Unilever publication marks shift in UK tea market towards transparency

29 January 2019

Food giant Unilever has just published the global list of suppliers for their UK and Ireland tea brands – including PG Tips, the UK’s single most popular brand.  

The move marks a major shift towards transparency in the UK tea market, with more than two-thirds of tea drunk in the UK now coming from companies which have released the names of their suppliers. 

This dramatic shift has happened in less than eight months following a highly effective UK campaign coordinated by trade and development charity Traidcraft Exchange.  

Traidcraft Exchange launched its ‘Who picked my tea?’ campaign to bring about change for tea workers who are trapped in poverty in the Indian state of Assam. Traidcraft Exchange worked closely with organisations who advocate for the rights of tea workers in Assam. 

Undercover investigators hired by the charity backed up claims from local organisations and found evidence of low wages and appalling conditions for the women who pick the tea we drink in the UK. 

Mary Milne, Head of Campaigns at Traidcraft Exchange said: ‘We’re delighted that Unilever has responded to our campaigners and published their list of suppliers. When we launched the campaign, none of the UK tea brands would share where they bought their tea. Tea drinkers in the UK, and more importantly, workers in Assam, weren’t able to hold the brands to account.” 

She went on: “By persuading the brands to publish where they source their tea, we’ve succeeded in putting a bit more power in the hands of the people who work on tea estates in Assam. They are the true experts, and the only people who can verify the good practice claims that brands may make.” 

More than ten thousand campaigners responded to the Traidcraft Exchange invitation to contact the biggest six UK tea brands and ask them to publish the full list of tea estates they buy from in Assam.  

The UK tea market is now more transparent than ever with more than 68% of the UK’s tea coming from companies which have published all or part of their supplier lists.  

Yorkshire Tea, owned by Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate, was the first to publish in July 2018, followed by Twinings, Tetley, Clipper and most recently Ringtons.  

Now that Unilever, owner of PG Tips, Lipton, Lyons, Scottish Blend and Pure Leaf, has published, only Typhoo, owned by the Apeejay Surrendra Group, has not yet joined the growing trend.  

ENDS 

For more information contact Mary Milne: mary.milne@traidcraft.org or 07757 753 318 

Notes for editors: 

  • Traidcraft Exchange is an international development charity which uses the power of trade to bring about lasting solutions to poverty. It runs development programmes in South Asia and Africa, works directly with businesses to improve their supply chains, and does advocacy and campaigning in the UK to promote justice and fairness in international trade. It works closely with specialist fair trade company Traidcraft plc. Traidcraft Exchange is a registered charity, no. 1048752: https://www.traidcraft.org.uk/      

  • Traidcraft Exchange’s campaign launch report ‘The Estate They’re In: how the tea industry traps women in poverty in Assam’ can be downloaded here: https://www.traidcraft.org.uk/tea-report      

  • Market share data (for all tea, not just black tea) as published in ‘The Estate They’re In’ taken from Euromonitor report into the UK tea sector, February 2017 https://goo.gl/LWK1AG  

  • Photos are available to illustrate the story – please contact Mary Milne mary.milne@traidcraft.org 

Nancy Demuth