In 2015, the first UEBT/UTZ certified herbal teas hit the shelves. In the time since, supply and demand for certified herbal tea ingredients has grown rapidly, with a four-fold increase in sales volume of certified herbal teas to our market partners and more than 250 herbal tea SKUs to carry the UTZ label by the end of 2017. We sat down with Maya Sermeño, UTZ global key account manager and tea expert, to talk more about what we’ve achieved with the program so far and the priorities going forward.

More companies are seeing the benefits of certified herbal teas

“By the end of 2017 UEBT/UTZ herbal tea products will be available across more than 17 European countries, spanning from Germany and the Netherlands to Cyprus and Greece and more,” Maya says. With Messmer brand teas of Ostfriesische Tee Gesellschaft Laurens Spethmann, the UTZ label will extend even further, to countries like Japan, Canada, Iran and Korea.

“Suppliers are coming on board as well,” Maya says. Companies like Hälssen & Lyon, Jan Spider Group, Gebrüder Wollenhaupt and Worlée NaturProdukte joined the program and are working towards the certification of their supply chains. Producers and exporters in origin countries are also achieving certification. The first one being Sociedad Agricola y Forestal Casino (AGRISOL) in Chile for rosehips.

Private label certified teas are increasing in popularity

“Aldi Süd was the first retailer in Germany to launch private label UEBT/UTZ herbal teas in 2016 and many more followed,” explains Maya. As of December 2017, 10 retailers offer UTZ labeled herbal teas, including Albert Heijn, Migros, Lidl, Edeka, Hofer, Netto, Dagrofa, Coop Trading and more.

The first certified supplier, Martin Bauer Group, stays committed to the program, expanding the certification as demand increases. “This is important to note,” says Maya.

Since the variety of ingredients needed for herbal teas is broad and tailored to the customers’ needs, the development of herbal tea certification requires long term commitment from buyers so that suppliers and producers can invest in the roll-out of the certification system.

Twinings in the UK has also taken a gradual approach with the program, focusing on key ingredients like chamomile, peppermint, rosehips and rooibos, among others, and increasing amounts for their global tea business each year.

Collaboration is the key

“We are really proud of the collaborative approach of the herbal certification, both between UTZ and UEBT and with the companies in the supply chain,” Maya says.

In complex supply chains like herbals, it takes quite some commitment from the industry to take this on as a long-term investment and believe we can create an impact together. Without this spirit and commitment to drive sustainable changes for people and the environment, we wouldn’t be seeing such a growth in the program.

Scaling — slow and steady to drive sustainable change

Turning towards the future, we need more companies to join the herbal program in order to make a bigger impact on people – farmers, workers, collectors, communities –  and the environment. “The sooner the better”, Maya says, “as it takes two to three years to develop the necessary sourcing road maps tailored to every brand’s special needs.

In this process, we’re flexible to make improvements to the program in order to remain credible and embed sustainability in the sector for the long-run.

” We look forward to the future as more and more companies are taking the commitment to walk this journey together.”

Are you ready to be next and interested in sourcing UEBT/UTZ certified herbal ingredients for your company? Join our herbal tea program and watch the short video below to find our more.