Unilever has announced that it has acquired British organic tea company Pukka Herbs to strengthen its tea business and ‘address a gap’ in its portfolio.
Pukka Herbs, which specialises in herbal infusions with exotic flavours, has a turnover of over £30 million and growth of around 30%. It was founded in 2001 by Tim Westwell and Sebastian Pole.
With 100% organic and ethically-sourced ingredients, Pukka said its health and wellness philosophy centres around benefiting people, plants and the planet. The company employs around 110 people in Bristol and next year is due to move into Cadbury’s former Somerdale factory in Keynsham.
The sale may raise fears that the independent brand may lose its ethical values as it is snapped up by a multinational corporation.
However, Sebastian Pole said that choosing Unilever came down to two fundamentals: scale and sustainability.
“It is a leader in social and environmental change and it wholeheartedly embraces Pukka’s beliefs, so there’s a meeting of values,” he said.
“Pukka will remain 100% organic and a champion for fair trading through pioneering schemes like Fair for Life, and continue to donate 1% of its sales to global environmental charities. With Unilever, we have new levels of reach and opportunity.”
The herbal, fruit and green tea market is currently worth €1.6 billion, with trends suggesting will become even more prominent in the future.
As part of its tea portfolio, Unilever has PG Tips and Lipton. However, with British consumers buying less traditional black tea, it has sought to branch out into the herbal tea segment. In 2013, it bought high-end Australian tea company T2, which has since doubled in size.
Unilever’s refreshment category president Kevin Havelock believes that there is a clear ‘strategic, philosophical and cultural’ fit between Pukka and Unilever.
“Both of us believe in business being a force for good in society,” he said. “Tim and Sebastian have cultivated Pukka into a successful business without compromising their ingredients or their ideals. The acquisition strengthens our tea business, addressing a gap in our portfolio.
“Pukka is a premium player in the natural, organic, health and wellness segment which is fast-growing, attractive and scalable. We look forward to bringing Pukka to even more consumers.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2018