Dovetailing the global trends of health and tea with the consumer need for style and innovation, homegrown red espresso is blazing a trail in the global beverage world.

Since its launch in 2005, the company has expanded rapidly with double-digital growth year on year in the local market and exponential success overseas in 20 countries and counting. The move to their new eco-friendly ‘redquarters’ signifies not only the company’s expansion but the beginning of a new era for a business and brand that is only now reaching its tipping point.

With 290 billion litres consumed in the US last year, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world – more than beer, bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and coffee. It is also the fastest growing beverage category in the world, with tea manufacturers driving value growth through ready-to-drink teas (mostly bottled iced teas) and specialty tea (herbal and fruit teas). Astoundingly, specialty tea now accounts for 60% of tea’s value share on US retailers’ shelves; a category that is worth US$10bn.

Concurrent with the growing global trend of health, increasingly health-conscious consumer needs have changed consumption behaviour and created a highly sought-after consumer group that seeks beverage versatility plus functional health benefits – and are willing to pay a premium for it.

But while specialty tea indeed meets their need for health and versatility, it lacks the luxury and lifestyle that coffee has cultured due to the global coffee shop boom (an industry that is worth US$47bn globally) led by Starbucks and brought into the home by Nespresso. It is coffee’s luxury and lifestyle that this high value proposition consumer group are reluctant to reliniquish – and that tea simply doesn’t have.

Enter red espresso: a naturally caffeine-free espresso made from 100% Rooibos tea (South Africa’s very own specialty tea) that delivers on taste, health, style, innovation and drink versatility. It was invented by a local coffee addict for coffee lovers who find themselves part of the growing global consumer group who is taking health more seriously. A premium brand, red espresso is the innovator of the world’s first rooibos tea espresso and the pioneer of a brand new beverage category that has brought premiumisation into the tea category and helped to drive its value growth in both retail and food service – locally and globally.

Since its launch in 2005, the red espresso company continues to enjoy double digit growth year on year as a result of these changing consumer habits: consumers across the globe who are looking for a healthier alternative to coffee and also a sexier, more sophisticated way to enjoy tea.

Launched 9 years ago, ahead of both the global health and specialty tea trends, the reaction of consumers to such a paradoxical concept (“Is it a tea? Is it a coffee?”) has been one of intrigue. And from coffee drinkers whom either prefer not to drink caffeine in the afternoons and evenings or can no longer drink caffeine (for various reasons: medical, pregnancy, sports training, or by simple choice) to tea lovers, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Having invested significant resources in our intellectual property in both our global patents and registered trademarks when we launched, we have reaped the rewards of an authentic innovation that meets a real consumer need around the world” says Managing Director and co-founder of red espresso, Pete Ethelston.

In its first year, the company sold over one million drinks in South Africa – with signature drinks like the red cappuccino finding its place on menus of coffee chains including Woolworths and Mugg & Bean. Since then, red espresso – and its range of coffee-style beverages, iced teas, smoothies, milkshakes and more  – is fast becoming a household name in South Africa, as well as a staple on coffee chain menus and on retail shelves.

But the company’s success isn’t limited to South Africa. red espresso is currently being exported to over 20 countries – with distribution centres in the China, Hong Kong, USA,  Canada, UK and Australia.

red espresso has garnered international recognition and acclaim for its innovation and branding – in the form of 5 global awards:

  1. Food Review’s Best New Product, South Africa, 2006
  2. Best New Product – Specialty Beverage, Specialty Coffee Association of America, USA, 2008
  3. Top Ten Best New Product, World Tea Expo, USA, 2008
  4. Rising Star Award, Sunday Time’s Marketing Excellence Awards, South Africa, 2008
  5. Best New Product Innovation, IUFoST (International Union of Food Science and Technology), China, 2009

“We were most proud to accept our Best New Product Award from SCAA in Minnessota, USA, as we were not only the first tea ever to win in their Specialty Beverage category but also the first South African company ever to win an award. Putting South Africa on the map is a personal goal of mine and something my team and I take pride in,” says Ethelston.

red espresso’s move into a custom-designed, eco-friendly office and production facility, known as ‘redquarters’, signifies a new era in the company’s history, ensuring it has the capacity to meet its demand and support its global expansion. Built using permanent polystyrene formwork (comprising of interlocking modular, hollow Expanded Polystyrene modules filled with concrete), the new home of red espresso is an environmentally safe and green building initiative. In addition to its unique building materials, the new facility employs sustainable solutions such as rainwater harvesting, natural light, special air ducting and other methods to make it as eco-friendly as possible. This ties into other green initiatives the company is involved in, including its red cedar project (restoring the highly endangered cedar tree in the Cederberg), biodiversity certification and wildlife conservation.

At the redquarters’ official opening event on Thursday last week, co-owners Pete and Monique Ethelston reviewed not only the company’s growth and success over the last nine years but also hinted at what the future holds for red espresso.

“Together with the foundation of 9 years’ experience, a dedicated and passionate team, and a new factory and equipment, we are ready to extend into new brand and product offerings in both the local and overseas markets.” states Ethelston.

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