Christopher Wehner, who works on production & development for Dornach-based COOBO, told BeverageDaily.com that the brand will likely sell 1m bottles in 2013, despite the virtual destruction of its home market in Germany, as well as nearby Austria.
He blamed media scare stories – the risk of kids choking on ‘boba’ or tapioca balls in bubble tea, reports from one lab of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in bubbles sourced from Taiwan but used in bubble tea cafe-prepared products in Germany, and allegedly high sugar content.
Press killed bubble tea in Germany
COOBO’S bubbles for its RTD teas are made in Europe by an IFS and ISO-certified supplier, and the brand uses all-natural ingredients (including stevia, to effect a sugar reduction) in its products. “So the product is 100% safe,” Wehner said.
“However, bubble tea has a bad image now in Germany and Austria. So although we sell in Germany we don’t advertise, as we don’t see a real market here at the moment,” he added.
“After the bad press in Germany last year, this product was killed overnight by the press – we had 2000-3000 bubble tea stores, and we have today around 200. We were lucky to have markets outside Germany,” Wehner said.
“In German-speaking countries, people’s think bubble tea is dangerous. But this is crazy and untrue.”
Thus, COOBO is focusing on the UK market, where demand is high, Wehner said, as well as the Southern European countries.
“We have a really large distributor in Italy, Greece in Spain. So these are our best markets at the moment. Also the Scandinavian countries – Norway, Sweden and Denmark,” he explained.
“And we have two containers going to Canada next week, so we hope to reach the US market too.”
Special filling process developed
Last year COOBO launched a Mango/Lime flavored bubble tea with solid floating starch balls in three colors, and the firm has just announced its new Strawberry/Kiwi & Rooibos Tea flavor with ‘popping’ strawberry bubbles.
Developing the new bubbles took over a year, Wehner said, with the brand unable to simply buy bubbles from bubble tea stores in Asia, because they didn’t survive the aseptic cold filling process and lose their color after a short while, as well as their ingredients.
“So if you bite on it you have no experience. Besides which, we don’t know what’s inside some of these bubbles from Asia,” he added. “We don’t want to know.”
COOBO’s special bubble solved these problems, he added – it took over a year to finesse in the lab – using an groundbreaking filling process developed by Stork Food & Dairy Systems also helps.
The brand holds German patents for bubble tea in a bottle, as well as its ‘Zero Gravity’ levitation technology, whereby the bubbles are suspended in the drink, removing the need for a straw.