Satisfying a thirst for sweet tea

Myanmar people have been tea lovers for centuries, and the country is well-known for its tea shops. Locals people prefer tea to coffee, and many brands of instant tea are available in the market.

However, consumption habits are changing, and many tea drinkers are looking for healthier options with less or no sugar while others are looking for convenience. They lead busy lives and no longer have time for a leisurely cup of tea at the local shop, so they want teas that are quick and easy to prepare.

A group of young business people were eager to answer this trend with their own style, so they introduced an instant tea mix, Yoke The’, on the market early this year.

“We mainly target those who don’t drink tea because of the dye added to tea leaves, those who choose tea for health reasons, and those who can’t get to the tea shop easily,” said Ma Pyae Phyo Aye, business development director of Yoke The’.

“Tea culture has changed but tea consumption is not a thing of the past. We tried to provide the same taste as if the customer is having tea at a shop,” said Ma Aye Aye Khaing, marketing director of Yoke The’.

Most instant tea brands carry a single taste, but Yoke The’ packs offer four styles to suit customers’ tastes – normal, rich and less sweet, strong and sweet, and strong and rich. All four are available in two grades – ordinary and special.

“Tea shops brew sweet tea the way they want. Despite being instant, the special characteristic of ours is the use of naturally sweet tea leaves, so it requires brewing. We created it especially for this market, as there was no instant brewed tea,” Ma Aye Aye Khaing said.

The tea uses tea leaves that are grown more than 5000 feet above sea level in northern Shan State’s Namhsan township, which is the main tea-growing region in Myanmar. Yoke The’ uses USDA organic certified natural raw tea leaves that are non-genetically modified and are grown without the use of chemical fertilisers.

The raw materials are mixed with other ingredients and packed at a factory in Mandalay.

As tea plays a major role in the lifestyle and culture of the people, there is a huge market demand in Myanmar. “Our production of organic tea is 50 tonnes, which is expected to increase to 200 tonnes in the next three years,” said U Win Naing, managing director of Yoke The’.

“There is demand from those who come to tea shops, as well as from office workers who have no time. We’ve targeted big cities first and will penetrate the rural market later,” Ma Aye Aye Khaing said.

As it is a Myanmar product, they choose the brand name Yoke The’, the Myanmar name for marionettes.

It will take time for the brand to catch on, she said. The firm will distribute its products using online sales and convenience stores like City Mart and other retail shops. It will also use rural agents to spread the tea throughout the country, Ma Aye Aye Khaing said.

The company has a limited budget, so they are launching the brand by offering people a free taste of their products at popular events, where they can directly reach consumers, she said.

Price remains one of the biggest marketing obstacles they face. A sachet of most instant tea costs K100, while the price of their tea ranges from K300 to K500.

“It’s been a challenge since the beginning, but we’re trying our best to turn this into an opportunity. We’ve received positive feedback from consumers in Yangon in the three months or so it has been on the market. It’s not yet available in all parts of the country. I think the prices may sound quite expensive to people in rural markets,” Ma Aye Aye Khaing said.

Capital investment is still a big challenge for Myanmar SMEs, including Yoke The’. To expand production and distribution to meet market demand, more investment is needed. The company prefers equity financing to bank loans to pay for expansion, she said.

“Our long-term plan is to gain market access throughout the country in three years. For now, we will focus on the local market, but exports are in our future plans. We already have our products at some shops in Singapore that offer Myanmar goods,” she said.

In the long term, the business also plans to offer seasonal fruit, fruit tea, herbal tea with lime, ginger and lemon grass, and mini-tea bags.

“For a product to be successful, not only product quality is important but also packaging and market strategy. We are trying to focus on these three areas,” she said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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