Sophia Nadur was born in Trinidad and grew up around lots of natural food & drink. She spent 20+ years working in marketing & innovation for global food & drinks companies. An adopted Brit since 2001, she is also a qualified lawyer and serving magistrate. She could see the trend starting for folks craving healthier drinks and wanting to cut down on sugar consumption, but she was frustrated to see so few drinks on shelf that were good and did good too.
So the two women started Tg Green Teas with their own savings and a few grants. It’s still 100% self-funded today, however they will begin shortly the search for folks to join them on their journey.
Great things never come from staying within one’s “comfort zone” and scaling up requires more hands on deck.
In order to help shake old fashioned views of China and Chinese culture, Hua & Sophia turned to a London based graphic artist to design packs that combine traditional elements – kites, calligraphy, and Chinese characters – with more edgy global street art that adorn London streets. Its “Smart Sassy & Social” storytelling is also geared towards unlocking a new appreciation of ancient wellness knowledge from the “Middle Kingdom”.
Hua and Sophia want ultimately to make green tea both accessible and easier for our palates so encouraging more folks to enjoy a healthful brew every day. They see themselves as seeds of a “green tea party” or “movement” both here and abroad. That two of the three launch blends won gold stars at the 2015 Great Taste Awards will no doubt help to convince folks that drinking green tea doesn’t have to be like taking medicine!
Here’s how Sophia told her story to WiC’s Founder & CEO, Gwen Rhys
You have worked for the most notable/largest food and beverage corporate companies in the world. How did each company differ from one another, and what was similar about them?
I have worked directly for Unilever, Coca-Cola, Mars, and Kraft/Mondelez as well as indirectly for a few other [confidential] global consumer products companies.
They all offer broadly similar exposure to well-honed structures and processes that have helped them become – and often stay – number 1 in their respective categories.
This still is for me the best “training ground” for anyone who has a dream of creating a new food or drink brand as it prepares you like nothing else for the rough and tumble of the marketplace.
The most unique corporate culture I worked in was Mars with its relentless focus on delivering on its “5 core principles” [quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency, and freedom] and a refreshing longer term business outlook. It’s no surprise really to see so many ex “Martian” colleagues still very active in the food & drink industry with many working now in startups / SMEs.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered whilst working at one of these big corporates?
I was deeply involved for many years in food & drink innovation activities in major markets across the world. It became clear to me some years ago that consumers were fast becoming interested in more natural products, in where products came from, and in connecting with products and brands that were both internally and externally “better”.
The focus though at big corporates was always on looking through the rear view mirror for insights & answers which for me was a huge challenge. I tried to encourage healthier brand development at work but in the end decided that I could make things improve faster and in a more meaningful way from “the outside”.
More lately, I have seen an appetite at some large companies for changing the orientation of their lens but reacting to the new reality remains painfully slow.
Marketing/Innovation to Law.
Was it worth taking that time off to train as a City lawyer? What were the most useful things you learned during this time?
I took “time out” from a successful career to qualify as a commercial lawyer in order to (i) broaden skills beyond “marketing & innovation”, (ii) lay the groundwork for a “portfolio” career in the future, and (iii) fulfil a dream to be like two of my childhood heroes, namely Atticus Finch and Perry Mason (sad but true!).
Soon after qualifying however, I realised I didn’t really want to spend the next few years working in cramped basement offices pouring over due diligence documents so swapped back into the food & drink industry. I try to keep up-to-date on the law through attendance at seminars, volunteer work as a magistrate etc. and the legal skills/experience have certainly been very useful to our startup particularly when registering our trademarks in the EU, China and the US as well as dealing with supplier/partner contracts.
What is the overall mission of Tg Green Teas?
Although a nation of black tea drinkers, we’re increasingly reaching for green tea for its health benefits, rich cultural history and diverse flavour profile. Tg is a new British tea brand that offers a modern take on ancient wellness traditions that help folks strengthen their roots and put a spring in their step.
But getting folks to try green tea and adopt the drink into their daily routine is not easy given its typically bitter taste and unfamiliar custom. Hua & Sophia believes in an old Chinese proverb “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” – 星星之火可以燎原 (xīng xīng zhī huǒ, kě yǐ liáo yuán).
We’re working on lighting a few fires that propel folks to make green tea a regular part of their day by providing them with tasty and convenient options.
How has the food & beverage innovation landscape changed since you became a Londoner?
I arrived to London shortly after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000 and, unsurprisingly, the appetite for risky food & drink projects was sparse. Food & beverage innovation was led mainly by R&D teams within large corporates and with a largely inward looking focus on cost savings and range extensions that could help protect share of shelf. Consumer and market confidence took a huge beating again following the banking crisis in 2007 with funding now even pulled from corporate innovation programmes.
Having said this, the 2007 banking crisis was in way a springboard for the positive disruption seen in the past few years in the food & drink industry. Austerity and growing inequality have encouraged more “collaborative consumption”, the emergence of “peer to peer” broadcasting support the rising influence of food chefs and bloggers on tastes & preferences, and a breakdown of trust in “institutions” has helped to drive folks to seek out smaller companies who offer transparent, ethical, and authentic/natural foodstuff
Getting better food & drink into consumers’ hands remains a huge challenge for small brands so we are focusing efforts at getting our drinks direct into corporate canteens as well as through the Tg online e-shop and direct-to-consumer programmes like a recent Hello Fresh sampling campaign.
Sophia and Hua would love it if you would get in touch with your in-house canteen or favourite café / deli and suggest they stock Ty Teas (or let Sophia know and she will follow up – contact Sophia at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0800 772 3885).