Thursday, August 27, 2009

MaryAnna's Tea Interview (II)

(Part 2 of a 2-part interview)

What does it take to bring a bottled tea to market? Beats me. So I thought I'd ask someone who's done it - the founder and head honcho of the New Jersey-based MaryAnna's Tea. Thanks to Mary Ann Rollano for taking the time to provide such in-depth answers to my questions.

4. Given the benefit of hindsight what would you do differently?
Overcome my fear of selling. I am admittedly not a salesperson, but I have been learning and surprising myself with every sale. The key is to get the prospective buyer to taste my tea. I have never lost a sale once they taste my tea. I really believed in my product so I just put my blinders on and went ahead. I might have taken some workshops on the art of selling and closing the deal. I have the product but promoting, positioning and pricing are still a challenge and I am always learning.

5. What was the greatest obstacle?
I had two major obstacles to overcome. The first was convincing Rutgers that I did not want to use tea extracts or concentrates and citric acid as they recommended. Rutgers told me that is what is commonly used. Whole tea leaves and pure lemon juice can be a little tricky to work with in the bottling process. However, if I used the products commonly used my tea would taste like everyone else's and that would have defeated the purpose.

My second greatest obstacle was finding a processing plant after Rutgers that would actually brew tea. One bottling plant told me he would only work with "kits". I asked what a "kit" was, he told me to take my iced tea over to a flavor house, they will replicate my tea as a flavoring, and I could just then bring the flavor kit over to him to mix with water, heat and bottle. I imagined it to be a kind of boxed cake mix type process - just add water and bake. I did not want to bake a cake from a box; I wanted to bake a cake from scratch. We all know how good the cake from scratch tastes. After much research, I finally found someone willing to "experiment" brewing and bottling real tea with me.

6. What was the biggest surprise?
Venturing into the world of food processing has been a true awakening for me. Given my background in health care, my main concern was to produce a healthy, wholesome product. I soon learned that the world of food processing is full of adulterated foods processed with cheaper substances that can be dangerous to health. I had no idea of the pervasiveness of imitation and genetically modified foods. This prompted me to formulate my value statement to “produce a tea beverage from natural, whole and unadulterated ingredients with the health of the consumer foremost. We will not make money adulterating foods at the expense of a society's health. We will make money by producing a healthy, wholesome quality tea beverage, providing the true health benefits of tea in its brewed state."

7. What do you foresee for the future of MaryAnna's - near and long-range?
MaryAnna's Tea is currently in about twenty local stores in its first year. It is also available on our website. I plan to expand to larger natural food stores, looking towards Whole Foods (we are in one of their stores to date), Wegmans, Trader Joes and similar type stores that share our same philosophy. Of course, we will expand our distribution network from local to regional and eventually the entire East Coast. The ten-year plan is to have national distribution. Throughout this process, I have several other flavors and types of teas in the experiment and planning phase.

8. What were your startup costs? (optional)
I started out initially with $10,000 from my savings. I have since added to that as we have increased production.

Adagio Teas triniTea Tea Maker
Zarafina Tea Maker Suite

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. What an ethical company. I support everything she's trying to do here as a person who refuses to eat all that processed food. Really, about the only heavily-processed food I favor is certain types of tea, like Pu-erh. But that's not artificial at all. I'll be watching this company as a shining star in a vastly dark place. --Spirituality of Tea