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Yogi Tea's Guru Simran Khalsa on the future of tea

Yogi Tea's Guru Simran Khalsa on the future of tea
A veteran of the functional beverage industry, Guru Simran Khalsa helped found Yogi Tea, now one of the most prevalent brands in the United States. As the tea segment continues to grow and get more and more crowded, how do beverage manufacturers stand out and set themselves apart?

Involved in the natural health industry for 35 years, Guru Simran Khalsa has dedicated himself to the study of traditional healing practices from around the world and has taught Ayurveda, yoga, meditation and nutrition courses throughout North America. He was a co-founder of the Yogi Tea co and VP of Sales & Marketing for Flora. Currently he is helping companies grow their US market share, including Pukka Herbs from the UK and Mate Factor.

Fi: How does a company differentiate a tea brand in this crowded marketplace?

Guru Simran Khalsa
Guru Simran Khalsa

Guru Simran Khalsa: Good question. There’s a few things. One is quality. Having superior quality and having packaging that reflects the quality and the nature of the product so that when people look at the package they have a good feeling about what’s inside the package. It’s important to work regionally where you can gain traction with local stores and build up your sales and then move forward.

Fi: When you first formulated Yogi Tea, condition-specific marketing was new, but now it’s ubiquitous. What do you think this has done to quality?

GSK: It runs the gamut. Some companies have very qualified herbalists that very carefully and based on extensive knowledge formulate their different condition-specific products. And other companies sometimes just say, “well this is popular so I’m going to come out with this skew to benefit from the popularity.”

Fi: I understand with tea the sourcing is all over the map in terms of quality. What should people know to determine their tea is well sourced.

GSK: One thing you can do is to look at it and smell it. A good tea or herb mixture will look vibrant, will smell powerfully, and will look fresh. You can also look at the company and see if they’re supporting local or organic farmers. Is it a quality-oriented company? You can even find some of that information on the website.

Fi: Any insights into the future of tea? What future opportunities are there in the tea category?

GSK: It seems that as time goes on, surprisingly, the segment gets more and more crowded and more companies try to squeeze in. For the companies trying to establish themselves, they have to work really hard on their quality and their marketing to be able to gain some kind of market share from the established companies. It’s been going on for at least 25 years and just getting more competitive.

Fi: I’ve noticed in the last year or so that products based in Ayurveda are more common. Why might that be happening?

GSK: Perhaps part of the reason is because of the popularity of yoga. Yoga is so popular now and Ayurveda is a sister Vedic science. So maybe yoga teachers and students are looking at healing arts and perhaps that leads them to Ayurveda.

Fi: You moved to Puerto Vallarta a few years ago. What’s it like to live there?

GSK: What living in Mexico has done for me is to make me much more flexible. A lot of times in the US we have the idea that when we have to fix something or get something done there’s a certain way to do it and you have to do it that way. In Mexico a lot of times they don’t have the part or they can’t do it in that optimal way you might like, but they’re very creative here about figuring out some way you never would have thought of to get something done. So it’s made me much more creative watching all these creative people adapt and make their lives work. 

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