Tea for Two Million

dining020708Scott1Inside the local spice the company doing big business
In a large industrial building on the west side of Santa Cruz, a steady staccato rhythm of machinery fills hundreds of tea bags each minute. The blender mixes 400 pounds of leaves, with perhaps orange peel and cinnamon, which are funneled into bags. Tags are added to spoke-like strings on the rotating vertical turret. Boxes carrying the brand name of a nationally ranked beverage company are stacked on pallets awaiting shipment. This is the manufacturing room of Monterey Bay Spice Company.

In addition to processing their own products, it acts as the manufacturing arm of other companies, an arrangement called contract manufacturing. Owner Scott Carpenter illustrates the concept, describing a couple in Florida.

“They have a really sweet deal,” Scott says. “They have no employees and no warehouse. They have us pack tea, and the retail finished boxes leave this warehouse and go to a storage warehouse. They’ll have pallets sitting there if they get an order.”

In the company’s milling room, a whir of blades chops its way through 28,000 pounds of dried ginger. It will be sifted by particle size for various applications or ground into an extremely fine powder. It’s just one of the hundreds of ingredients purchased from large and small growers world-wide. Scott describes the day of a Pakistani rose petal supplier.

dining020708Scott2“He goes around in his truck to these little farms, and then goes back to his place to further process it,” maybe mixing for uniform color or removing sticks, he says.

To another important customer base, Monterey Bay Spice delivers in bulk. Orders of hundreds and thousands of pounds of teas, herbs, spices and potpourri are destined for food or nutraceutical manufacturers, and even restaurants, caterers and candlestick makers. This bulk capability also gives the company a competitive advantage over other contract manufacturers. Elsewhere, customers coordinate deliveries of recipe components, including packaging, to the producer. Here, one purchase order takes care of most everything.

Monterey Bay Spice Company carries a number of organic products, which entails accreditation as a Certified Organic Producer. Using lot numbers, any organic package can be traced back through the factory to the machines and ingredients used, all the way back to each grower, who is likewise certified.

Scott regularly fields calls from people wanting to get into the tea business. Then they find out about start-up costs and the work involved in launching and marketing a brand. Scott paints the picture of a one-man organic tea company.

“In a decent-sized warehouse, full from floor to ceiling with boxes, he was up in the front in a corner, sitting there with his music, putting labels on over and over again,” Scott adds. “If you’re starting, that’s what you have to do, take on a lot of little stuff.”

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