Cuppa Crew said

Starting a new brand - to relabel or not to relabel?

Hello, all!

As we’re finalizing our initial business plans, one of the things I am absolutely certain about is that I want to eventually cultivate a collection of single gardens for our signature teas and tea blends, but at the moment, I have neither the expertise nor the money to start by doing so.

The most common solution that seems to come up (via and several other sources around the web) is to buy in bulk from an existing wholesaler and repackage and relabel the tea under my own brand.

I see a lot of mixed feelings about this, and I share those feelings.

On the one hand, it gives me a ready source of teas and tea blends that I can verify are enjoyed by customers (via the various review sites, including this one) while I get my feet under me and some money in the bank. I can also buy a pound or three at a time rather than massive orders that may never sell.

On the other hand, I feel strange about the idea of buying an Irish Breakfast (or the many varieties of flavored teas) from Metro, for example, and relabeling it as my own.

My plan, right now, is to work with Metro and (if approved) Dethlefsen & Balk primarily (I also have relationships with a couple of wholesale + retail companies, but I’d like to stick to wholesale-only companies) and order the basics. I MAY try blending my own simple blends (Irish/English Breakfast, etc.), but may stick with one of the wholesalers’ versions if they’re to my taste.

For all of you fine folks who have started your own brands, is this the way you got off the ground? Is there a better way that doesn’t involve huge risk and a lot of money?

Thanks for your feedback and advice!

4 Replies
Uniquity said

As a consumer, I don’t like to see blends relabeled and sold as a different product. I know it happens, but I try to avoid companies that do it and I would rather them be honest about it. Re-selling tea is one thing, but pretending it’s original is dishonest and a quick way to lose me as a customer. Previous Steepster discussions leave me thinking that many other tea drinkers may feel the same way, but I’ll wait to see how that goes. : )

Best of luck in this business!

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Cuppa Crew said

Agreed, but I’m left wondering what my options are.

Just buying another retailer’s tea in bulk and slapping my own label on it is certainly dubious, at best. But where do all these retailers (the smaller/newer ones, in particular) get their straight teas, much less flavored teas and blends, that ensures a degree of uniqueness and without having to buy it by the thousands of kilos?

I’m certain my problem is that I just know too little. I’m sure I’ll have a better idea of how to grow the business after attending the next World Tea Expo, but in the meantime, I’m feeling a bit stuck.

I don’t want to wait until I have a lot of free cash (because I may never get it), but I most definitely don’t want to enter the industry as a charlatan.

Any advice from the gallery on sourcing small quantities of tea that aren’t sold everywhere?

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ashmanra said

I have mixed feelings about it. I like knowing that I can get a tea from other vendors. For instance, if I love a certain tea that is yours alone and I see that you have “X Tea” from Teageschwender and I am nearly out, it is handy to know I can put it on my order from you, know it is the one I like, and save the second shipping.

The hard thing FOR YOU is that a lot of the big distributors, like the one mentioned above, offer online specials that local shops can’t compete with, like the one above offering 20% off Internet orders and free shipping at a certain threshold. When people see they can get YOUR tea cheaper, they may fly.

Personally, I think it is a toss up. I was very…disdainful I guess, at one shop, as I went through their tea that they had relabeled and I recognized almost every one as being Harney and Sons or American Tea Room. I guess I shouldn’t have felt that way. It was just one bag after another going, “Well, this is Coconut Green from so and so, not Tropic Holiday.”

Such shops do serve as a way to get tea quickly, sometimes in smaller amounts than you can get from the vendor, and to be able to give new teas a good sniff to see if you think you will like it. They also often offer a cup of tea for you to taste before committing to a whole bag of leaf, and offer ready to drink samples every day.

I have probably been no help at all, and wish you the best of luck as you make your decision and in your new business!

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lalaxton said

It’s an issue that many retailers have, not just in the tea business. Look a the “no name” products in your grocery store, they are the same as many of the name brands, sourced and bought from the same place with different labels.
Also, I’m sure many of the big wholesalers and retailers that buy directly from tea farmers/growers who buy the exact same tea but put their own labels on them, are they not doing the same thing?
Something to think about…

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