Rebranding Question--would like your input, please.

Maybe this should be under Tea Companies and Promotions, but I think it goes deeper than that.

I was recently contacted by someone who wants to buy our Mandarin Matcha in bulk for resale. They want wholesale pricing on a decent quantity of the tea, but the thing is, they want it in bulk to repackage it with their branding on it. It wouldn’t be a 52teas blend; it would be an “XYZ Tea Co.” blend.

I have such mixed feelings about this, I thought I would see what you guys think. I mean, on the one hand, it’s really hard to turn down a sale, but I just don’t think it’s right that I put the work into developing this blend and now someone else is going to say it is theirs. Maybe I am just being silly. (In case you didn’t know: this sort of thing happens A LOT in this industry. I’ve seen blends created by a big blending house repackaged and resold by lots of places who try their best to intimate that it is THEIR blend.)

I’m just not sure what to think, so I thought I would ask for some feedback. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

21 Replies
Meg said

I specifically buy from you guys because I love the blends you come up with. Seriously, that buttered cinnamon raisin toast was blinking incredible. I wouldn’t recommend doing it. If I was tea from them, I wouldn’t expect it to be your tea. If I want your tea, I’m going to give my business to you directly. I love 52teas and knowing that I’m getting something you made yourself. If I ended up buying something from another brand and found out they got it from a smaller independent type company and claimed it as their own, that seriously shoots down their credibility for me as a customer. I’m sticking with you guys.

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I would say, if it’s a steady sale, go for it. I would think no less of 52teas because you’re getting your excellent teas out there for more people to enjoy. I do think less of the company buying from you for faking it.

I personally try and buy from smaller shops as they make more unique blends but i have found more and more that isn’t an option since there are only a few places that make most flavors. I am dissapointed every time i found out someone has rebranded a tea they bought.

The only thing i would do is make sure that you retain the right to state you resell that tea to other companies to self brand publicly, like on your site, and interested parties may contact you. Also make sure you can say you resell to them if a customer asks. This was customers can find the source.

I’m so glad your tea is well loved, and i think more people should get to enjoy it. Since you can’t franchise all over the country to spread the love this sounds like a start/

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I think it makes good business sense, but bad heart sense if you know what I mean? You said “I just don’t think it’s right that I put the work into developing this blend and now someone else is going to say it is theirs.” and I have to agree. I know that is how the world does business, but what can I say – I don’t think it’s fair. I think that the way you do business is pretty great. It’s personal, unique, a representation of what’s inside you. I admire it greatly.

On the other hand, you need to make money to continue your business!

You could always use this one time/one tea as a test… See how it feels in your head and heart… decide afterwards if you want to continue…

SoccerMom said

I ditto JacquelineM

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Cofftea said

Please don’t sell out Frank.

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Thank you all for your input. I’m still just as conflicted, but I feel a little more justified for feeling that way. I don’t really know if it’s a matter of selling out, Cofftea; I think that is the whole issue: we have to find more vehicles for distributing our products. I don’t have however many thousands of dollars that my competitors throw at Google and other search engines each month for advertising. In fact, we cap our search engine advertising at $50/month, which is embarrassing to admit to. Clearly, we can’t reach a wider audience for our teas without doing some wholesale trade. It’s just that most of what we have done so far has been with mostly brick and mortar stores who don’t mind offering our teas with our branding and labeling on it. Other tea companies who are interested in promoting THEIR brand are understandably reluctant to sell a product that has OUR website on the packaging.

This is what I’ve been thinking, and you guys tell me if you think I am crazy: I think that since we are really the experimenters, the home of the limited edition blends, I think we should offer other retailers (brick and mortar or online resellers) the opportunity to become exclusive dealers for any of our past blends. We blend the Mandarin Matcha in a limited edition release, when it sells out, we offer to reblend it for any resellers who want to carry it. Then we post on our website where people can get it, but we don’t offer it on 52teas ever again, we just wholesale it to other resellers.

That way, I think, the resellers could sell the tea without worrying about losing their customers to us (at least they won’t be buying past blends from us), and we would also be directing some of our customers to other resellers for those past blends. I think this sounds reasonable and agreeable. What do you guys think? If I sold this company some Mandarin Matcha IN OUR PACKAGING, BUT promised not to sell it any more on our website AND offered to link the product page to their website and tell our customers where they can get it, does that not sound reasonable?

Ricky admin said

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Hopefully the resellers don’t make the prices too unreasonable.

it sounds reasonable, however since they’re used to being able to re-brand teas i am afraid a lot of companies might balk at it :(

Well, that is part of why I backed off from my original thinking about letting these vendors compete for the exclusive rights to a given past blend. Competition is good, and we will give a decent discount to resellers who purchase the teas in quantity, they shouldn’t have to exceed our retail pricing.

@AmazonV, I hope you are wrong. I just don’t think it’s fair to the consumers that 90% of the tea sellers out there are selling the same teas with different names. If someone, for instance, dislikes the Moroccan Mint (which I think at least 90% of which is made by the SAME large wholesale blending house) then they should not be tempted into trying an “alternate” version of it offered by someone else. By the same token, if they LIKE it, I think they should be able to know which blends are from what house. Maybe I’m just too much of an idealist.

But I hope that the compromise of offering to link our product page to the reseller’s website is enough to sway potential wholesale customers. I mean, I am basically handing them customers. Cofftea, if I told you we would never sell Mandarin Matcha again, but that you could get it here or here or here, wouldn’t you look at those websites? What if we had no more Mayan Chocolate Chai?

yea i’ve been burned by that “let me try this other company’s” to find it’s the same :( which is why i get cranky at the resellers who fake their ‘own’ blends, i certainly hope they agree to it, it might revolutionize the way unique blends get recognized, which would rock

I was going to suggest doing only retired/sold out blends :) I think it’s worth a try!

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The whole re branding thing is a double-edged knife. On the one hand, as a business, you have a partner in pushing out your tea blends and possibly reaching a new market because XYZ has their own popularity and fan-base. It means more revenue. But then you have the hand of the brew master. Would you like your precious blend attributed to XYZ? On a personal level, would it bother you? You must also consider XYZ’s reputation. If they are known for simply re-branding anything they get their hands on and have mixed revue, that may hurt the blend.

Now, you are asking for advice, and advice comes from a personal level so I’ll muse to you about a similar circumstance. My wife does chainmail jewelry as a hobby. She found a small shop who wanted to display her work so she could sell it, them of course getting it at a cheaper rate. Well, the first agreement had them adding their name to it, and completely leaving her name and mark out of the loop. So she was selling it to them but no recognition, and no growth on her personal fan base. I argued with her not to accept it, because in the long run she would be no where since she wanted to do this as a small business. The next agreement had them marking the retail price at their own whim. But they wanted an almost 200% mark-up from the wholesale, which once more, if it had her name, would make her seem like an over priced seller. Well needless to say, the situation was resolved. And now she has the pricing of her desire as well as her signature on the product. I was uncomfortable with no one knowing that something was mine, or from my own mind. Something I worked on, hard or easy, it was mine and I wanted to keep it that way. I don’t know if intellectual rights and that ease of mind of knowing something is yours and makes people happy really means a lot to you, I’ll assume it does, or you wouldn’t be conflicted.

To say the least, go for what makes sense to the prosperity of your business, but don’t settle for the first deal that comes along, and don’t forget to listen to your heart, you are a brew master before you are a business man, so always do what feels right.

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Jillian said

Would it be possibly for the reseller to still keep the name of your company on the tea? I know some tea companies that sell other brands and market them as the original brands.

gmathis said

I wondered about something similar: a package of “XYZ Super Goodie Tea” but something in small print on the pack that says “Blended by 52teas.”

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Doulton said

I don’t think it’s selling out and I don’t think it is compromising your integrity. You need to think about putting food (more than just tea) on the table.

I certainly wish that there was more transparency in the tea business—I would love to know that my suspicions are correct: that the Lapsang I purchase from The Tea Table, Culinary Teas, and several other places are identical blends.

On the other hand, regardless of the origin of the tea, I know that some of the quirkiness and charm of a tea business attracts me and I also am more ready to order from house-blended tea companies. If you can negotiate a by-line that would be fabulous, but I’ve rarely if ever seen it. I am a fan of your teas in general and passionately love some in particular, so I would never think of you as a “sell-out” but more as a pragmatic business-person.

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Thanks to everyone for your input! I’ve made up my mind, and this could just be plain stubbornness on my part, but I am not going to allow 52teas blends to be repackaged/rebranded.

I am, however, more than willing to work with other resellers who want to purchase our past blends on a wholesale basis, and I think this is a really sweet deal for everyone involved. If you are a reseller, listen up, because I know this isn’t how the industry normally does business, but here’s how we’re going to do business, and this IS a great opportunity for you.

As far as I’m concerned, 52teas is in the business of creating NEW blends (we make a new one every week, for crying out loud). If I reblended every blend I get requests to reblend, I would be SWIMMING in inventory. But if I reblend it and wholesale it to another reseller, and tell the folks who are interested in a reblend where they can get it, they might buy it there, and some of the resellers customers might buy more of it, and the inventory would turn over more quickly. This is good for everyone.

If you are a reseller, this is an opportunity for me to hand you some traffic to your site. Here’s an example. Right now, I have three people who want me to reblend our Mom’s Anise Biscotti Black Tea. If I reblend a pound (the minimum quantity I want to blend), I might sell three pouches and be stuck holding the rest. But if I reblend it and sell it to another reseller, they might sell those three pouches, plus sell some to their customer base, not to mention that the customers I send your way might also purchase other items from your website. Yes, you will be promoting 52teas, in a sense, but we will be promoting you as well.

So, here’s how it’s going to work, if you are interested in reselling any of our past creations, drop me a line, we’ll get you signed up for our wholesale program and we’ll be winners together. Those of you who have been asking me for reblends, ask not what 52teas can reblend for you; ask your favorite reseller to consider carrying your favorite past blend from 52teas.

That sounds like a fantastic idea. I’m glad the input everyone offered was able to help you come to your decision. Might I add a thought?

Why not have them market it as “52Tea’s xxx”. So if it’s the Anise Biscotti, they could label it as “52Teas’ Anise Biscotti Black Tea”. Just an idea.

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KaTEA said

Ok I see you have already made a decision so my input really may not matter, I read this earlier this evening but wanted to take time to put in a good response. I guess in a nutshell & after the fact, I was going to say, A: your not a sell out, you are in business to sell tea, that is what you would be doing. B: If you don’t sell to them they will figure out how to do or blend or make it anyway, you may as well profit from your blend. C: I am sure you are always on to bigger & better, sell it and move on to bigger & better. You will be board with that one soon and wish you had made the full potentional of cash off of it. I do art, pottery & sculpture, I love what I create while creating it, once its done I admire it for a minute then on to the next idea. I dont mind selling it, for someone else to enjoy, I made the cash to continue my creative idea. I think if you are as into blending as you say, you are often on to the next awesome thing in your brain that is trying to get out, sell & move on to the next big thing. ;*)

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