Clipper sails forth with new teabag factory

Operations director Mark Bagwell: ‘The broad claim would be 5bn teabags’

Beverage maker Clipper Teas will be able to produce 5bn teabags a year – a near five-fold increase on its current output – when its new factory opens this autumn, according to the man responsible for the development.

The extra capacity would allow the organic and Fairtrade tea specialist, which already exports to more than 50 countries, to become a “global brand”, claimed Mark Bagwell, operations director for parent company Wessanen UK – part of Dutch company Royal Wessanen.

Clipper’s new factory will consolidate seven existing units into one on its current Beaminster site, Bagwell explained. Scheduled to be ready to occupy by October, the factory is expected to formally open next spring.

Clipper, which is forecast to produce 1.2bn teabags this year, currently needed 30% more capacity – but thanks to the addition of two new lines, overall capacity would “increase dramatically”, Bagwell said.

Increased production by 15%

A move to a 24/7 shift-working pattern earlier this year had already increased production by 15%, he added.

“The broad claim would be 5bn teabags, but that figure would fall if the popularity of the string and tag teabag format continued to increase. String and tag teabags run at around 300 bags a minute – six times slower than standard teabags,” Bagwell said.

The rising popularity of the string and tag format, which was around 40% more expensive to produce, was a key reason for the continued growth of Clipper, which has managed to double its output since 2012, he added.

Bagwell also acknowledged that the tea market wasn’t without its challenges.

Rising cost of tea

While claiming that the rising cost of tea at the point of sale was “inevitable” as a result of the devaluation of the pound, he believed consumers, retailers and manufacturers should not be averse to the idea of paying more for tea – especially if it meant growers received a fairer deal.

“On a bad day, a tea picker is likely to collect around 4kg of finished product – between 1,200 to 1,500 teabags. If, as a society we’re happy to pay £12 for that at the other end of the supply chain, we have a bit of an issue,” Bagwell explained.

“Clipper was the first Fairtrade tea in the UK, and we remain committed to the cause – even if it means pushing the price up further. It’s our way of demonstrating to the consumer that we believe this is the right way to do business.”

Clipper Teas was awarded Beverage manufacturing company of the year at last year’s Food Manufacture Excellence Awards. The 2017 food and drink manufacturing Oscars are now open for entries.

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