The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BFR) warned last Thursday that kids risked choking on the Taiwanese tapioca bubbles (‘popping bobas’) found café-bought bubble tea.
Christopher Wehner, a spokesman for Coobo’s parent, beverage development firm Zeekei, told BeverageDaily.com:“We are the first and only producer for ready-to-drink bubble tea worldwide.
“There is no other factory or company doing the same thing – usually the tea is served fresh,” he added.
Unique filling machine
This was due to the fact that standard filling machines were not designed to work with liquids and pieces, which blocked pipes during aseptic filling, Wehner explained, whereas Coobo used an aseptic filler made by Stork Dairy Systems that allows it to fill liquids, bubbles and fruit pieces, the only machine in existence that is able to do so.
Managers from German beverage processing specialist Krones even visited the Coobo filling line to see its machine in action, Wehner said.
Zeekei holds patents for the RTD bubble tea in Germany, and for the biotechnology that allows the bubbles to float in the drink, which has a SSP of from €2.49 for a 500ml PET bottle, Wehner added.
Bubble choking risk
Last week the BFR warned about the potential choking risk for children of bubbles made in Taiwan but used in German bubble teas.
A separate university study detected potential carcinogens in the tapioca balls, in this contained in drinks sold via an unnamed, but nationwide German bubble tea café franchise.
However, Coobo insists that it only manufactures its bubbles in Europe using safe dyes and ingredients.
Coobo’s bubbles were off a smaller size to cut the risk of choking – 5-6mm rather than 1-1.2cm, Wehner added, while a smaller straw reduced the aspiration risk by only allowing children to suck up a regular amount of liquid.
Zeekei began producing bubble tea six weeks ago – using a green tea base, mango and lemon fruit flavors and apple-flavored bubble with B vitamins – but already had interest from Israel, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium and Great Britain, Wehner said.
Major retail deals
The firm already has a contract in place with Metro Group and Netto in Germany, Delhaize in Belgium and is speaking with Casino in France; it has also struck a deal with key gas station distributor Liquorland in Germany, Switzerland and Spain.
Coobo bubble tea is part sweetened with stevia, so whereas foodservice bubble tea contained up to 100kcal per 100ml, the new RTD drink has just 30kcal per 100ml.
Café-style bubble tea was too sweet for kids, Wehner said, so Coobo set out to make a less sweet tea (40kcal per 100ml) and cut calories further by using stevia.
Asked about the bubble tea target market, Wehner said the drink’s taste and ingredients suited all ages, but in Germany, the US and Asia most drinkers were 6-26.
“But that doesn’t mean that introducing a product like this into new markets, where it isn’t very well known, might not attract another type of customer,” he said.
*Article corrected, 11/7/13