BlogConfectionery & Fine Food

Introduction by: Peter Marshall

Now here is something different and exciting for global Travel Retail. English Tea Shop brings a range of quality teas – flavourful, colourful and giftable to the burgeoning foods category. As you will read, sustainability is core to everything that stems from this 13 year old business. Their business ethos and philosophy is also refreshingly different (pun intended) and they are determined to grow their business in the Travel Retail Sector. I recently caught up with the company’s CEO, Suranga Herath.

Peter Marshall (PM): Suranga, English Tea Shop is 13 years old as a brand and is now making serious moves into the global travel retail business. Can we start this interview by you giving a brief history of your brand story, its success and how you would define your company’s approach to sustainability.

Suranga Herath (SH): English Tea Shop Organic (ETS) embarked on its journey in 2010, with a mission to uplift small-scale organic farming communities and nurture the next generation of farmers. Over 13 years, ETS has become a reputable brand, committed to organic and Fairtrade practices. It empowers organic farming, supports farmers, and even has 30% employee ownership. Sustainability is ingrained in the brand as a certified B-corp, prioritising positive impacts on people and the planet. ETS supports over 3100 farmers in Sri Lanka, appealing to environmentally conscious travellers who seek carbon-neutral products.

PM: So what makes your offer special to your consumers?

SH: English Tea Shop stands out by offering diverse organic tea blends. The vibrant packaging captures attention and sets a sensory journey in motion. The integration of blockchain QR codes offer traceability, and the Say Something with Tea range revolutionises gifting with personalised voice/video messages via secure QR codes.

What’s even more special is the strong social impact story that is inbuilt into our purpose. We created this brand to have a net positive impact on people, from farm to cup and the environment at large, and we invite all mindful tea drinkers to join our joyful tea revolution.

PM: You certainly appear to be catering to trending preferences in the marketplace. Gin Botanicals is a good example. Tell us more.

SH: We get how important it is to cater to traveler’s tastes, and that’s exactly why we rolled out our Gin Botanicals line. With gin’s rising fame, we introduced this to level up the game.

What makes it stand out? It’s easy to prepare, yet offers a premium taste and unforgettable experience. Gin aficionados can enjoy this journey hassle-free, relishing the exquisite flavour and adding a touch of sophistication to their gin experience.

PM: OK. let’s move on to your current global distribution. What is the status here?
SH: English Tea Shop is global, available in 50+ domestic markets. We’re new in travel retail but see big potential. You can find us in the Maldives Airport, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Singapore Changi Airport and on airlines like Scandinavian, British Airways and Canadian duty-free.

PM: That is decent representation. What % of your overall turnover are you seeking from Travel Retail?

SH: We aim for a 5% share of turnover from travel retail in the next 3 years, focusing on crafting unique product lines for diverse markets.

PM: So what challenges have you experienced breaking into the market?

SH: As a new-comer, our journey into travel retail has been exciting yet challenging. Tea isn’t always seen as a go-to choice for travellers, unlike typical offerings. Overcoming this, we’ve focused on showcasing the experiential and sustainable aspects of our tea.

Partnering with like-minded retailers who share our values of mindfulness and sustainability has been crucial. It takes time, but we’re committed to upholding our brand values throughout the travel retail experience.

Despite the challenges, our optimism remains. Positive responses from eco-conscious travellers inspire us to stay true to our sustainability mission. Our goal is to connect with travellers who seek more than just a product – they want a positive social and environmental contribution, one cup of tea at a time.

PM: Where, then, do you see the opportunities for growth?

SH: We know travellers love to shop for gifts. English Tea Shop seizes this by offering a wide range of unique presents, from curated organic teas to elegant packaging. Our exclusive seasonal collections, like revolutionary advent calendars, bring holiday magic to both givers and receivers.

With our in-house sourcing and top-notch facilities, we customize gifts for different markets and occasions – even in-flight treats.

These offerings tap into travel retail’s emotional side, where gifting is special. By creating memorable experiences, we connect with customers and elevate their journeys. Our commitment to innovation and satisfaction ensures travellers find perfect gifts, making their experiences extraordinary.

PM: Perhaps this is a good moment, then, to take us through the products on offer.

SH: Of course. To start, we have ‘Traveller’s Tea Note’. This is a compact tea notebook for travellers, featuring 8 sachets of tea in 4 refreshing blends.

Then there’s ‘Traveller’s Collection’. This features a a triangular pack with 9 pyramid bags of different blends for exploration.

We have the ‘Moments’ Range. these are  exclusive sachets for Special, Thank You, and Loving Moments (just to name a few), offering a total of 32 tea bag sachets in a sleek design.

Our ‘Favourites Collection’ is simply bursting with colours and flavours, offering  40 sachets of 5 beloved blends in a compact style.

We are very proud of ‘The Whole Leaf Exclusive Gift Box’. This is a luxurious gift featuring 3 handpicked single-origin selections of the world’s finest organic whole leaf teas.

We’ve already talked about ‘Gin Botanicals’, which is brand new. Here, we present luxurious botanicals in biodegradable pyramid bags for a top-notch gin experience. These luxurious pyramid tea bags full of flavour brew in just 5 mins into gin!  (Click here to discover more)

Finally we have the ‘Say Something with Tea’ range: This 20 tea bag sachet range is extra special.  You can include personalised notes –  even a voice or video messages via a  QR code. This range includes a variety of options, such as: The Greatest Sips, The Perfect Grade, Loverly Motherly, Because You Are Amazing and FOR YOU, which is a  Valentine’s day exclusive.

It’s important to register that our products can be customised to cater to different markets. Our unbleached tag bags are home compostable, while pyramid tea bags are biodegradable. These products embody our brand’s sustainability, quality and thoughtful, gifting experiences.

PM: I would like to go back to where we started this conversation and ask you about your commitment to sustainable organic farming. How exactly does this work?

Our commitment to sustainable organic farming at English Tea Shop is deeply rooted in our “Prajãva” philosophy, where we shift from being part of a community to becoming its heart and soul. This mindset allows us to serve and grow sustainably, challenging the misconception that sustainability limits growth.

Central to this philosophy is our unique shared value model, which aligns economic, social, and environmental sustainability. We empower both our supplier communities and our 300-strong team, fostering a holistic approach.

In practice, our “Prajãva” philosophy manifests through two virtuous cycles – one for farmers and one for employees – unified by the purpose of Love & Prosperity through Community. For farmers, this means enhancing their quality of life by providing resources and promoting health through organic farming. Education and knowledge-sharing are vital, inspiring not only farmers but also the next generation. Our commitment to organic farming not only benefits people but also the planet, creating a virtuous cycle of positive impact.

PM: One final question, Suranga. If there were three things you wanted to communicate to the travel retail community, what would they be?

SH: Firstly it would be that Sustainability is our DNA. We embody sustainability, impacting the environment and communities. Inspire travellers to offset emissions with our eco-friendly products, gifting cherished moments.

Second would be to elevate the gifting experience. Beyond tea, our thoughtfully curated collections create lasting memories, adding a personal touch to giving.

And finally, empowering partnerships. Join us for a positive impact, catering to conscious travellers. Let’s inspire sustainable choices and create a brighter future. Embrace joy, love, and sustainability.

In essence, English Tea Shop signifies sustainability, organic quality, and meaningful moments. Embrace our offerings to spread joy and make a difference in travel retail’s sustainability journey.

PM: Well. let’s sign off by taking a look at your video which embraces much of what you’ve just said.


Peter Marshall

Founder: Arts
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