ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Customers don't know it yet, but a band of dancing gypsies is about to break camp and head for Wegmans Food Markets.
The event is part of a launch party hailing the arrival of Zhena's Gypsy Tea at all Wegmans stores. The Ojai, Calif.-based company offers a line of 15 loose-leaf tins and 13 bag tins, featuring such flavors as Passionate Peach and Sense of Peace.
A colorful party is scheduled for January at the Wegmans flagship store in Pittsford, N.Y., with additional live events also being planned. The promotion will include a pair of gypsy belly dancers, a fabric-enrobed tea bar, tea leaf fortune telling and an organic/vegan dessert bar.
Specially merchandised islands created by both Zhena's and Wegmans will anchor displays in the retailer's larger stores, while shippers will perform the task in other units, according to Zhena Muzyka, the tea company's founder and self-described "Mistress of Ceremonies."
"We did a soft launch [in October] with nine [stockkeeping units]," she told SN during the recent Natural Products Expo East show. "As the program goes on, we hope to increase our SKUs." The most popular variety is Grand Green, though all of Zhena's tea sales are within 6% of the bestseller, she said.
The large-store island displays at Wegmans will retain some elements of the grand party, including draped fabrics and baskets. These, and the smaller shippers, were due to be in place by mid-December, Muzyka said.
The tea party is a prime example of how retailers and companies can collaborate to create excitement in the aisles. While the dancing and sampling may get customers to buy, the promotion also allows the company -- and by extension, the retailer -- to get across information pertaining to organics and social-responsibility programs like Fair Trade. In Wegmans' case, the event puts the spotlight on the retailer's Nature's Marketplace whole health, store-within-a-store set.
Sales of bag and loose teas are a $700 million business for the supermarket/mass/drug channel, according to recent data from Information Resources Inc., Chicago. Most brands experienced only marginal fluctuations in sales from the prior year.
However, some of the more exotic names, such as Tazo and Yogi, are enjoying significant sales increases. In the case of Tazo, sales were up 63% for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 5, while sales of Yogi shot up more than 24% over the same period.