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Edible teas: could this be a new category coming to supermarkets?

Nim’s has developed a drink and snack in one product, with food waste and health credentials to back it up.

15 January 2019
food wastefruithealthNPDsupermarketssustainabilityvegetables

Crisps manufacturer Nim’s has created what is claims to be the first edible tea, which offers a drink and snack in one product.

It works by using small pieces of air-dried fruit and vegetables that can be put in a loose tea infuser to create a hot cuppa. It also come in sachets. Once the tea is consumed, the fruit and vegetables have been fully rehydrated and can be enjoyed as a healthy snack.

The edible teas are available in unusual flavours, including beetroot and parsnip; pineapple and kiwi; and pineapple, beetroot and parsnip. They are a good alternative to caffeinated or herbal teas, according to the company, which is also considering further flavours.

Flavour finder

Nimisha Raja, founder of Nim’s Fruit Crisps, tells Food Spark that initially the idea came from wanting to find news way to use their air-dried fruit and veg crisps, as well as a push to create a more natural tea.

“I don’t like fruit teas as they always taste artificial. You can tell there are oils, flavours and essence added to them,” she says.

“The first tea I made was beetroot. I had some crisps and I wondered what it would taste like and it tasted beautiful. It was natural as we use whole fruits and vegetables, including the skin, core and pips. We don’t peel the beetroot, we just wash it and air-dry it.”

Raja was shocked when she visited a tea-packing factory to talk about manufacturing the product and was told the inclusion of things like orange crisps, for example, would be for aesthetics rather than flavour, as oils are added instead. She believes there is a market crying out for natural teas.

She says she didn’t even think about the cost of fruits and vegetables during initial development, particularly as pineapple is quite expensive and apple doesn't have a strong enough flavour. She didn’t want to use cheap filler fruit either, but sought to find things that had the most flavour and impact visually.

The edible aspect to the tea also came later, when Raja was thinking about how to feed children healthy snacks. During one development session, she picked at the pineapple which she had been experimenting with to create the tea and discovered it still tasted amazing. She says young children may find the crisps a bit sharp in taste, so the rehydrated fruit are a good alternative.

Health and food waste to help sell it?

While edible teas are a new concept – something that Raja admits will be an uphill educational battle with consumers – what may appeal is the product’s food waste and health credentials.

“We say on the back of the box that from tractor to tea cup there is absolutely no waste except for the pineapple skin. At the moment, the tea is made from the finds we filter out when packing our crisps as it sifts out the small pieces,” she explains. “If the tea is successful, we may not create enough waste fruit and will have to specifically make the small pieces, but at the moment it’s 100% sustainable. It comes in sachets that are home compostable and the packaging is cardboard so it’s recyclable.”

Raja was so blown away by the amount of flavour that was retained after the fruit and veg had been hydrated that it also prompted her to investigate the health benefits.

The tea and fruit pieces were tested by a lab for their nutritional values, which found that 200ml of the liquid from the beetroot, parsnip and pineapple tea contained 42% of the dairy recommended intake of vitamin C. Meanwhile, the pineapple and kiwi gave 49% of vitamin C and the beetroot and parsnip contained 4% of recommended daily intake of fibre.

Each tea portion that is drunk and eaten is also the equivalent to one of your five a day, with one sachet the equivalent to 80g of fresh fruit. They also gluten- and dairy-free, as well as being vegan, kosher and halal certified.

Initial market research and tastings have proved successful, and Raja is ready to educate people on edible teas based on her previous experience.

“Fruit crisps didn’t exist as a category when we started. We had the first in kiwi and orange crisps and now it’s a category that exists in the supermarket. It took many years of hard work and getting listings and other people copying you, which is fine as long as it’s expanding the category. So I think edible teas will become a thing,” she comments.

Raja is currently talking to distributors and bigger retailers, but describes the products as premium, with plans to sell it in 12 single sachets of 12g portions. However, smaller versions are already sold at some independent stores and on the Nim’s website.

More crisp combos

The food development isn’t stopping at the edible teas either.

In March, Nim’s is launching a range of crisps that are a mix of fruit and veg – partly to counteract concerns that the fruit crisps have a higher sugar content. The release will include cucumber and vegetable varieties as well as watermelon.

A new infusions range of air-dried slices for use in cold and hot drinks has also been created alongside the edible teas. These products remove the need for fresh fruit, reducing waste and prep times in bars, restaurants, travel and the leisure industry, according to the company.

“Initially, we’ve got cucumber, lime, lemon and orange flavours available, with the latter already being used by one of the UK’s leading coffee shop chains. The infusions have proved immensely successful, especially over the Christmas period – now we’re looking forward to seeing sales grow in 2019,” says Raja.

“The infusions rehydrate in liquid, adding natural flavour to drinks. There is an appetite for healthier yet adventurous drink choices, and these certainly meet that criteria and more.”

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