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Fruits and herbs in a bag: Tea infusions for all seasons

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The company Biogena CB spol s.r.o. was founded a quarter of a century ago and is today part of the AG FOODS. The original family business brought to the Czech Republic and its neighbouring countries loose tea and tea blends – back then a novelty and new luxury after the times of communism had held entrepreneurial spirits at bay for decades. Today Biogena is active in four different areas: producing tea for retail in boxes of 20 to 25 bags; catering to schools, kindergartens, hospitals and company cafeterias; producing herbal bath products based on tea, and selling tea in gift boxes of 60 to 90 bags – a product idea that today accounts for 30% of production and has won awards in the area of packaging. Ten years ago, Biogena also added private label production for clients in the Czech Republic and beyond to its business activities.

“I believe we have created a really good product portfolio mix,” explains Michal Kosař, Director of Production at Biogena. “Tea is a flexible product. We started off providing it for its original use – as a convenient hot drink – and recently we have also found out about its benefits in the bath. We now develop bath blends for children and people with skin ailments.”

Biogena has continuously built up its reputation and thus has become a market player competitors have to look out for. Its secret to success? Mr. Kosař sees it above all in the innovative blends Biogena creates: “We have a unique approach to blending our teas. That’s been the case since the very beginning of Biogena. Let’s take a very popular fruit, like and apple or apricot. We would then spice it up with something exotic, say lemongrass. And we can certainly think of other combinations as well. The superfood trend is something we are watching closely, and we are debating which ingredients we can make use of for our fruit and herbal tea blends.”

That 30% of Biogena’s production is in the area of gifts is something remarkable in the tea business. Regina Špaňhelová, Marketing Specialist at Biogena, is excited about this development. “It is fascinating to watch the development of our teas as a gift. Don’t forget that in an era of hyper-consumption, a solid product like tea is a very thoughtful and very humble present – be it to a colleague, friend, relative or neighbour. Our product palette in gift boxes caters to all different tastes, so you can make almost anyone happy with it. And of course our award-winning packaging tells the rest of the message: This is a little gift for you to make you feel good – in the office or at home. We produce our gift boxes in cooperation with protected workshops that employ people with disabilities.”

Needless to say Biogena picked up on this success in other areas and has started to market its herbal skincare products as gifts as well. “We are looking at various combinations for blends that actually have healing properties. If you add salt to some herbs that we also use for our teas, for instance, people with skin issues can benefit from it greatly,” Jana Vodičková, Director of the Retail Division, points out.

With Biogena products obtaining IFS certification in 2008, the company has also started to look at yet its youngest consumers: children. “We have come up with our own little character, Mr. Nousek, for the tea packaging that caters to kids,” Mr. Kosař explains. “And of course these tea blends are ones that kids love – very fruity and tasty, but without artificial aromas. We are very proud of this.”

That Biogena not only targets these young consumers for profit but also engages in solid corporate social responsibility is something that goes hand in hand for the team at Biogena: “We have recently handed over a bulk of teas and herbal baths to an organization that takes care of sick parents and their kids,” Ms. Vodičková indicates. “All of us believe that any business must assume some responsibility for those who are not blessed living on the sunny side.”

The pledge to corporate social responsibility certainly goes hand in hand with the Biogena’s products being offered at most locations where people consume or shop for tea: from the hospitality sector to cafeterias in schools and pre-schools, hospitals or retirement homes to global supermarket chains. Specialized gift and tea shops carry Biogena as well. And of course online shops are an addition to traditional retail. So how to cater to such a diverse clientele?

“I think we have been doing an extremely good job finding the right product for the right consumer,” Mr. Kosař explains explains. “Our branding has helped diversify our consumer base ... a branding that corresponds with very individualistic packaging addressing the specific target group that we have in mind when we develop a particular tea blend.”

The names that Biogena creates for its teas certainly boost the branding: Majestic Tea – a black box with tea bags full of exotic fruit flavour that currently is the flagship of the company – or Tea2O, a line of fresh teas that blend fruits and herbs. Of course the Ginger Line caters to the wellness-oriented crowd and mixes ginger root with blackcurrant for instance – the latter of which adds antioxidants to the cup.

“Again, I must point out that our blends are unique,” Mr. Kosař reiterates. “We put a lot of thought into our teas. We mix local fruits with exotic ones. And we also fill our tea bags more than our competitors so that our customers enjoy a fuller taste.”

It is summertime, and Biogena has something to offer as well: tea blends for dilution in cold water. No doubt, Biogena is well-suited for all seasons.

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