British tea company brews up record turnover despite Kenyan drought

Ringtons tea in Kenya
Tea buyer and blender Daniel Smith with tea farmer Washington and some of the KTDA team, in an area where Ringtons source teas from for their Kenyan Gold tea. Photo: Ringtons

A Newcastle based family tea company have announced record turnover of £60 million, despite a drought in Kenya two years ago which resulted in tea shortages and increased prices.

Combined with a fall in the value of sterling, this reduced profit and Ringtons’ bottom line but turnover bucked the trend with a 3.1% rise.

The 112-year-old company imports and packs tea for a range of private customers while also selling its own wide of products in shops, online and through its fleet of traditional delivery vans.

Ringtons directors
Ringtons directors Colin, Nigel and Simon Smith. Photo: Ringtons

In Kenya, the company works with Emrok Tea Factory, Kenya Tea Development Agency (from estates in Chebut, Gacharage, Gatunguru, Gitugi, Iriaini, Kangaita, Kanyenyaini, Kapkoros, Mokomboki, Michimikuru, Mungania, Nyamache, Olengurone, Rukuriri and Tirgaga) and Williamson Tea (from estates in Changoi, Kaimosi, Kapchorua and Tinderet)

Although the consumption of black tea has declined with a growing demand for newer tea and coffee trends, the business continued to see its turnover grow, with sales of £60.1m in the year ending June 29 2018, a 3.1% rise on the previous year’s £58.3m.

The Kenyan drought in 2017, which resulted in a tea shortage and forced up the price of tea, impacted the firm’s bottom line as it sought absorb the costs. This resulted in a fall in operating profit by 33.1% to £2.8m.

Ringtons in Kenya
Linda from Ringtons’ tea buying team meets with a smallholder tea farmer and turns her hand to tea picking. Photo: Ringtons

Ringtons also operate a successful beverages division through which its products are served in hotels, restaurants and cafes across the UK. They now make more than 1.5bn tea bags a year, which equates to 50 cups of tea a second, and one of its fastest growing divisions at the moment is its fruit and herbal teas which now produces 100 million tea bags annually.

During the year, Ringtons also expanded its Balliol Business Park tea packing factory by more than 2,000sqft which took its total floor space above 67,000sqft.

Several extensions have been carried out at the tea packing factory at Balliol Business Park to accommodate growing areas of the business, with the fruit and herbal division now producing 100 million tea bags annually.

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