FOOD VISION USA 2016... THE TRAILBLAZERS: Shaka Tea puts māmaki on the map, 'We're building an authentically Hawaiian brand'

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Launching a new brand in the ready-to-drink tea market is not for the faint-hearted, but Shaka Tea - one of three winners in this year's trailblazers challenge at Food Vision USA - has unique attributes that set it apart from the competition, says co-founder Bella Hughes.

Unlike many 'Hawaiian' products that are Hawaiian in branding only, Shaka Tea is built around māmaki - a plant that only grows in the Hawaiian islands.

The brand - developed by Hughes and her husband Harrison Rice - is the first Hawaiian ready-to-drink iced tea, and the first brewed with māmaki, said Hughes, who also reached the final stage of the BevNET Live ‘New Beverage Showdown competition this week.

"Māmaki is only grown in one place in the world - the Hawaiian islands - and it's an antioxidant powerhouse that's been consumed in the native Hawaiian communities for centuries... So this is an authentically Hawaiian brand. It also has quite a distinctive taste."

While it’s still early days for Shaka Tea – which launched in April 2016 and is currently available in just under 150 stores in Hawaii and the Pacific northwest – Hughes has recently struck distribution deals with Paradise Beverages in Hawaii and Crown Pacific Fine Foods in Washington State, which will significantly increase the brand’s exposure in the coming months, she predicted.

Available in three skus – guava gingerblossom, mango hibiscus, and pineapple mint – and sweetened with organic juices and fruit purees, Shaka Tea has 50-90 calories per 16oz bottle and is naturally caffeine-free.

While the product is bottled in California as there aren't any firms in Hawaii bottling products in glass, Shaka Tea is planning to bring out products in cans next year that will be produced in Hawaii, she said.

Trailblazers is a new initiative at Food Vision USA designed to celebrate early stage food & beverage companies that are bringing something genuinely new to the table from a formulation, sourcing, branding, marketing or business model perspective.

The three winners in 2016 - Afineur, Hippeas and Shaka Tea - were selected by the editorial team and got to present their innovations to our expert panel on stage at the conference (Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea and executive chairman of Beyond Meat; John Haugen, general manager of General Mills’ venture fund, 301 INC; Jason Starr, head of funds at online investment platform, CircleUp; Jon Sebastiani, founder and CEO of the venture fund and consumer brands incubator, Sonoma Brands (and founder of KRAVE Jerky).

WATCH OUR VIDEOS WITH THE OTHER TWO TRAILBLAZERS

The eight runners up – who also wowed us with their innovative products – are: Pure Growth Organic Brami , American Ostrich Farms Willow Cup , Levels , Once Upon a Farm , Kenya Purple Tea , and Oh Yes Foods!

We'll be launching the initiative again in 2017, so keep your eye on the Food Vision USA website for updates...

The music is courtesy of Accelerated Ideas.   

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