Sir Thomas Lipton, the creator of Lipton Tea, single-handedly put Ceylon Tea on the global map. Lipton Tea prided itself in providing its drinkers with quality tea. Showcasing the brand was its picture postcard estates on consumer collectable postcards, each showing one of the very estates that Sir Thomas Lipton owned, along with the famous tagline “Lipton Ceylon Tea Planter”.
Many of today’s largest global brands built their names by using Ceylon tea and creating unforgettable blends for consumers to enjoy at home. But look at those very brands today and there is no product origin available anymore. Lipton’s teas today have lost their picturesque postcards and their famous tagline of “Lipton Ceylon Tea Planter” and instead now carry “Lipton Yellow Label”.
For a drinker of Lipton’s teas in the 50’s, one knew where their tea came from. Ceylon! Today a buyer of a tea on the supermarket shelf is given Yellow label. But where is Yellow Label from? The answer is that Yellow label is a blend of teas from various regions and countries, made to meet a purchase price and not the consumer palate.
The Ceylon Tea industry has helped build many brands. Most recently, after the fall of the Berlin wall and the opening up of Russia, industry packers in Colombo were quick to develop brands for Russian companies packing 100% Pure Ceylon Tea. The brands took off and have had exceptional sales over the past 20 years.
However, the Russian love story is slowly coming to an end. Russian brands that have established themselves in the market are slowly moving away from the 100% Ceylon Tea component in the blend, opting to using various other origins with the aim of lowering purchase cost and increasing the profit margin. The problem is made worse by the fact that the packets are falsely marketed as Ceylon Tea.
For producers and brands that use single origin Ceylon tea, they are also having an extremely tough time competing as they cannot meet the price levels from multi-origin blends. The ultimate fault lies with many Colombo packers that were quick to jump on the bandwagon of creating brands they had no control over. After helping establish the brand, they have been dumped and replaced by a cheaper producer.
Had the industry taken a longer-term view and developed their own brands and established them in the market as opposed to the unfortunate short-term one they took, we would not be suffering the current problems that the industry in Sri Lanka is facing.