Jamaican Teas Ltd.

Although Jamaican Teas Ltd. has a long history of delivering high-quality herbal teas to the Caribbean market through its affiliation with the British tea conglomerate Tetley Teas, a corporate decision to go public in March 2010 has enabled the Kingston, Jamaica, company to embark on a major expansion. Greater financial capabilities, combined with the strategic planning of a skilled management team, have cemented Jamaican Teas’ reputation for innovation, as its teas not only satisfy the taste palate, but also assist consumers in practicing a healthier lifestyle, Marketing Manager Charles Barrett says.

Jamaican Teas started in 1967 as the Jamaican arm of Tetley Teas, initially producing black and green teas for the English-speaking Caribbean and later expanding to the French- and Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Over time, it introduced more flavors such as peppermint, Earl Gray, chamomile, lemongrass, green, honey lemon ginseng and green, Tetley decaffeinated and Tetley premium blend, to its product scope. “Interestingly,” Barrett notes, “the herbs are sourced locally and internationally, but the packaging, management, marketing and finding other distributors in other islands is determined by us here in Jamaica.”

In 1996, Adeeb Mahfood and his son, John Mahfood, acquired the company and developed the Caribbean Dreams brand with flavors that are popular among the Caribbean people. Unlike the Tetley brand, Caribbean Dreams has no licensing or creative restrictions, and can include a plethora of flavors to be distributed around the world. This is a key reason why the company decided to go public and change its name to Jamaican Teas, Barrett says. “This was to reflect the new ownership of the company, which is local,” he notes, “and to reflect what we know and love – which is traditional Jamaican herb – and how we do business in Jamaica.”

Unlimited Flavors

Caribbean Dreams offers a broad range of flavors including ginger, ginger lemon, gingermint, honey and ginger, Jamaican sorrel and ginger, noni-ginger, cinnamon, cinnamonmint, cerasee, green tea and mint, lemongrass, cranberry and bissy (koala nut) tea. “In more recent times, we have recognized a need for more healthy teas, and by that, I mean more specific to lifestyle issues,” Barrett explains. “The trend is toward healthy living, and we believe herbal tea is the answer. We are always looking at how we can formulate teas to help enhance well being and produce products that not only taste good, but are good for you.”

It is commonly believed across the Caribbean and other parts of the world that herbal teas hold some medicinal characteristics, especially when combined with other herbs. For example, to help fight constipation, Caribbean Dreams offers a cleansing tea that consists of peppermint, bearberry and senna leaves, burdock and sarsaparilla roots, and buckthorn bark. Cranberry tea is believed to protect the body against various forms of cancer. The cinnamonmint tea for diabetics blends together cinnamon, peppermint and Stevia leaves to increase the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.

Caribbean Dreams also produces instant Jamaican old-style hot chocolate and coconut milk powder, which is a popular additive to Caribbean dishes. “Caribbean Dreams is a brand that provides us with a lot of latitude and flexibility,” Barrett says. “It creates a growth engine for our company because it’s not limited to teas.

“Two things to come on stream for January are ready-to-drink mixes and flavored waters,” he adds. “We acquired a bottling facility where we will bottle water, produce ice tea mixes and so forth. We are also thinking of going into sauces and spices. You can see the growth path we are on and the fact that the Caribbean Dreams brand provides us with the opportunity to do so.”

Unlimited Growth

Jamaican Teas has a number of competitive advantages that set it apart from other tea makers in the Caribbean, Barrett says. “We are by far the largest tea packer in the Caribbean in that we produce over 100 million teabags a year,” he explains. “We are competitively priced, which is how we’ve been able to survive in a market like this. There is still a demand for herbal al­ternatives and healthy products – that’s what we are seeing in the market in Jamaica, as well as the rest of the Caribbean, so we expect to maintain our position in this market.

“We are also very authentic, which helps us establish our product throughout the Caribbean and in ethnic markets in North America,” Barrett continues. “Consumption of herbal teas is far higher in Jamaica than North America, so the potential for growth is significant. Our focus will be on marketing and building customer awareness of the health factors associated with our products in these markets. While we do have a foothold in the ethnic markets along the Eastern Seaboard, there is still a lot more that we can do.”

He says the secret and success to Jamaican Teas’ growth is its market aware­ness. “We spend a lot of time in the marketplace talking to our custo­mers,” he remarks. “We want to ensure that the final product is relevant to their needs, available on store shelves and that the quality is excellent. We work ex­tremely hard to find solutions and pay attention to small details. Our products are priced economically, and we believe this is an important factor for our con­su­mers. We always keep that in mind.”