Finlays opens $17m tea R&D center in Rhode Island

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Left-to-right: Steven J. King- Managing Director Quonset Development Corporation, Governor Gina Raimondo, Steve Olyha- CEO of Finlay USA, Stefan Pryor- Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce & Quonset Development Corporation of Directors,  Richard A. Welch- President North Kingstown Town Council.
Left-to-right: Steven J. King- Managing Director Quonset Development Corporation, Governor Gina Raimondo, Steve Olyha- CEO of Finlay USA, Stefan Pryor- Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce & Quonset Development Corporation of Directors, Richard A. Welch- President North Kingstown Town Council.
UK-based tea specialist Finlays has opened a 28,000sq ft $17m R&D center in the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, Rhode Island dedicated to “researching and exploring new innovations, products and techniques for tea and natural beverages."

The only independent tea company that operates in all parts of the tea supply chain, Finlays originated in Glasgow in the UK in 1750 as cotton trader but started to play a leading role in the development of the global tea industry in the late 19th​ century, establishing production in Sri Lanka.

In the 1920s, it expanded its tea business into Africa, before pioneering research into instant tea in the 1960s. Today, it produces a wide range of tea and coffee extracts and aromas in addition to more traditional forms of processing, plus a range of botanical extracts, Heidi McCormack, marketing manager at Finlay Extracts & Ingredients USA, told FoodNavigator-USA.

“We are in the unique position of owning the entire supply chain. We are a vertically integrated company, and we own tea fields in Kenya, Argentina and Sri Lanka. This puts us at the forefront of innovation and expertise around tea as well as allows us to supply fully traceable products to the market.

 “We currently have our main office located in Lincoln, RI ​[following the 2014 acquisition of coffee syrup supplier Autocrat], that is our Americas headquarters and it is also where we roast and extract coffee.  We have a warehouse in Cranston, RI, which is our central distribution point, and we have an office in Atlanta, GA, for regional sales. We also recently acquired a company called Aspen coffee in San Antonio, TX, to expand our coffee capacity, in particular cold brew.”   

She added: “We are looking to expand on our capabilities and we needed room to expand our R&D centers. Also we need to have separate tea and coffee centers as having those products together at the same site contaminates the products. Lincoln remains our HQ and coffee center, and Quonset becomes our tea-focused R&D center.”

TEA-EXTRACT-IMAGE-finlays
Finlays owns and operate tea estates, extraction facilities for tea, coffee and plant extracts, packing facilities and R&D labs across four continents.

So where are the growth opportunities in tea and tea extracts?

Right now, the company is seeing “growth in real premium teas and tea-forward experiences in the marketplace,” ​said McCormack. “There is a push for products that are brewed, natural and authentic.  And combined with the health and wellness trends driving the market, we are seeing more types of teas and teas blended with herbals and other natural products to create more healthy but still interesting and versatile experiences.

“There is also growth in different varieties of tea, and while Black tea still drives the market, green continues to grow and gain popularity as does Matcha,” s​he added. “And as more companies start introducing different leaf types like White, Rooibos, and Yerba mate we are seeing this, while still niche, start to grow the overall marketplace.”

Kombucha and cold brew

Kombucha – fermented tea - is also growing at a fast pace and “driving beyond niche to become its own category,” ​she said.

“We are seeing dedicated retail space for kombucha and increased awareness and demand among consumers. There is demand for tea and other natural ingredients and flavors that can help to create versatile product offerings in kombucha to keep it interesting and increase consumer interest especially to help enhance the flavors and off-notes that some associate with kombucha. Making it a more palatable and enjoyable product is driving the market innovation forward.”

On the coffee, side, she said, “Cold brew continues to drive the market forward, but we are already starting to see this space mature and consumers looking for what’s next.  Nitro, sparkling, cascara, increased functionality, brewing with different ingredients such as coconut water, and diverse techniques and terminology such as cold pressed, are helping drive the next wave of cold brew to keep the space interesting and consumer demand growing.”

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