Starbucks to Sell Tazo Tea to Unilever

It is sold primarily in grocery, mass and convenience channels, available in packaged teas, K-Cup pods, and bottled ready-to-drink teas.

The deal, which also hands the Dutch-British company Tazo's signature recipes, intellectual property and inventory, leaves Starbucks Corp. with its Teavana tea brand.

Tazo was founded in Portland, Ore.in 1994 by Stash Tea co-founder Steven Smith, who sold the company to Starbucks in 1999 for $8.1 million.

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"With its strong appeal to millennials, TAZO® is a flawless strategic fit for our U.S. portfolio", Kees Kruythoff, President of Unilever North America, said in a statement.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter, pending regulatory approval, the companies said.

Tazo, which had sales of $112.5 million over the past year, sells specialty black, green and herbal teas, as well as liquid concentrates to make chai lattes.

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Starbucks has removed its e-commerce platform as part of the streamlining, instead, will set its attention to mobile order improvements, innovation in food and beverage, investments in its own roasteries, and gaining share of at-home coffee. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $0.56 on revenues of $5.71 billion. And the company committed to returning US$15 billion to investors over the next three years through dividends and stock buybacks.

The Seattle-based roaster was also hit by growing pains as the company took charges related to restructuring and refining its operations.

The coffee giant reported fourth-quarter adjusted EPS of 55 cents, falling in line with analyst estimates.

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Tea sales inside of Starbucks locations are growing at double digits annually, particularly as the chain expands in Asia and other markets where tea is popular. It is sold in Starbucks outlets and grocery stores in the US and Canada. But its same-store sales came lower than expected and, in the United States, fell far short of its historic 5% growth rate. The company said USA same-store sales would have risen 3% in the quarter if not for closures and lost business related to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

  • Kelly Blake