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How BOS Tea comes up with its unique rooibos and ice tea flavours

Hear from product developers at innovative BOS Tea how its NPD team goes from dreaming up new BOS flavours to making them a reality.

“Here at the BOS HQ, we get stupidly excited about all the ice tea flavours we might one day create. We let our imagination run wild a lot, but then we also have to rein ourselves in and make some hard cuts,” says BOS’s global product development and quality manager, Mary Bigalke.

Here, Bigalke, and brand manager, Dani du Toit, go behind the scenes.

Bos Brands Rooibos Ice Tea

Who decides on the BOS rooibos and ice tea flavours?

Mary: As product development manager, my role is to oversee this process, which includes deciding on our BOS flavours and flavour combinations. But it’s really a collaboration between our CEO, the marketing team, myself, and our operations team.

We take a close look at what’s trending in the markets, both locally and internationally. Say we’re going into a new category – for example, when we came up with our rooibos tea flavours – what we did was take all the products available on the market that we could find, and then we did a very comprehensive benchmarking session. The next step was finalising our own unique BOS rooibos flavours.

Are there specific flavours that BOS leans towards?

Mary: BOS is all about bold, fruity flavours, so a lot of our product flavours are what we call “fruit forward”. In our BOS Rooibos Ice Tea flavour range, you’ll find peach, lemon, berry, lots of “classic” ice tea flavours. Then, we’ve taken these classic ice tea flavours across to merge with other flavours. We have also expanded on these classic flavours with more sophisticated offerings.

For example, Watermelon & Mint. In this case watermelon is the leading fruit flavour, and then there’s the mint as a backup. With Lime & Ginger, lime would be the main fruit flavour, and ginger is the complementary flavour.

How do you know what flavours consumers want?

Mary: Through our research, we obtain region-specific information on what flavours consumers prefer in the various parts of the world. The flavour profiles and preferences between the world regions vary considerably.

In Europe people don’t really drink rooibos as a natural, unflavoured tea. They have lots of different herbal flavours to choose from in that market, many with Christmas spice flavours.

We’ve done a few in-house tastings as well. We’ve had people come in to our offices, taste our rooibos and ice tea flavours and then provide us with consumer feedback. We also have internal tastings with our young and dynamic BOS team, which represents our market really well.

BOS flavoured tea

Which BOS tea flavours came out tops during the in-house tastings?

Dani: It’s very interesting because everyone has their own preferred flavour profiles. Initially everyone was raving over the Apple & Mint and the Strawberry & Vanilla flavours, possibly because they are very fruity and tasty. But the more you drink these rooibos flavoured teas, the more you come to realise what you do and don’t like.

For example, I started out with a really strong preference for Apple & Mint, and now, after some time has passed, my favourite is Chai.

Are there ever any surprises at consumer reactions to flavours?

Mary: There are often surprises along the way and we are always learning. We developed our BOS Watermelon & Mint Ice Tea flavour a few years ago, and we thought it was going to be a more mature audience who would appreciate it, because it’s quite a sophisticated flavour profile. However, the feedback we’ve been getting is that kids absolutely love it.

Which goes to show that, even though we study the trends, do the analysis, and we think we know what’s going to happen, sometimes we launch a product into the market and we’re very surprised by who our main consumer for that product eventually turns out to be.

We have yet to come across one of the BOS Ice Tea flavours that doesn’t mix well with a clear spirit. So rum, vodka, gin, they all go great with the entire BOS Rooibos Ice Tea range.

Which is interesting, because although these products were never developed to be mixers, we’re now seeing that even some restaurants are using our BOS ice teas as mixers in pre-mixed cocktails!

BOS Ice Tea for the SA and US markets is made in South Africa, while BOS Ice Tea for the European market is manufactured in Europe. Why’s that?

Mary: Let’s start with the European market. So, South Africa is our home, all our rooibos is grown here, and then it gets shipped to Europe, where it is used to make our delicious ice teas. In Europe, we are seeing a big market trend towards organic foods, so all BOS products in Europe are certified fully organic. As a result, our BOS flavours for the European market are a little bit different, and this is because of the way that the products are actually manufactured or produced over there.

Say you have a strawberry-flavoured product. To be certified organic for the European market, 95% of that product has to come from actual strawberries. So, a huge component of that flavour is actually made up of the real thing, which makes it taste quite different.

In Europe, we’re also seeing a big trend towards natural flavours and natural flavour profiles. So for BOS products in the European region, that’s where our focus is. We are starting to see a similar trend in the United States now.

In the South African market, there is definitely also a movement towards natural, so we only use natural flavours here too. But the market for organic foods here is not as big as in Europe yet, which translates to there not being that big of a spending power within organic products in South Africa at present. So locally, for now, we focus on natural flavours and organic rooibos, which we use in our BOS ice teas.

Mary: We think that’s where the world is heading. Consumers are looking for more sustainable options, and organic really plays into that space. We’re doing a lot of work within that area, adding more sustainable product options within the local rooibos tea market. We’re now Rainforest Alliance certified, and we’re focusing more on organic in the tea marketplace here in SA.

Which flavours have you found to be the most popular?

Mary: When it comes to ice tea, definitely the BOS Peach flavour. That is our biggest seller in every region. It’s really juicy and really fresh. We’re also seeing a big increase in demand for BOS’s Sugar Free Peach Ice Tea at the moment.

A lot of people are also moving to more natural options, and BOS offers Ice Tea flavours sweetened with stevia, which is a natural sweetener.

BOS Ice Tea also has quite a big following within the Banting community and people on Ketogenic diets, because our naturally sweetened BOS Ice Tea are suitable for that way of eating. So we’re seeing a big following on social media with that as well. But as a BOS flavour, Peach is always a winner.

Dani: I also think it’s important to mention that our BOS Sugar Free Peach Ice Tea is perfect for diabetics and people who are cutting out sugar. Based on the success we’ve had with our BOS Sugar Free Peach Ice Tea and Sugar Free Lemon Ice Tea, next year we’ll be launching a BOS Sugar Free Lemon Ice Tea in Europe too.

Do you ever develop certain BOS flavours or flavour ideas that don’t make it to market?

Dani: Oh absolutely. There are many, many BOS product and flavour ideas that we cycle through, develop, and then never execute in the marketplace. It’s either a case of the timing is wrong, or the costs are wrong, or the logistical opportunities are not quite there.

Mary: It’s a tough call to make. Sometimes you watch the international trends and you’re not sure which of them are going to make it in South Africa. Consumers are looking to explore alternatives, so it’s important that we have something for everyone.

BOS ice tea

What are your personal favourite BOS rooibos or ice tea flavours?

Dani: My favourite BOS Ice Teas are the sugar-free ones, our Peach and Lemon flavours. I don’t really consume sugar, so it was very natural for me to hop on that train. And BOS Sugar Free Peach Ice tea comes in a handy three-litre pack, so it’s great for so many things, it also makes a great mixer for alcoholic drinks.

As far as BOS rooibos teas go, my favourite is just the original rooibos. It has so much flavour just by itself.

Mary: My favourite BOS Ice Tea flavour is Watermelon & Mint. It’s really delicious and it offers that balance between sweet and refreshing, which is really unique in a beverage. It has a fuller mouthfeel from the start, and you have that sweet, watermelon flavour. Then it ends off with a really refreshing endnote. So you taste it right through, which is really nice. It lingers, a super-punchy, strong, delicious flavour.

When it comes to the BOS flavoured tea, I think Apple & Mint is my favourite. But I also like Orange & Ginger for the soothingness. If you’ve got a sore throat or when you’re feeling sick and icky, you want that nice bit of ginger through your throat.

Source: BOS Tea