UK-Dutch food conglomerate Unilever announced in September it had acquired the world's fastest-growing organic tea brand Pukka Herbs Ltd for an undisclosed sum. Unilever said Pukka fits its sustainable growth model, with the pioneer herbal tea to remain an organic and ethical, fairly-traded brand.
The move continues a push by international food groups to acquire market-leading organic brands as country market share for organics in North America and European countries surges towards five to ten percent and better, with many countries reporting close to or double-digit annual sales growth.
Bristol-based Pukka Herbs Ltd. was founded in 2001 by Tim Westwell and Sebastian Pole and launched its first range of three organic and fairly trade teas in 2002 based on the Ayurvedic principles. The teas went on to become Pukka's well-known blends of Mint Refresh, Relax and Revitalise.
Pukka's first export market was in Denmark in 2005, while the Pukka team grew to eight blends. After four years, Tim and Sebastian got their first Pukka paycheques.
The brand celebrated 15 years of operation in 2015, with nearly two million cups of Pukka tea consumed around the world each day. That same year, the founders won a lifetime outstanding achievement award at the Natural & Organic Products Europe show in London and became a carbon neutral business.
"With 100% certified, organic and ethically sourced ingredients, Pukka’s health and wellness philosophy centres around benefitting people, plants and planet. This represents a clear synergy with Unilever’s own sustainable living plan," Unilever said in a statement.
Pukka Herbs has a turnover of over GBP30m and growth of around 30 percent. It is growing rapidly across Europe and the US. According to Euromonitor 2016, Pukka is the fastest growing organic tea company in the world. The herbal, fruit and green tea market is currently worth approximately EUR1.6 billion, which trends suggest will become even more prominent globally in the future.
Unilever’s Refreshment Category President, Kevin Havelock, said: “Pukka has strong values and a clear purpose that aligns fully with our own sustainable growth model. There’s a clear strategic, philosophical and cultural fit for us.”
“Both of us believe in business being a force for good in society. 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.”
Tim Westwell, Pukka co-founder and CEO said: “From day one, our mission was to connect more people with the incredible power of plants and herbs. Sixteen years later, with 1.5 billion Pukka teas enjoyed, we’ve made huge progress – and it’s just the beginning.”
Sebastian Pole, Pukka co-founder and master herbsmith said: “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. Pukka will remain 100 percent organic and a champion for fair trading through pioneering schemes like Fair for Life, and continue to donate one percent of its sales to global environmental charities. With Unilever, we have new levels of reach and opportunity.”