SEBASTOPOL -- In addition to being the fifth-largest seller of bagged tea, the company is the No. 1 seller of organic tea and herbal tea in the U.S., generating 11 percent annual growth in tea sales in the U.S. and giving the firm a 33 percent market share of medicinal tea, Traditional Medicinals is concerned about taking care of the Earth.

A key mission of the 39-year-old company is to protect people, plants and the environment. It does this by supporting fair wage and trade policies for herb collectors in the countries where ingredients for its teas are grown and harvested.

[caption id="attachment_76699" align="alignleft" width="300"] Blair Kellison, CEO of Traditional Medicinals, stands next to one of several high volume packaging machines that fills tea bags, attaches strings and tags, packs 180 bags per minute in boxes and applies labels in a continuous operation. (image credit: Gary Quackenbush)[/caption]

The company was co-founded in 1974 by Drake Sadler, chairman of the board and chief visionary officer, and Rosemary Gladstar, a third generation herbalist who started blending teas in a small herb shop in Northern California in the belief of connecting people to the power of plants. She also beleived that their business model that focuses on all stakeholders could improve the world.

Traditional Medicinals continues to take environmental protection very seriously. Today the firm is virtually off the grid. 

Some 1,550 solar panels on the roof of its headquarters at 4515 Ross Road provide 75 percent of the firm’s power requirements. The company’s carbon footprint from the remaining 25 percent of power not obtained from solar, is offset with wind credits from the Bonneville Power Administration Company in Oregon, a carbon offset reseller.

Deep wells on the property produce from 600 to 800 gallons of water a day. The firm uses hybrid vehicles, composts waste at the facility and recycles everything. 

[caption id="attachment_76700" align="alignright" width="336"] Traditional Medicinals CEO Blair Kellison (right) with Administrative Assistant Receptionist Kathy Avilla and Receptionist Ale Avalos in the headquarter's lobby in Sebastopol. (image credit: Gary Quackenbush)[/caption]

The campus has its own septic system that uses a safe, chemical-free ultra violet treatment alternative to kill bacteria, as well as a tranquil holding pond that can be tapped as an additional water source in the event of a fire.

Inside the building, the firm installed motion-sensing light switches and regulators on water taps.

“County inspectors were shocked at how little water we use.  The norm is about 13 gallons per person per day. Our people use only six gallons a day,” said Blair Kellison, CEO of Traditional Medicinals.

The area in front of the building features native, drought resistant plants, flowers and a sculpture garden surrounded by mature Redwoods and quiet, shaded seating areas where employees and visitors can relax and reflect.   

 “We want to provide people with affordable herbal healthcare in environmentally sustainable ways. We think of our nine categories of tea as providing people with natural remedies and comfort in a cup. Tea is experiential and a ritual for many,” Mr. Kellison said. “There’s something wonderful about a warm cup of tea.”

 “Our teas are ‘non-medicine’ medicine from nature, and are in many ways as effective as OTC pharmaceuticals from a drug store.  After all, 60 percent of all drugs are plant based.”

For example, the company markets a cold and flu sampler pack tea assortment as well as a sampler pack combination package of teas known for their relaxation properties.

Mr. Kellison said that medicinal teas can be daunting for people who don’t understand them.

“Part of our job is to educate people about the inherent benefits of herbal remedies.  Around the globe, about 65 percent of the world’s population uses natural medicine on a regular basis."

Traditional Medicinals’ sells its products to some 50,000 stores, including more than 6,000 natural food retail outlets along with major chains like Target and WalMart. 

The company uses medicinal grade herbs classified by the U.S. Pharmacopeia, a nonprofit, scientific organization whose mission it is to improve global health through public standards and related programs.

Traditional Medicinals is the only firm in the U.S. that conforms to this standard. To meet this pharmacopeial standard, Traditional Medicincals purchases most of it ingredients from countries where each particular plant is indigenous.

While the sources of the company’s teas ingredients are a closely guarded secret, imports come from countries such as Egypt, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Eastern Europe and other discrete locations.

The company also obtains Echinacea and Peppermint from Washington State within the U.S. and tree bark (for slippery elm) from Missouri and Kentucky.

Back at company headquarters, a team of herbalists, including a number of PhDs, conducts research and formulates teas to make the perfect blends.

With 125 employees, Traditional Medicinals is continuing to hire for all departments, from production to management. The firm added 40 new positions in the past four years. This is a family and employee-owned business, with employees owning 20 percent of the company.

While the proportion of coffee drinkers to tea drinkers is 10-to-1 today, Starbuck’s and other beverage cafe retailers are making a move into tea. Teavana, recently purchased by Starbucks can be found in shopping malls in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Traditional Medicinals (traditionalmedicinals.com) has achieved a compound annual growth rate of about 10 percent, with sales totaling about  $50 million a year.

 “There is a lot of competition in our market making it hard for consumers to differentiate between the brands.  Those that favor doing business with firms with eco-friendly practices appreciate the fact that we use 100 percent recycled boxes, unbleached sustainable tea bag paper with natural cotton fiber strings.  Our new case packing machine also enables us to use 17 percent less cardboard per case.”