™ tea cup, was excited by the breadth of attendees. “It’s been over the top,” he said. “We’ve met big distributors from all over the world – Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Spain and U.S.A. I am amazed.”
Japanese first-time exhibitor Masahiko Sakata, who distributes Nagi Kyoto’s TeaCoffee in the U.S., concurs. “We ran out of all our catalogues on Day 1. We totally didn’t expect that,” he said.
Krul had a tip for fellow exhibitors: focus. “People get very confused when you have a lot of products.” His company’s focus on a single new product makes sense on a large scale, he said.
Build Brand Awareness
ESPRO is an established brand in the coffee industry, and Vice-President of Sales Russ Johnson says World Tea Expo is a great venue to promote his brand among tea lovers. “Our French press brewing gears were established in the coffee industry, but are not well known in tea yet. We met and interacted with a lot of new customers and I can see they are starting to understand the quality of our products.”
Teforia CEO Allen Han mentioned that as a sponsor of the Expo, Teforia has successfully built brand awareness and developed supplier relations with other exhibitors.
The Chinese Pavilion boasted a greater exhibitor presence than in previous years (an impressive collection of 48 booths). Experiences differed between first-time and returning exhibitors. Representatives from Tanyang Congou and Beijing Zhenluhao, both first-time exhibitors at the Expo, were very happy to find their teas well-received. Mr. Li , owner of Beijing Zhenluhao, offered insight into the sometimes awkward and mediocre performance of Chinese exhibitors: “The products many Chinese tea businesses offer are outdated and hardly different from what they offered to international buyers in the ’80s and ’90s. Passively sitting behind a piece of QC certificate can no longer attract anyone.”
Attendees have seen plenty of traditional specialty tea such as white and puer, so rare teas such as Anhua Heicha, that few people have experienced, are getting picked up on attendees’ radar. According to Dan Robertson, “there is more awareness [of tea] and even more people know about what these teas are about.”
Keep Up with Existing Clients
Returning exhibitors from larger tea companies such as Firsd Tea and The Metropolitan Tea Company were strengthening their relationships with existing clients. Shengyuan Chen, CEO of Firsd Tea, applauded the Expo’s return to Las Vegas. “People are more likely to attend and exhibit in Vegas than Long Beach,” she said
Cedric Rousseau, Leaf Lab director of advanced fibers & materials, introduced a novel way of sharing tea. The company manufactures a special paper that is saturated with tea and essential oils. Just add water to produce a cup of tea without the tea bag. “This is a tea with a new shape and innovative brewing properties, I call it ‘rebirth tea’,” said Rousseau, “We came to Expo because we wanted greater visibility in the industry.”Tea paper is used to line a cup or can be cut into decorative shapes and steeped in a mug. Tea paper is both compostable and versatile. Rousseau said the invention drew a favorable response from attendees.