My name is Heather Howell and I am the Chief Tea Officer, or C “Tea” O, of Rooibee Red Tea based in Louisville, Kentucky. We make the only bottled USDA Organic rooibos tea in the United States. I joined the company in 2010, one year after it was created. In that time, I’ve taken our bottled teas from farmer’s markets in Louisville to stores in every state in the contry and even Google micro-kitchens! In addition to growing the company an average of 80% each year, this year I expanded our brand to a new audience, children, with the launch of Rooibee Roo, a bottled rooibos tea with more flavor and less sugar in a kid friendly size.
While I did not develop the Rooibee Red Tea parent line, I did develop our new children’s line Rooibee Roo. Our original teas – unsweet, peach, watermelon mint, cranberry pomegranate and vanilla chai – were such a hit with parents because of their unique health attributes; I wanted to adapt the product to offer something just for kids. Rooibos tea is meant for kids. It’s naturally caffeine free, loaded with healthy antioxidants and it tastes great because it’s part of the legume family meaning it’s low in tannins, so it tastes smoother than other teas like green, black or white. Our parent line comes in a 12-ounce glass bottle, which is a little too much for kids. Our team adapted with Rooibee Roo placing it in an eight ounce BPA-free plastic bottle. While the sugar and calorie content in our flavored Rooibee Red Teas are already low in comparison to many other drinks, I wanted our kid’s line to have even less. We adapted the formula in Rooibee Roo increasing the rooibos taste in order to lower the sugar. Each bottle has only 12 grams of organic cane sugar and 60 calories or less. It’s a product kids will love and parents will love to give their children.
I am a mother and a businesswoman. When I was approached by the chairwoman of Rooibee Red Tea, I had no experience in beverages. I was a consumer. To leave the comforts of a six figure salary, bonus and full employee benefits package to come to a brand that was barely generating revenue was a huge decision. I took a huge leap and I never look back. I took the Fortune 100 wisdom I had honed at my previous job, coupled it with my MBA and my female intuition to be the face and the mother who seeks to reduce obesity and provide a beverage that is healthy and delicious. It’s helped me not only lead Rooibee Red Tea on a path to success, but launch our Rooibee Roo kids line.
The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you get to also inspire. Our co-packer is also South African, the country where our base, rooibos tea is grown. He fell in love with Rooibee Red Tea at first sip and we’ve been working hand in hand ever since! Appreciate the value of personal and professional partnerships. Rooibee Red Tea takes our partnerships very seriously. Your suppliers must measure collective goals. I always say, “Our success is your success!”
Product design for Rooibee Roo was a bit tougher than Rooibee Red Tea mostly because we had to design for two audiences. The first being the child drinking our beverage and the second is the adult purchasing the tea for their child. It had to be attractive to children while at the same time inform parents of its health benefits. All that had to fit on a label for an eight ounce bottle. Not an easy task. Luckily I had a great starting point with the design of Rooibee Red Tea, specifically our acai tree. Rooibos tea is native to the Western Cape of South Africa. In fact, it’s the only place in the world it can grow! With the basis of that tree and those roots, we developed colors and characters that help tell the stories of the tea’s origins and do so in a way that appeals to both young and old.
My biggest advice is to fill in the white space. When you walk down the beverage aisle at any store and look closely at each individual product, you may notice they are not that individual at all. High sugar, high calorie are dominate. Many that attempt to lower those attributes also lower the flavor profiles. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.