Celestial Seasonings is more than a herbal tea company. It started 50 years ago in Boulder with a mission to make a healthy and tasty tea that people like to drink, said Mo Siegel, one of the founders who gathered herbs and flowers to blend them as tea for selling at local health food stores.
“I feel thrilled it has lasted 50 years,” Siegel said.
Its mission-driven culture and the passion of people who worked there put the company on a strong footing, he said, adding he is looking forward to speaking at the company’s 50th anniversary celebration Thursday for former and current employees.
“There were so many heroes who made the company happen,” he said.
The community of Boulder deserves a special mention for standing behind Celestial Seasonings, Siegel said.
Boulder, meanwhile, might say Celestial Seasonings deserves special mention of its own.
“Celestial Seasonings put Boulder on the natural products map,” said Arron Mansika, executive director of Naturally Boulder, adding the company has been a training ground for many professionals in the food industry, not just in Boulder but nationally.
The idea that doing business that’s good for the planet and the people also is good business was championed by the founders of Celestial Seasonings, he said, adding the company benefited immensely under Moe Siegel’s leadership. Siegel won Naturally Boulder’s Lifetime Achievement award in 2013.
“He combines marketing savvy and business acumen with genuine warmth,” Mansika said.
Staff brews success
The company became successful, because the employees were willing to work hard to succeed, and they were optimistic about the world that was slowly discovering natural foods, said Siegel, who sold the company to Kraft Inc. in 1984, repurchased it in 1989 with help from Vestar Capital Partners in a leveraged buyout, and merged it with the Hain Food Group to become The Hain Celestial Group in 2000.
Celestial Seasonings offers more than 100 varieties of herbal, green, black, wellness, rooibos and chai teas. Tea products accounted for about 5% of the Hain Celestial Group’s consolidated net sales from 2017 through 2019, the company noted last month in its annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission . In the fiscal year ending June 30, the Hain Group had net sales of $2.3 billion.
According to a recent report by global market intelligence agency Mintel, Celestial Seasonings in May (in last 52 weeks) had a 10.3% share of the bagged, loose leaf and single cup tea market In the United States with sales of $132.8 million. Mintel’s estimated U.S. sales in the brewed tea market (bagged, loose leaf, and single cup) in 2019 are pegged at $1.7 billion.
In the last several years, Celestial Seasonings updated packaging, introduced new tea varieties and ready-to-drink options to expand its market share, particularly among millennials.
“The brewed tea market has been flat or in decline (when accounting for inflation) for years with no end in sight,” Mintel’s August report on Tea and Ready-To-Drink Tea states. (The overall tea market is estimated to be $8.7 billion in the United States.)
The company continues to reach out to all demographic groups with its specialty teas, said Blair Price, director of marketing for tea with The Hain Celestial Group, Inc.
Last year, the company launched TeaWell, a line of wellness teas that include a variety of organic herbs known to provide multiple health benefits, she said. Research suggests millennials are drinking more tea than ever before.
“We have found that millennials love us,” Price said.
Celestial Seasonings uses the black and green teas, herbs, spices and botanicals sourced from all over the world, said Charlie Baden, senior blendmaster at Celestial.
He began working for the company in 1975 as a herb cleaner and handler, and became a blendmaster in 1980. Ingredients are inspected and tested for freshness, purity, cleanliness and flavor. Anything that doesn’t pass his stringent test, is put aside.
“We want to make sure the blends are perfectly consistent. I’m the keeper of the tea.” Baden said.
He can identify different varieties of chamomile and hibiscus by smell and taste. “I taste every batch and tweak the blend if needed. We blend about 200,000 pounds of tea a week,” he said.
Sleepytime, the bestselling specialty tea of all time for Celestial Seasonings, was introduced by Siegel in 1972. “It’s calming, soothing, and tastes really good. A perfect symphony of flavors,” Baden said.
In the early years, Celestial Seasonings couldn’t manufacture herbal teas quickly enough, he said. Sourcing of ingredients was tough then. Over the years, the company built relationships with farmers and local communities in more than 35 countries to get its supplies, Baden said.
“Our growth has been pretty stable. We are still a happy family,” he said.
The culture Siegel created at Celestial Seasonings to treat workers like family has continued, Baden said. People still gather in the cafe to eat their lunch with other people. In the early days, the company provided free lunches, he recalled.
“We used to jokingly say anyone who ever lived in Boulder worked here at least once,” he said.
Merri Trotter, who has worked part time at the Celestial Seasonings gift shop since 2001, attended Celestial Seasonings 40th anniversary in 2009. The party was held outside the cafe area,and was attended by many former employees as well, she recalled.
“They made us Teatinis instead of Martinis,” Trotter said.
Teatinins were first created at a media event in the ’90s in Victoria, Canada, remembered senior blendmaster Baden. They are made from true blueberry tea and contain real blueberries. The special drink is served at special company events, he said.
JoAnn Hafner, corporate packaging manager for The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., remembers the 40th anniversary party for creative collages that depicted Celestial Seasonings history through the decades. Hafner, who has worked at the company 33 years, also remembers meeting “many original employees” of Celestial. She thinks the company’s culture is akin to that of close-knit family that works hard and has fun doing that. The informal environment encourages people to reach out to others, she said.
“I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and co-workers,” Hafner said of the 50th anniversary celebration.
A select sampling of milestones Celestial Seasonings has marked over the past five decades.
Mo Siegel makes first blends from wild herbs picked by hand in Colorado.
Introduced Mo’s 36 Herb Tea, sold exclusively at a Boulder health food store.
1972: Introduced Sleepytime, the bestselling specialty tea of all time
Purchased by Kraft, Inc.
Company bought back from Kraft by Celestial Seasonings management and Vestar Capital Partners in a leveraged buyout.
Introduced green tea line, the first green tea to be launched in mainstream stores across the United States
Introduced chai tea line, which features four flavors.
Merged with The Hain Food Group to become The Hain Celestial Group.
Introduced Cool Brew Iced Tea line, which includes four flavors.
Introduced rooibos tea line, which features three red tea flavors.
Free tea tour, at the Boulder headquarters, reaches 1 million visitors mark. The popular tour receives more than 100,000 visitors annually and was named one of the top 10 free travel destinations in America by USA Weekend magazine in June 2009.
Introduced two new green teas benefiting National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Launched five new organic and fair trade estate teas exclusively at Whole Foods.
Partnered with Trader Joe’s for two exclusive teas (Harvest Blend and Chai)
Two kombuchas made exclusively for Sprouts (Immunity Concord Grape and Hydration Coconut Lime).
Source: Our History at celestialseasonings.com