The global link for your Rooibos supply needs

It is the go-to company for any African and/or international player looking for a rooibos supply. It holds approximately 50 to 60 per cent of its local market and 80 to 85 per cent internationally and the company reach is still growing. It is a company committed to educating consumers on the benefits rooibos can bring, delivering dependably high standards of product to its clients.Rooibos Limited, of the Cedarberg area of Clanwilliam, South Africa, is here to show how success in the rooibos game is done.

Since 1993, when the company was privatized (its marketing board was originally established back in 1954), Rooibos has been a firm fixture in what was then a rather small market.

“The industry was relatively small in 1993—about a 4,000 tonne industry. It is now a 12,000 to 13,000 tonnes industry of which we have two-thirds, 8,500 tonnes,” says Martin Bergh, Managing Director.

“Rooibos Limited is the biggest and best supplier of any form of rooibos raw material to major companies in the world and we intend on growing the market as well as we can.”

Grown from the ground up

Bergh says that the company has a great set of contracted farmers that provide the raw rooibos material to Rooibos. The material is then treated and packed as product accordingly, mostly in bulk formats, before being sent to the many varied national and international clients that require it.

“A small percentage is consumer-packed. From there it is sold on to our clients. Most of those are business-to-business. Of our total business, approximately 50 per cent are in South Africa, and in South Africa we sell to all of the major brands in bulk format,” he explains.
“In the export market our big markets are really the first-world major economies, but focusing on Europe which has traditionally always been the biggest consumer of herbal teas and Rooibos as well, Germany is the biggest market.”

In fact, it seems that many markets are increasingly thirsty for rooibos, with other large markets including the UK, Holland, the United States. and Japan. In addition to these, Rooibos also has a firm footing in numerous smaller young and well-established markets to draw upon. However, despite shipping the product all over the world, there is really only one ground it will grow—it’s native Western Cape.

“It is an aspalathus plant and is very well-suited to this area’s sandy soils with winter rainfall and semi-desert conditions—in other words, for six months of the year we get no rainfall whatsoever during the summer,” Bergh says.

“The other thing, of course, is that it is established as a South African agricultural product. It has a production cycle and so on, so it is not going to be very easy to copy it elsewhere. Above all it is a very extensive crop because it grows in these dry land conditions, so it is not an enormous money-spinner and the incentive for others to copy is not enormous.”

As a result, in order to retain its market stronghold, Rooibos Limited has taken every step to hone its efficiency within the value chain. These moves could not have happened at a better time as worldwide interest in the product grows and the Rooibos product offering soars.

A pioneering product line

Without a doubt, as health food emporiums sprout on every corner and vending machines once packed with powdered caffeine shots stock up on more drinks of the herbal variety, the global interest in eating and drinking right is on the rise. This is great news for rooibos, as Bergh explains its versatility and suitability for such products today.

“Rooibos does fit in with a healthy modern lifestyle in that not only does it do you good because it has plenty anti-oxidants, it also does you no harm,” he says.
“Being caffeine-free, you can drink as much rooibos as you want to and replace your water intake. From that aspect rooibos suits a healthy lifestyle.”

In supplying the world’s major brands, Bergh says the only real service required is “a good product at a good price with good product knowledge.” The conglomerates sell all manner of consumables, have their own extensive packaging, marketing, blending facilities and much more.

“We’ve developed various forms. We also do green rooibos, instant powder extracts and liquid extracts of rooibos. Anyone who wants to be in the different market segments [is catered for]. We have a base for any market and its requirement of Rooibos,” he says.

“Rooibos is incredibly versatile. By far, the most tea is consumed as a hot extract —as we typically understand tea. However there is a growing market for rooibos ready-to-drink iced teas. It makes a very good iced tea because it has such a delicate flavour and flavours so well.”

Add in the health factors, its dermatological properties and use in cosmetics, and it appears that rooibos really is capable of adding to many a product today. Of course, it takes a company like Rooibos to really expand upon the potential here.

“Last year we released a cook book, A Touch of Rooibos,” Bergh says.
“Rooibos is used extensively as a replacement for water in cooking.”
However, all of these uses and supply destinations are just the beginning for this company.

The market leader grows

Looking towards what this coming year will bring, Bergh says that the company has already begun a new and interesting product offering: extractions.
“This is a new venture,” he explains.

“Here we look to introduce Rooibos extracts internationally to encourage more and more people to use them and create a big market for Rooibos extracts. We believe it is a very good base product for iced teas.”
As Rooibos continues to expand its product offering, the company is also taking steps to bring on markets and areas of the world where rooibos has not yet made as great a mark.

“Rooibos has a relatively good market penetration in a lot of the first world developed economies, but there are vast areas in the world where people know absolutely nothing about it. Our challenge is to get Rooibos better known in large parts of the world,” he says.

“We don’t have our own brand and the only kind of promotion we do is generic promotion in tandem with our brands. This is always challenging because it’s a chicken and egg thing—when you go into a new area where nobody knows about Rooibos and you don’t have a brand, how are you supposed to start it up?”
The answer? Bergh says it is about conducting the market research, finding the brand and introducing the product to the consumer.

“From there on the brands pick up the product,” he adds.

With Rooibos’ track record for attracting the largest international companies, its commitment and delicate understanding of what a superior product takes to manage, and these plans for the future unveiled, it looks like picking up this product for many brands will be merely a matter of time.