In August, Unilever released its TAZO Foragers bagged herbal tea line representing the natural flora of four regions of the United States and distributed exclusively to Target outlets.
Alex White, the Research & Development Group Manager for Tea Beverages at Unilever built upon his personal passion for foraging for wild plants that began during childhood and formulated the collection. “On the other side, tea for me has always been a little bit about traveling and imagining the beautiful places where it grows,” said White. “So it has that element, as well.” TAZO Foragers Blends combine the two sensibilities, as the collection allows people to experience different regions through the locally-inspired ingredients.
Foraging and the farm-to-table movement are trending in the restaurant channel as people are becoming more conscious about the food they eat and where it is sourced. “We thought this could be a very on-trend line,” White said.
White and his colleagues chose four regions and included iconic ingredients that are either naturally or agriculturally grown in each area and included them in the overall blend concepts, he explained. White has visited all of the regions represented.
The Prickly Pear Cactus blend represents the Southwestern United States where the prickly pear cactus is endemic.
The Juniper Mint Honey blend represents the Rocky Mountain region. The mint and juniper are resinous and refreshing and honey adds a mellow sweetness.
The Northeast, which is typically associated with berries, is represented in the Elderberry Blackberry blend.
Wild Apple Sarsaparilla was inspired by the agricultural plains and apple trees, along with the region’s historical usage of sarsaparilla in root beer.
The teas can be enjoyed hot or iced.
“I know it just a cup of tea, but it’s a great way to travel in a small way and experience different places,” said White. “It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone, exploring through the world of tea and brewing the unexpected. In this case it’s literally about offering the experience of different regions within the U.S. through the joy of a cup of tea.”
“Eventually, we’d love to have the opportunity to extend to other regions… and maybe even extend it to the world,” said White, adding that consumer response will factor into how things unfold, and noting the herbal segment is growing in popularity.
White holds a degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology, graduated from Gambero Rosso culinary school in Rome, Italy and was trained under Unilever’s professional tea tasting program. He appreciates how tea combines science and historical heritage, as well as Unilever’s community of tea tasters who assess the value of tea and have a functional role in buying and blending it.