In the late 1990s, I attended a number of LOHAS Conferences. LOHAS is an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability—the market for Organic and Fair Trade products. Historically, such products had been mostly limited to natural food stores, but now they were beginning to creep into mainstream markets.
My goal was to bring China Mist branded organic iced teas into restaurants and hotels. In 2003, we launched a USDA Organic and FairTrade® iced black tea for foodservice we called Estate Black. It was, and still is, expensive. Organic certification (grown without chemical pesticides) is a lot more expensive than conventionally grown teas and the cost of Fair Trade alone is double, making the teas essentially D.O.A. for most foodservice operators. The product fell into a niche of primarily natural food delis and juice bars.
The mainstream foodservice industry was simply not going to be low on the diffusion of innovations curve. The sense from the operators I spoke with was that the cost was too high and that their customers did not really care about such things. Disappointed, I spent the next six years getting to know more about LOHAS consumers to determine when and how I could bring truly sustainable iced teas to a broader foodservice market.