To Consumers Plate
Well at least to the consumer's glass! Sweet Leaf Tea has always enjoyed being active in the community, and a huge part of our success came and continues to come from interaction with potential and existing consumers. In 2002, the company took part in Austin's City Limit event, a several day festival where nearly 10,000 bottles of tea were sold.
They creatively use the Internet and Social Media to engage the customer and differentiate their brand from the growing list of Ready to Drink Teas in what appears to be an over-saturated beverage market.
One unique way to differentiate is Sweet Leaf Radio. When you click on the radio icon, it pops up a graphic of a table top radio that allows the listener to select a series of musical tracks. Whether they are Christopher's favorite artists or customer's favorite artists this is a great example of personalize the brand to the consumer: you get a feel for the brand at the people level. They have an active Facebook page with over 16,500 people who "Like" Sweet Leaf Tea. Chris appears to be a music guy so recent post references the brand's partnership with the Lollapaloozza Music Festival. They also created an April Fools Prank contest which surely gets people to the Facebook page.
So where do they sell their products? According to the company you can find them at Whole Foods, Publix, HEB, Jewel Osco, Kroger, and Safeway. If you "can't find a bottle" as they say on the web site, they send you over to Amazon to have them delivered directly. www.amazon.com.
So what are key takeaway's for food entrepreneurs starting or running a specialty food business?
Sweet Leaf Tea is in a highly competitive and many would say, a very undifferentiated market segment. You don't need to do market research to "see" this: just walk down the aisles of your favorite supermarket to see the explosion of specialty ready to drink teas.
Sweet Leaf Teas is branding itself with Christopher's personality, interests and values. They are selling a community feeling with like minded consumers talking about their brand via social media. They are a good example of applying the Benefits Ladder to marketing. Define what the Benefit of your Product is to the consumer and then state what Product Features back up the Benefit Claim. Then you decide on how to best engage the consumer with Emotional or Aspirational messages to get them to buy and keep them coming back for more.