The Ostfriesische Teegesellschaft (OTG) is one of Europe’s largest tea companies with an annual production of roughly ten billion tea bags. The goal is to purchase 100% of the raw materials for their tea products from sustainable sources for all brands by 2020. The Meßmer brand already switched to 30 percent UTZ certified tea at the start of 2015. We spoke to Executive Director Annemarie Leniger about OTG’s commitment to sustainability.

LOgo Ostfriesische Teegesellschaft (OTG)OTG and its parent company Laurens Spethmann Holding has always looked at things in a holistic way.

Firma Ostfriesische Teegesellschaft Laurens Spethmann GmbH & Co. KG. Annemarie Leniger (Geschäftsführerin). [Copyright: Carsten Milbret kleinespresseteam, Hude 2, 21029 hamburg, germany, phone: +49-40-7200 88 96,,, hamburger sparkasse blz 20050550 konto 1039233752]

Annemarie Leniger, Executive Director at OTG

“For more than 100 years it has been our goal to offer people a bit of pleasure, relaxation and well-being every day with safe, high-quality products, with responsibility towards our colleagues, our community and the world we live in,” explains Annemarie.

Sustainability – OTG’s concrete goal since 2010

“OTG has been formulating specific sustainability goals for all company divisions since about 2010. We were the first major German company to join the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) in 2012 and presented our first CR brochure ‘4 OUR WORLD’ in the same year. This year we have set up a sustainability board, which defines and monitors specific action targets, for example for recycling and CO2 emissions,” continues Annemarie.

Environmental and social standards go without saying

“Our sustainability strategy is based on three principles: to maintain quality, protect nature and support people. This means that environmental and social standards are complied with along the entire supply chain, and specifically in the countries of origin. And it is precisely in the supply chain where our greatest challenges lie, as we have least influence in this area.”

Tackling the challenges

In terms of tea consumption, Germany is in fact one of the smaller players, in particular in the black and green tea segment. Teas originate, for example, from China, India, Sri Lanka or Kenya. These countries are not just the largest producers but also the biggest tea drinkers with 60 percent consumption themselves. Germany procures just one percent of the global tea volume, and as a result it is more difficult for OTG to enforce higher standards in sustainability. Annemarie tells us how OTG is addressing these challenges: “We are relying on partnerships and promoting projects in tea producing countries to achieve our ecological and social goals.”

Tea_Malawi_harvestingFor example, OTG, together with UTZ, is involved in the ‘Malawi 2020’ project as part of the ETP, which is committed to making the Malawi tea industry more competitive. In India the Meßmer brand is also supporting an aid project in collaboration with the ETP and UNICEF to improve the future prospects of girls in the Assam tea region.

Annemarie draws a slightly different picture for herbal and fruit teas: “The challenge here is that we use more than 100 different plants from more than 80 countries all over the world. Despite this, we want to use 100 percent sustainable raw materials for all our tea brands by 2020. The same applies equally to black, green, rooibos, herbal and fruit teas.”

The three major advantages of UTZ

Annemarie explains why OTG chose UTZ as a partner:

UTZ developed the first standard for herbal and fruit teas and is therefore one of the few organizations that covers the variety in this segment.

The fact that the same standardized sustainable farming criteria Advertisement "Meßmer: first once again"apply to all OTG products makes it easier for OTG to communicate this to retail and end consumers. Besides this, UTZ convinced OTG with its holistic approach to sustainability, which focuses on the environment, social issues and economic viability. Annemarie also highlights the fact that UTZ includes all herbal tea producing countries. “This is extremely important to us because we also procure raw materials for our herbal teas from Europe and in particular from Germany,”

Would you also like to share how your company is promoting sustainability and how UTZ contributes to that? Feel free to contact us.