Promoting Sustainability: Inca Tea

by Austin Johnson August 05, 2015

Creating an eco-friendly package for an environmentally-conscious consumer base

The Client:

Inca Tea is a Cleveland-based start-up company specializing in natural teas that serve to enrich and promote healthy lifestyles. Inca Tea comes from an ancient Incan recipe that Ryan Florio, company founder and “TeaEO”, stumbled across while vacationing in South America. Florio and his friends were on a strenuous hiking expedition through the Andes Mountains when their tour guide offered the group a refreshment. This beverage not only energized Florio to finish the difficult hike, but it also led to a great business opportunity. Florio brought this exclusive recipe back to Ohio and launched Inca Tea in February 2014.

The Challenge:

As is the case with any new business, establishing brand identity was high on Inca Tea’s priority list. Sustainability was also a key component, as it complements their all-natural product and relates to their health-conscious consumer. The company wanted a functional yet appealing package for their biodegradable tea bags and envelopes. Additionally, they asked for differentiation – leveraging graphical elements that portrayed the powerful Incan Empire from which the recipe is derived from. From a structural standpoint, Inca Tea stressed minimal size to optimize shelf space and also requested a package that would allow easy access to one or multiple tea bags at a time. In the end, Tap’s primary objective was to create a box that balanced all of these requests, specifically promoting the earthy-friendly aspects of the company’s brand and the natural origins of the teas.

The Solution:

Although Inca Tea had many requirements for their packaging, Tap’s Design and Engineering team were able to successfully integrate all of them into the final concept, earning Tap a PPC Gold Award in late 2014. The Inca Tea box was converted using RockTenn 24pt Kraft Uncoated Recycled Board and offset printed with soy ink. The specific packaging material and ink were chosen to help promote Inca’s eco-friendly brand, as both substrate and ink are 100% biodegradable. This sustainable, square Kraft box helps differentiate the product from competing tea brands, which tend to be made with flimsy printed gloss SBS or aluminum canisters. The shape of the box also allows for easy shipping, assembling, and stacking – which makes the product an attractive target for retailers as it helps conserve shelf space. The box features a perforated zipper style tear off, giving customers a single dispense option instead of the traditional top-of-box opening. A custom die-cut sleeve was added as a closing mechanism to protect the contents from falling out of the box once the perforation is removed. The sleeve also promotes the Inca brand by displaying a large foil-stamped logo and an illustration of Peruvian mountains as a symbol of the company’s origins. The visual on the sleeve also includes sun rays, which are color-coordinated to match the different blends of tea the company produces. The emphasis on sustainability and efficiency was considered throughout the entire production process, as all sleeves were foil-stamped at one time and all four tea box varieties were gang-run. This decision not only minimized paper waste, but it reduced costs for the client as well.

The Results:

As a start-up company, it was difficult to secure a meeting with a distributor. However, when that meeting finally occurred, it was the packaging that made a difference. Florio, Inca Tea owner, explains “when the distributor saw our unique packaging design, he was relieved to see we were a strategic and serious business ready to make waves in the tea market.”
The packaging concept landed Inca Tea prime product placement in several local retailers due its small, square-shaped design – selling at either eye level or on an end cap. Within the first three months, the product was already in over 100 stores across six states. Florio attributes much of this early success to the packaging design, “we were a new product without brand recognition or past sales history, but because our product is unique and our packaging is so different, our product has preferential placement in every store we sell to. This has been critically important to our growth and success over our first few months.”
Today, the company continues to grow as the tea has reached approximately 300 stores and a dozen restaurants and cafes, including a location in Cleveland Hopkins International Airport that opened last November. Plans are already underway to open up another airport location in Boston soon. Talks of expanding their purple corn-based product line have also circulated as both Florio and Inca Tea fans are optimistic of what the future holds.










Austin Johnson
Austin Johnson