Beverages: Brewing up sales

Specialty tea programs add variety to operators’ beverage portfolios.

Published in FSD Update

Looking to expand your beverage portfolio? Consider specialty teas—a “no-brainer, as it’s an easy and inexpensive way to provide something local,” says Justin Johnson, executive chef at the Watertown Regional Medical Center, in Wisconsin. Johnson teamed up with a local company called Four Elements to provide 100% USDA Organic Herbal Teas in flavors geared toward health, like “Joy, Love, Passion” and “Minus Sinus.”

“Our whole mission and brand is that food is medicine, so organic, health-focused teas are right in our wheelhouse,” says Johnson, who has received positive feedback from his inpatient population. “Tea is becoming the new coffee, so it’s definitely a trend that we wanted to get in front of.” 

Tatiana Grabowski, senior departmental trainer in the Food & Nutrition Department at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), in Portland, agrees. After Grabowski implemented a specialty tea program, tea sales tripled. “We continue to see a rise in tea sales—it’s an expanding market.” The key, she found, was a finding good partner. 

In 2008, OHSU partnered with Harney & Sons Teas to bring a full tea program, complete with silken sachets, tea bags and loose teas, to campus. “We wanted to improve and corner a part of our market, and teas bring in another consumer,” says Grabowski, who was looking for a comprehensive brand that used compostable tea bags and could provide a wide variety of options for her 15,000-plus customers. Harney & Sons, which she orders through Kobos, a local coffee vendor, fit the bill. “We couldn’t find a local tea vendor who could meet all of our needs, but sourcing through a local company cycles back through our local economy.” 

Variety is the spice of life

Today, OHSU offers a variety of herbal (caffeine-free), green, black, white and Oolong teas, and flavored black teas for morning tea drinkers. At most locations, the tea is offered in silken sachets to be brewed in compostable to-go cups. Some locations offer teapots, Matcha (whisk/bowl to finely mill the tea leaves) or Gai-wan (a Chinese lidded bowl for tea infusion and consumption). 

Another option are tea infusers, the approach used by Erika Chuburko, student manager of Tuffy’s Smoothie Bar at Ashland University, in Ohio. Loose leaves are placed in the tea infuser, which is placed in hot water to steep or brew the tea.

Chuburko also partnered with a local supplier, Crimson Cup, which provides loose-leaf teas in eight flavors, like Organic Mao Jian Green, Herbal Chai and Organic Earl Grey, which are served with tea infusers alongside recipes and brewing instructions so students can make their own flavors. “We know tea drinkers are on campus and we want to bring in new customers, as well as give our current customer base a caffeine alternative,” explains Chuburko, who also provides lemons and honey with the tea. Because of the steeping process, there’s more of an interactive customer experience, she says.

Marketing 

“Hot tea is a very different item for our operation, so marketing is extremely important,” adds Chuburko, who uses fliers, social media and closed-circuit TV advertising. Crimson Cup also provides marketing materials, an added benefit of the partnership.

Grabowski’s alliance with Harney & Sons provides similar benefits. The tea company has created special teas with the hospital’s logo for charitable events, donated products and prizes and sent a rep to talk about the teas. “They’ve helped us raise money for great causes by supporting our efforts in the community,” she says. “Working with a tea company to create sustainable products and reflecting on where you want to go will create a successful tea program.”  

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Italian food hall chain Eataly is making plans for a 2018 initial public offering in its home country, according to a report this week in Financial Times.

The company plans to list shares on the Italian stock exchange in Milan “as early as next year,” Eataly Executive Chairman Andrea Guerra told Financial Times .

Eataly is eager to expand the presence of its massive Italian food emporiums in the U.S., which have helped spur the growing food hall trend . The company has five locations here, with two in New York City and one each in Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. Financial...

Industry News & Opinion

Students staffing the foodservice department at Rutgers University will soon get an hourly pay bump, as the New Brunswick, N.J., university is raising its wage for student workers to $11 an hour, philly.com reports.

The increase will go in effect Jan. 1 and will impact 13,000 students.

The fight to raise wages at the school was spearheaded by student group United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), which is continuing to push the university to increase student wages to $15.

The fight for a $15 wage for student workers has spread at schools throughout the country,...

Industry News & Opinion

After shutting down 265 schools due to ongoing wildfires, the Los Angeles Unified School District kept three schools open on Friday and Saturday to provide meals for students and their families, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At one of the schools, employees and volunteers handed out around 100 meals on Friday and 270 meals on Saturday. The meals included items such as dragonfruit punch, raisins, bananas, sunflower kernels, whole-grain cinnamon graham crackers, sunflower seed butter and fat-free chocolate milk.

Around 80% of students in the district come from low-income...

Sponsored Content
Breakfast chili

From Bush’s Best®.

While decadent plates of French toast and pancakes stacked high will always be breakfast favorites, it’s undeniable that savory breakfast items are on the rise in many foodservice operations. Menu items such as avocado toast and omelets aren’t new, of course, but consumers’ preferences for better-for-you food choices, along with their desire for global flavors, are driving this trend.

According to a recent Technomic Breakfast report, consumer demand for vegetarian ingredients has led to an increase of ingredients like soy, tofu, beans, lentils, seeds,...

FSD Resources