The new line of 14-oz ice tea beverages includes green and black teas, some with added flavors such as raspberry and peach and mint and honey, and also two lemonade skus. The beverages are either unsweetened or only mildly sweet and are positioned as fair-trade and non-GMO.
Third Street developed the line via a loan provided by Whole Foods through its Small Producer Loan Program, Caren Harbour, director of retail sales, told FoodNavigator USA. The program helps select suppliers develop products exclusively for Whole Foods and receiving the loan is a testament to the chain’s belief in Third Street’s quality and commitment to traceability and sustainability she said.
“We were at a meeting at Expo West with Whole Foods and its suppliers. There were a lot of people in the room and they were talking about sustainability and traceability and our company’s logo was one of about 10 up on the slide,” she said. “We manufacture all of our products in house which is different from a lot of beverage companies.”
John Simmons, founder and president of Third Street Inc., said the company’s long history with in-house tea brewing meant it had the expertise to design a better beverage in a crowded category. The company started in 1995 with Simmons’ first chai beverages that he whipped up on the side while working in a coffee shop in his home town of Boulder, CO as he transitioned out of professional bicycle racing. Whole Foods approched him, he said, after company representatives tasted his chai in local shops, and a company was born and soon moved to its present location in nearby Louisville.
“We have developed a system of brewing whole leaf tea with spices that has stretched for 19 years. We have had to innovate our own new ways to extract flavors from the raw materials. When we started to develop our new products with the group at Whole Foods I think they realized we could do a better job (than their competitors),” Simmons said.
“We also make a product that is not too sweet. Our focus was to use fair-trade, sustainable ingredients,” he said.
“We like to partner with brands who share our core values — our commitment to quality, responsible sourcing and to making a difference through business,” said Dwight Richmond, global grocery purchasing coordinator for Whole Foods Market.
“Third Street does just that, while producing natural and organic beverages shoppers can feel good about.”
Third Street sources its tea is the Nilgiri region of southern India. The products have fair trade certifications that range from 95 to 99% of ingredients, Harbour said, including fair trade certified sugar for the slightly sweet skis.