Tyler Beckett really likes tea. He liked tea so much that in 2011, he founded Hugo Tea, a side project that stemmed from what he was already doing for friends and family: sourcing organic tea direct from farmers and exploring a wide array of tea offerings. As he delved into this new venture, Beckett quickly discovered that despite being a 2500 year tradition, the present-state of the tea market was underserved and ripe for development. Read on to find out how this RangeMe Verified™ brand has grown their success by going local with Sprouts Farmers Market.
Passion turned business
Although Beckett didn’t set out to start a full-blown company dedicated to handcrafted teas, that’s exactly what he did. His passion for tea allowed him to travel far and wide where he built relationships with tea farmers and studied the craft of making great tea — both cornerstones of Hugo Tea. During his travels and research, he realized where the initial opportunity lay.
“I quickly found there was a larger market for tea and an opportunity on the foodservice side,” Beckett explains. At the start of Hugo Tea, Beckett focused on building beautiful tea programs in restaurants and specialty coffee shops. Their tea programs offered USDA certified organic teas in innovative flavors like their 100 Year Black Tea, a consumer favorite that showcases flavors of warm honey and malt for a smooth breakfast tea taste. With alluring products and successful programs in place, Beckett realized that a new avenue had presented itself: retail.
Right around the time Beckett and his team started developing a strategy for retail, RangeMe invited them to join the platform.
“We didn’t do anything at first,” Beckett remembers. “We kind of let it simmer, because we lacked the time to think through our brand profile and product listings. It would have been something on the side, and we didn’t want to do that. We don’t like doing things halfway.”
Sprouting new growth
Soon after they incorporated RangeMe into their growth strategy and started making use of RangeMe’s capabilities, Sprouts Farmers Market, a fast-growing national retailer, reached out for samples.
In an effort to expand their local offerings in the Midwest, Sprouts brought on seven of Hugo Tea’s SKUs. Hugo Tea, a Kansas City-based business, can now be found in eight Sprouts stores across Kansas and Missouri.
“Even though eight stores may not seem like a lot,” Beckett says, “it’s a big foot in the door with a national retailer and gives you a tremendous amount of credibility,” Beckett explains.
“There is a lot of value other than the value of the purchase order,” Beckett reveals. The experience has taught the company a lot, providing them with insight into which products perform well in different types of stores.
What’s more, Hugo Tea products have gone into distribution through KeHE thanks to the Sprouts partnership. This is considered a great success for Hugo Tea, as it opens up sales to other specialty stores that touch the warehouse in that region.
Here to stay
Hugo Tea continues to brew up new development for its premium tea offerings. As they move forward and expand their reach, Beckett and the team hope to parlay their experience with Sprouts as they network with other retailers. While they’ve primarily focused on the Midwest, now with distribution through KeHE, larger national retailers are high on their priority list.
“This dive into grocery is still relatively new,” Beckett says. “It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that we decided to make a concerted strategy. But we see grocery as the way forward, and we know we have a very competitive product.”