Image by Michael Cooper
Pictured is Anne Irwin and Oscar Woolley of Suki Teahouse in Belfast, with John Hood, Invest NI Director of Food and Tourism.
Suki Teahouse in Belfast is investing £250,000 with assistance from Invest Northern Ireland’s Jobs Fund to expand sales outside Northern Ireland.
Suki, based at Twin Spires on Northumberland Street, is creating seven new jobs and has received Invest NI Jobs Fund assistance of £35,000 towards this expansion. The new jobs, three of which are already in place, will mean an additional £127,315 in salaries and wages for the local economy.
The company, an award winning blender of teas and herbal infusions, is aiming to grow its business in Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and further afield. It already sells to customers in Japan, Europe and Africa.
Support for Suki’s new business strategy was outlined by John Hood, Invest NI Director of Food and Tourism, during a visit to the company’s recently expanded premises. He was briefed about developments by Oscar Woolley, Managing Director, who founded the company in 2005 with business partner Anne Irwin.
Mr Hood said: “Our support is enabling this ambitious boutique tea blender to respond to continuing year-on-year growth in demand for its 45-strong portfolio of teas and infusions from customers particularly in catering outside Northern Ireland. It currently sells over 80 per cent of its teas abroad and achieved 25 per cent growth in turnover last year.
“The company has targeted opportunities to grow its business significantly through foodservice, retail and the internet and is implementing new equipment and processes that will strengthen its productivity and overall market competitiveness.
“The new equipment will also assist the business in the development of innovative products to enhance its portfolio of popular teas,” he added.
Mr Woolley said: “Our objective in making what is a substantial investment for the business is to increase our capacity, capability and flexibility and thereby enable us to exploit the opportunities for our existing and new products. The new equipment strengthens our blending activity and will also enable us to respond faster to market trends.
“Our ability to develop new products is also being strengthened by the formation of Ireland’s first Tea Academy, which will enable us to train staff in retail and foodservice about tea and especially our products. We want them to appreciate the uniqueness of our products when selling or serving them to customers.
“In addition the academy will enable us to work with them on the development of bespoke blends for their customers,” he added.
Suki Teahouse began business at St George’s Market in Belfast, it retains a stall there, and has since expanded to become a supplier to major retailers such as Dobbies, independent delis across the British Isles, and leading hotels including The Merchant in Belfast and Patiserrie Valerie and other gourmet cafes.
The company has a portfolio of 45 products, several of which have won UK Great Taste Awards, and it currently employs 12 people.