Carmién Tea was founded in 1998 in an old farm shop by Managing Director Mientjie Mouton, who was brought up on a local rooibos farm. Today, Carmién provides rooibos to large overseas buyers such as Jacobs Douwe Egberts, who use it for their own label teas. Carmién also produces own-brand rooibos teas specifically aimed at the South African market.
Mientjie has always ensured that Carmién values the concept of sustainability, knowing that the rooibos crop – which needs very specific conditions in which to thrive – depends on it. But it’s only when the company signed up for certification that they learned the practical implications of being sustainable, and could leverage it to increase market share.
“It gave us an opportunity to place our value for sustainability squarely in the marketplace, and we are now able to differentiate our product,” says Mientjie. “Sustainability is not seen as a brake to commercial viability, but rather it plays a supporting role and gives our relatively ‘smaller’ brands a more equal stance in the marketplace.”
Internationally accepted standard
While being a sustainable brand fits well with the rooibos product and the Carmién brand identity, the company has found that impact is directly correlated to how informed the consumer is. In the South African market impact is slower, but in the European market, where sustainability is more well-known, it has been a quicker process all round.
“The UTZ standard has created a credible and internationally accepted standard that has certainly opened more marketing avenues for the product to compete on the global retail shelf,” says Mientjie.
Carmién has adopted several different certification schemes, but finds that UTZ works particularly well as it has been developed specifically for rooibos. “The standard takes a balanced approach towards our producers, and seems to value their longevity as well as their environmental and ethical responsibilities.”
“By having certified rooibos producers, we know that we are working with like-minded suppliers. The UTZ logo and UTZ standard is the future to protect our unique natural resources, our plant material, our soil, our workforce and our global customer base.”
A core issue for the boardroom
Mientjie is keen for South African consumers to have a better knowledge and understanding of the UTZ label over the course of the next five to ten years, as she believes this will be crucial to helping the market deal with big issues such as climate change facing both the industry and the planet as a whole.
“Certification is all about transparency, communicating to the consumer what producers are doing – from primary production and processing right through to the end product – to ensure sustainability, environmental protection and food safety,” she says.
“Sustainability has become a core issue for every boardroom, which ensures the long term future of every business and every human being. By embracing it, we can all work together towards a better future.”
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