Drink me Chai Growing fast in foodservice

The UK’s favourite Chai Latte brand, Drink me Chai has experienced a 20% year on year growth since starting in 2005, in line with Chai’s rising popularity on beverage menus and as a bakery ingredient, with Chai tea sales as a whole growing 43.8% in value between 2016 and 2017.

Last summer, Drink me Chai launched its Superblends range, which harnesses the power of superfood ingredients to offer tasty hot beverages with tremendous health benefits. Varieties include Turmeric, the health ingredient of the year, Beetroot, Raw Cacao and Naked (sugar-free) and a Matcha variety will be introduced to the range very soon. Drink me Chai’s products are sold in both retail and foodservice, but the company sees foodservice as its main priority for development and offering the strongest potential for growth.

Drink me Chai’s success is led by Amanda Hamilton, the company’s CEO and Founder. Amanda spoke to Wholesale Manager.

“I first tried Chai Latte when travelling in India and since 2004 we have been pioneering the instant Chai Latte trend with our unique blend of tea, milk and natural, authentic spices sourced from India. I still enjoy sales and the customer interaction and have recently been developing our export business, with wins in regions including Australia. I am still hugely involved in the business day to day and very much enjoy developing concepts and ideas and seeing products through the launch. We are a small and dynamic team and everyone gets involved in the development process.”

Amanda Hamilton believes there’s more to the growth of Chai and Drink me Chai’s other teas besides the current trend for healthy living:

“Chai as an ingredient has a very rich history. The word ‘chai’ itself is the Hindi word for tea and historically has been viewed as herbal medicine with cleansing properties. Chai’s recent rise in popularity is perhaps down to a combination of people recognising its health benefits and consumers being more explorative in their tea tastes.”

Amanda says Drink me Chai’s Superblends range is well received by health conscious consumers and great for foodservice outlets that focus on a better-for-you offering: “Menu items offering extra health benefits such as Turmeric Lattes, which are known for their antiseptic, anti-inflammatory healing properties, are proving hugely popular thanks to being championed on social media by celebrities and influencers.”

A further factor in Drink me Chai’s success, says Amanda, is consumers’ growing interest in food origins: “Millennials in particular are increasingly opting for inclusive dining experiences that introduce flavours from around the world.”

Drink me Chai’s products are created with natural spices, responsibly sourced and imported from India for true authenticity, enabling consumers to discover the aroma and eye-catching colour of the brand’s Chai blends. Alongside Drink me Chai’s responsible sourcing policy, they donate a percentage of the profits from every tub they sell to Pratham, a charity teaching disadvantaged children in India to read.

In another development, Amanda says Chai is taking the bakery sector by storm. As an ingredient it provides a unique delicious flavour, which is proving so popular it was used frequently on the latest series of ‘The Great British Bake Off,’ in both sweet and savoury recipes.

“As well as being used to create tempting beverages, Drink me Chai products can be used in the kitchen to create an array of delicious menu items. We provide operators with inspirational recipes to recreate for their menus.”

Naturally vibrant in colour, the Drink me Chai Superblends range can support in creating items that tap into the emerging trend for colourful foods and produce beautiful Instagram-worthy bakes:

“The Superblends range can spice up menus and add new flavour combinations which are bursting with health benefits. From a scrumptious Beetroot Millionaire’s Shortbread to a mouthwatering Turmeric and Potato Focaccia, there is no end to what can be baked!”

Inspired by the growth of café culture in the UK since 2004, Amanda and her team are constantly looking at what is happening in the café sector and taking inspiration for what they develop for their retail customers, with more interesting launches planned for 2019.

Drink me Chai work closely with over 40 wholesalers nationally and regionally, managed by their in-house sales team headed up by Louise Knott: “Louise also runs an initiative called Café of The Month where we choose a café to spotlight on our website, running an interview and photos to support the independents.”

Drink me Chai are comfortable supplying both foodservice and retail, says Amanda, although they each require a different strategy:

“For example, our best-selling Artisan Chai Latte is crafted specifically for cafes. It supports their commitment to cater for customers’ dietary requirements and preferences, because it contains no dairy and can be made with alternatives such as soy, coconut or almond milks. We mostly have direct relationships with our retailers but largely work with foodservice operators via wholesalers.

“Although I now have account managers to look after the wholesalers,” says Amanda, “I am pretty hands on in terms of working through a promotional plan for the year and providing literature and recipe ideas to drive sales throughout the year.”

As Chai becomes more mainstream, Amanda has recently seen an uplift of the Contract Catering business, with Drink me Chai now available in many schools, hospitals and offices: “We also secured a listing on Ryanair for our innovative In Cup solution called “Travelattes,” which offers real choice for the consumer on the move.”

Speciality teas are growing strongly in foodservice, says Amanda. Chai saw 43.8% annual value growth between 2016 and 2017, storming ahead of Peppermint, Herbal and Green tea and becoming the fastest growing tea out of home within the café channel:

“Among the more recent introductions into foodservice, Chai and Matcha are contributing to out of home tea sales, with earthy flavours such as Chai topping the list for consumers searching for new beverages. The appeal with the Drink me Chai product range is that it can be enjoyed at any time of day and is suited to a wide variety of individuals. We have an array of flavours to suit different taste buds and various formats, including our in-cup solution, which is a perfect on-the-go or travel proposition.”