Clipper Tea Unveils Fully Recyclable Packaging and Rebranding

Already sustainably oriented, Clipper Tea further expands its sustainable initiatives with the transition to fully recyclable packaging across its entire range of teas.

The Dorset, England-based tea brand, owned by Ecotone UK, which markets over 150 products –
including organic and Fairtrade teas – in more than 50 countries, has invested over GBP £1 million in
the development of a new production line to create a specially designed box that features a reinforced structure to lock in the tea’s taste and aroma, while also protecting the tea bags inside. The investment has also allowed the brand to remove the unrecyclable inner foil bag across Clipper’s large-format boxes, making the packaging fully recyclable and suitable for paper recycling. The new fully recyclable box was first rolled out across UK retailers in March 2022

“In the UK, the move will save a minimum of 20 tonnes of metalised plastic from going to landfill or incineration each year, in addition to the plastic we eliminated through our switch to fully biodegradable plant-based tea bags back in 2018,” said Bryan Martins, Clipper Tea marketing and category director at Ecotone UK.

The move to fully recyclable packaging is the latest in Clipper’s long-time commitment to sustainability. B Corp-certified Clipper Tea became the UK’s first Fairtrade tea brand in 1994 and to date, is the world’s largest Fairtrade tea brand, supporting more than 114,000 farmers, workers and their families in tea-producing countries worldwide. It was the world’s first tea brand to make all its heat-sealed teabags,
unbleached, non-GMO, plant-based and fully biodegradable. In 2019, the brand introduced fully
recyclable tea bag envelopes for its ‘string & tag tea bag’ range – a sustainable solution made from a 33 percent lighter paper-based material that is suitable for paper recycling. Clipper also switched the string that connects the teabag and tag to an organic-certified cotton.

At Clipper, we’re incredibly proud of our pioneering approach to making natural, fair and delicious tea. After launching our industry-first biodegradable tea bag, we were determined to keep momentum and address non-essential plastics across our ranges. It has been a priority for us as a business, and we know it’s important to consumers too,” said Martins. He said that the investment enabled Clipper to install new machinery at its factory to produce a fully recyclable box that retains the aroma and taste of the tea, while protecting the tea bags.

Available from June onwards, Martins said that Clipper also replaced the ‘unrecyclable’ inner foil bag within its smaller packs with PE film, so they are now fully recyclable with other household soft plastics at supermarket collection points. “As a brand which stands for making ethical and sustainable choices, we are constantly challenging ourselves to minimise our environmental impact,” he shared.

This latest move from Clipper is driven by brand owner Ecotone UK’s Food for Biodiversity mission, through which it is committed to changing the industrial food system with sustainable and ethically produced organic, plant-based and Fairtrade products. Ecotone UK is also part of The UK Plastics Pact implemented by WRAP, which is focused on eliminating problematic or single-use packaging across its
portfolio as part of a circular loop model. The company is on track to meet its target for all packaging to be 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

A New Approach in the US Market

Clipper Tea has ambitious growth plans in the United States, including the rollout of new packaging, innovative flavours and seasonal varieties for the holiday season.

Clipper Tea initially launched in the US in 2019, but the brand was not pleased with the initial consumer response. Via consumer research, Clipper learned that American tea drinkers are seeking consciously sourced products that do not feel ‘stuffy’ or ‘old-fashioned’. The brand aims to deliver a fresh, fun and ethical alternative to tea aisles across the US.

As part of its US expansion, Clipper Tea is releasing new flavours and rebranding fan faves with updated packaging. “Our previous line really leaned into the playfulness at the heart of Clipper Tea, but after doing some focus group testing, we determined that our variety names, though fun and witty, like ‘Big Ben’, made it a little trickier for consumers who are making quick decisions in grocery stores to discern the flavour of each box,” said Chris Tandy, US regional sales manager at Clipper Tea.

He noted that the previous packaging also made it harder to find Clipper’s organic, non-GMO, certified B-Corp and Fairtrade certifications that consumers seek out when looking for high quality tea. “We think the new, optimised, vibrant packaging and on-trend flavours are a stronger offer with bolder colours, descriptive names and more prominent certifications that make it easier for consumers to quickly see all the ways that Clipper Tea is doing things right as well as capture the fun and whimsy that is at the core of [the brand],” said Tandy.

Flavours such as Big Ben, Strawberry Fields and Main Squeeze have been rebranded as Organic
English Breakfast Black Tea, Organic Strawberry & Elderflower Herbal Tea and Organic Lemon & Ginger Herbal Tea. The new packages feature black cups in place of the original white on the colourful boxes.

The new flavours include Organic Earl Grey Black Tea, Organic Orange & Turmeric Herbal Tea and Organic Green Tea & Lemon. “We know key consumers are seeking out these [types of] flavours, so the new varieties are meeting that need for vibrant tea combinations,” said Tandy.

Starting September, there will also be two new winter flavours: Organic Winter Apple & Cinnamon Herbal Tea and Organic Winter Berries Herbal Tea. “These are Clipper Tea’s first seasonal offerings
in the US and help us lean into the holiday season when we know consumers are seeking out warming
and nostalgic flavours,” said Tandy.

The rebranded and new varieties will continue to uphold Clipper Tea’s commitment to sustainability. In addition to the earth-friendly packaging, the UK-based factory where the tea is blended is carbon neutral and 98 percent of factory waste is recycled, with tea waste used to generate green energy.

Addressing Differences in the UK & US

Clipper Tea’s consumer research also found big differences in the way American and UK tea drinkers prepare their tea. For example, many American tea consumers heat the water in their microwaves. Another big difference is in the cup size – Americans’ cups (mugs) are much bigger.

Tandy said Clipper Tea’s revamped packaging provides a visual and description for best teamaking practices to make it even easier for consumers to brew their daily cuppa. “The US packaging also features front of pack designs bespoke to the US, as well as different colours to help it stand out on shelves.”

Clipper Tea’s current retail presence includes larger US supermarkets such as Giant Carlisle, Safeway/Albertsons and H-E-B, and the teas are also available to order on Amazon. The brand is
also looking to expand into new retailers in the US market.

  • Vanessa L Facenda joined T&CTJ in 2012 as editor. She was previously editor of Retail
    Merchandiser magazine and has written for a variety of magazines including Consumer Reports, Brandweek, Adweek, Hollywood Reporter, and Specialty Food Magazine, among many others. She may be reached at: [email protected].

Related content

Leave a reply

Tea & Coffee Trade Journal