Retail

Steeping Matcha Tea Innovation With Subscriptions And Snacks

Jade Leaf Matcha tea products
Photo Courtesy of Jade Leaf Matcha

Sometimes entrepreneurs are their own very first customer: They need their products in their own lives. Jade Leaf Matcha Co-Founder Marc St Raymond, for instance, worked long hours doing software engineering work, which can be demanding. He was always on the hunt for an aid to help him stay awake and focused, which led him to discover matcha — a ground powder of green tea leaves. He doesn’t remember who served him a properly prepared traditional matcha at the time he discovered it, but he told PYMNTS in an interview that he was “instantly hooked” once he had one and “dove into the culture of how it’s produced and how it’s enjoyed in Japan.”

St Raymond loved the ritual and the preparation of the beverage. And he said that out of everything out there — say, coffee or energy drinks — matcha “was always the one that gave me the best feeling to do the best work that I could do.” Taking his own passion and need for the product, he helped create Jade Leaf Matcha. The company has the core mission of offering premium quality organic Japanese matcha at a fair price. It provides a range of matcha, from culinary grades that a consumer would use for baking or blending to the higher grades such as ceremonial matcha used for tea. But it has also sought to innovate by blending matcha with other functional ingredients such as collagen or mushroom powders. The company has also rolled out a matcha snack product, in the form of fruit bites.

To allow shoppers to access its products, the company sells its items through its website or Amazon. The company sells products in bulk if consumers love them and want to make them a part of their day-to-day routines. (The company offers a variety of payment options on its site such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Payments and PayPal along with credit cards, with St Raymond saying that the company has tried to turn on as many options as possible.) And, with Amazon, consumers can tap into the eCommerce retailer’s subscribe and save service if consumers know they need to restock.

The Matcha

The company aimed to set up a series of four grades for its matcha from its ceremonial grade, which is highest and picked in the first harvest, to culinary grade, which is most affordable and ground from late harvest tea leaves. (Consumers are driven to choose their matcha based on their use case.) However, St Raymond said it’s important to be careful when you are purchasing matcha, as there isn’t a governing body that tells companies whether or not they can call a product ceremonial.

The company sources its matcha from two regions — Uiji, which is outside of Kyoto, and Kagoshima, which is in the Southern part of Japan. St Raymond noted that the company found those to be the two best-growing regions for sourcing organic matcha and allow it to create the best-tasting blend with the best value for the money. He also noted that the farm network the company has made allows it to provide the best quality for the price and consistent quality year-after-year with each harvest.

Matcha Infusions

Like many companies, Jade Leaf Matcha decided to drive product innovation because of the way consumers used its products: The company noticed that consumers were adding functional ingredients to their matcha lattes — say, collagen and functional mushrooms. “They were boosting their matcha lattes with all these really great things,” St Raymond said. The company decided to offer that kind of preparation to its customers through its matcha latte infusions product. The company spent a lot of time — over a year — to find the right suppliers for various ingredients to make a latte that tastes good and has a functional benefit.

The company offers the product in four varieties, which it calls GLOW, PROTECT, THINK and BALANCE. GLOW has collagen and biotin, and PROTECT has ayurvedic herbs like turmeric. THINK has functional mushrooms, while BALANCE offers probiotics and prebiotics. Each blend is said to offer green tea nutrients with approximately a third of the caffeine in a cup of coffee. St Raymond said consumers can add the product to a cup of milk and can sweeten it if they like with honey, agave or their favorite product. Alternatively, they can consume the product on its own without any sweeteners added.

Through eCommerce subscription options and product innovations, direct-to-consumer (DTC) matcha tea brands are aiming to provide convenience and caffeine to consumers as an alternative to coffee or energy drinks.

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