BOS Brands introduced its range of punchy, colorful, ready-to-drink rooibos iced tea to the US market starting in California earlier this year and is treating 2018 as a brand building year with a targeted, regional expansion plan.
BOS Iced Tea is made using USDA Organic Certified rooibos (which means "red bush" in Afrikaans), an herbal tea leaf grown in the Cederberg mountain region of South Africa. Rooibos tea leaves are naturally caffeine-free, contain a high amount of vitamin C, low tannin levels, and antioxidants including flavanols, flavanones, aspalathin, and nothofagin.
The name “BOS”, comes from a South African colloquialism that conveys a sense of extroversion and playfulness, with the brand’s primary goal being to interject some fun into a traditionally “serious” healthy and natural category of organic iced tea.
While RTD tea is already a category that has been registering solid and consistent 7% annual growth with Europe and North America representing 24% of global consumption, according to Zenith Global, most chilled RTD sections at retail are a sea of “beige and green,” Evans pointed out.
“When getting into the healthier better-for-you product type space, many brands and products out there are very serious with a very functional pitch,” Evans told FoodNavigator-USA. “It’s just sort of boring and it doesn’t need to be.”
‘Heart before the head’
According to Evans, the South African iced tea brand’s first goal in any market it enters is to strike an emotional connection with the consumer through its branding and packaging to drive impulse purchases.
“It’s always in many ways an emotional reaction, like the heart before the head,” Evans said. “People always love the packaging, the iconography, and the colors, and it just makes people happy.”
An unanticipated reaction from American consumers has been the positive feedback the brand has received from being naturally caffeine-free.
“That caught us a little bit by surprise in the beginning,” Evans said. “In a market where so many products are caffeinated or caffeine enhanced, here’s something you can enjoy morning, noon, or night. If you want something for your kids, here’s an option you don’t have to think about.”
After initiating that consumer connection and impulse purchase, communicating its South African roots and use of organic, non-GMO rooibos tea comes next for BOS, according to Evans.
BOS sources organic rooibos from a private nature reserve in the Cederberg mountains of South Africa where each rooibos plant is harvested by hand, grown naturally without irrigation, fertilizers or pesticides, and is dried outdoors by the sun and wind, the company said.
BOS plants and maintains one tree for every 2,000 cans sold and to date more than 20,000 trees have been planted in underprivileged areas of South Africa with a goal of planting 50,000 trees by 2020, according to Evans.
Footprint and product offerings
BOS is available in five flavors – lemon, peach, berry, green rooibos & Yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), and lime & ginger – for a suggested retail price of $1.99 per 12-ounce can (a slightly larger format than what’s sold in South Africa and Europe).
Each drink is slightly sweetened with roughly 70 calories per can and is naturally caffeine-free. Evans added that once the brand built enough of a buzz around its core can range, that it will launch multi-serve formats as well as a sugar-free version in 2019.
So far, BOS has seen early success with premium natural food retailers, including Sprouts locations nationwide, as well as Erewhon Markets in Los Angeles and Jimbo’s…Naturally in San Diego.
BOS has also secured a key distribution network aligning with San Diego area beverage distributor, John Lenore; Los Angeles Distributing Company, and UNFI & KeHe for the natural channels.
The brand is just launching in California Whole Foods and is also available through online retailers including Amazon, according to Evans.
The brand will get closer to reaching nationwide availability in 2019, but has its sights set on the Rocky Mountain region next, he added.