Virtue claims to offer the UK’s lowest calorie ice tea (19 calories per 100ml) and the only version enriched with vitamins and minerals.
Virtue Ice Tea was launched just two months ago, but will be in 200 UK stores by the end of February and is currently sending its first shipment to the Middle East. It projects in excess of £1m in sales within the first two years of trading.
The story so far
Behind the brand is 26-year-old entrepreneur Rahi Daneshmand, who previously worked for Danone and MOMA.
Daneshmand told BeverageDaily.com the tea was inspired by his "constant struggle" with his weight growing up. In the summer of 2013 he realised ice tea tasted great, but was always "pumped full of sugar."
“I set out on a mission to create Virtue, an ice tea brand which ticks all the right boxes: taste, health, affordability and brand appeal,” he said. “The response for the drinks has been incredible.”
The brand aims to appeal to health-conscious customers, mainly within the 18-30 year old bracket, looking for an alternative to fizzy drinks or sugary juices.
A rival to coconut water?
Daneshmand believes the teas could rival the success of coconut water in terms of growth potential, saying they have fewer calories, less fruit sugar, and "far more palatable flavours’."
“Many consumers drink coconut water primarily for health benefits, rather than taste,” said Daneshmand. “We have managed to create drinks with vast health benefits and a far more mainstream taste, therefore providing huge potential for success.
“Average ice tea consumption per capita is still at only 100ml. This provides huge room for growth in the category and there is no reason why this should not reach 10L per capita.”
Virtue Ice Tea contains 63 calories per can; has a sugar content of 4g/100ml (it is sweetened with fruit extract and stevia), and contains vitamin C, niacin (B3), vitamin B6, biotin (B7), vitamin B12, magnesium, and zinc.
The tea is currently available in two flavours: Lemon, and Strawberry & Peach, retailing at £1.35 - £1.49 per 330ml can ($2.05 - $2.25).
“Our ice teas are naturally low in calories and are the only ice teas enriched with vitamins and minerals,” he added. “Our drinks have a wide range of benefits including the detoxifying effect of natural antioxidants from tea. Essentially we have created the ultimate ice tea.”
And the competition?
Asked if he was intimidated by the competition – both from big players like Lipton and the smaller brands springing up – Daneshmand said he remains confident in his product.
“A lot of brands are packed with sugar or are relatively niche, considering the number of years they have been on the market. I believe our brand appeals to a wide range of consumers, with our attractive packaging and naturally sweet taste.
“With soft drinks, the value of a brand comes from distribution and brand awareness. This means we will need to grow our distribution in line with getting our brand out there.
“I am confident our brand will be a success as we have created a healthy appealing take on ice tea and it is all about execution now, which we will commit everything to.”
Year-round Middle East market
Virtue is available via Amazon, Revital, and Partridges London. It has confirmed listings with SSP Whistlestop and Camden Food Co for next month. Daneshmand says the company is also discussing listings with national high street accounts.
“We are currently shipping our first 20 ft container to the Middle East and are in talks with European countries,” he said. “I believe Virtue will be a success in the Middle East [Kuwait, Lebanon, UAE] as we offer refreshing healthy drinks - an area of growing interest out there.
“The climate will be helpful too, as soft drinks do not suffer the same seasonal fluctuations in sales. Health drinks globally are a relatively new concept and we will be entering a market where we can grow in line with consumer demand.”
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