Unilever adds to tea portfolio with ethical Bristol brand Pukka

Alys Key
Follow Alys
Pukka's range of flavours has made it a consumer favourite (Source: Pukka)

Consumer goods giant Unilever has acquired hippy tea brand Pukka, adding to a portfolio which already includes PG Tips and Lipton.

Unilever would not say how much it had paid for the Bristol-based brand.

Unilever’s refreshment category President, Kevin Havelock, said: “Pukka has strong values and a clear purpose that aligns fully with our own sustainable growth model. There’s a clear strategic, philosophical and cultural fit for us.”

Founders Sebastian Pole and Tim Westwell are set to benefit from the deal, having founded the company in 2001 with a few friends and family as investors. It is understood that they will remain involved with Pukka, which will be run as a separate entity within Unilever.

Westwell will become interim CEO while the hunt gets underway for a new boss to head up the business. The company will remain in Bristol

Read more: In hot water: Londoners are making their tea all wrong

“Choosing Unilever came down to two fundamentals: scale and sustainability," said Pole. "It is a leader in social and environmental change and it wholeheartedly embraces Pukka’s beliefs. So, there’s a meeting of values."

He also stressed that the brand's ethical credentials, including its 100 per cent organic marker and its donations to environmental charities, will remain intact.

Unilever is now set to throw its weight behind Pukka, expanding distribution and potentially entering new markets.

Read more: Another suitor buttered up in £6bn Unilever spreads auction

Pukka is the world's fastest-growing herbal tea brand, with sales of more than £30m. Its distinctive packaging and blended flavours like mint green and cacao chai earned it a cult following and a place on the supermarket shelves.

The company made a pre-tax loss of 24,000 last year after reinvesting in growth, but plans to return to profitability within the next year or two as part of a five-year strategy.

The move comes as herbal tea sales boom across the globe, in line with other growing buying trends for healthier alternatives such as the surge in low and no sugar soft drinks. Data from Nielsen currently values the home-brewed herbal, fruit and green tea market at €1.6bn (£1.46bn).

Read more: Oprah swoops in to save Kraft Heinz food sales with new healthy range

Related articles