Belfast based Punjana ships tea to Boston

Punjana Tea has broken into the US tea market having agreed two major listings, one with Tree of Life, a nationwide distributor with a turnover in excess of $430 million, and the second with  Boston-based Stop and Shop, a major retailer on the eastern seaboard with 300 stores. This represents a substantial breakthrough for Punjana Tea, which already counts the UK’s leading retailers among its customers.

The listings followed a successful Invest Northern Ireland sponsored trade mission to Boston and New York in March, which was designed to develop business in new markets for Northern Ireland companies with export potential.

Belfast based Punjana is the market leader by volume in Northern Ireland, and has been blending quality teas from carefully selected gardens in Assam and Kenya since 1896, and remains a respected family-owned and managed business.

A recently launched Punjana Fairtrade blend has been listed by all major multiples both within the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Around 40 per cent of Punjana’s business now comes from customers outside of Northern Ireland.

Ross Thompson, third generation co-owner of Punjana Ltd, says: “The listing with Tree of Life and Stop and Shop gives us a solid foothold in this important marketplace and it has enabled us to approach other retailers in North America with decisions pending by a number of other potential customers.”

“We are immensely encouraged by the interest in our quality blends and the company’s heritage. We’ve found customers to be fascinated by the company’s story and impressed by the provenance of all our teas,” he adds.

The company, which is also accredited by the British Retail Consortium as a Grade A quality focused business, has invested heavily in the latest automated production technology and in the development of contemporary soft foil packaging, which it launched last year. It pioneered the development of soft packs containing 40, 80 and 160 tea bags as part of an attractive rebranding programme.

“We’ve always sought to set Punjana apart in our markets by focusing on superior taste and flavour. We achieve this by ensuring that our teas are sourced from the best gardens and from suppliers who share our values regarding all aspects of ethical trading.

“We have an experienced team involved in blending our teas, and our production techniques ensure that all our products are manufactured to the highest quality and hygiene standards. Interestingly, we have had an extremely encouraging response from US retailers to the Punjana Fairtrade and Decaffeinated varieties, alongside excellent reviews for the Punjana Irish Breakfast tea due to be launched in the US in July 2008,” he adds.

Alan Hingston, Invest NI’s Trade Director, commenting on Punjana’s new business, says: “These important listings for Punjana’s products demonstrate the potential that the US offers for many types of Northern Ireland companies across a very broad range of business sectors, including established consumer goods. What Punjana is doing very successfully is to add value to its products, packaging and merchandising through extensive investment in technology and in new ideas, such as Fairtrade tea that meet a developing market trend.

“This strategy is enabling the company to create a niche for itself in the US market. Punjana has used our trade mission to the US very successfully to pinpoint and exploit opportunities there.”