Drink Pioneers: Matcha RTDs

May 15, 2015

Marketers are bringing new ingredients-from cactus to hibiscus-to the ready-to-drink arena.

One of the trendiest foods of 2015, matcha (Japanese green tea) is looking to move beyond bags and powders and into bottles. The founders of Jade Monk, a line of premium, high-pressure-processed (HPP) refrigerated RTD matcha drinks launched this year in Whole Foods, talk about the ingredient’s claim to fame.

“2015 appears to be a ‘watershed year’ for matcha within the United States,” says Derek Pippin, chief operating officer. “Although it has been consumed for nearly a millennium in the Far East, matcha has just now started gaining serious traction here in the United States. There has been a really big push lately among food and beverage publications, as well as from health and lifestyle bloggers, to educate consumers on the unrivaled health benefits and whole food nutritional properties of matcha green tea.”

Interest lies in matcha’s high antioxidant content-10 times that of traditional steeped green tea, Pippin says-as well as L-theanine, an amino acid with known cognitive-health benefits, plus polyphenols and minerals. “People are also finding that although lower in caffeine content than coffee, the natural combination of caffeine and L-theanine in matcha offers a sustained, ‘calm alert’ energy that causes neither the jitters nor the dreaded ‘coffee crash.’”

As a result, “sales of Jade Monk over the past year have been extremely strong,” says CEO Cort Bucher, adding that the company’s overall Q1 2015 sales, including its matcha powder, were up 177% over the year prior.

Technology has helped, Pippen explains. “Until the availability of HPP (a cold-pasteurization method) came around, the ability to create such an authentic RTD matcha simply was not there. Now, however, we have the tools available to us. In order to protect our matcha’s delicate flavor profile and nutritional content, we ‘cold brew’ our organic matcha in pure spring water and then add only the highest-quality organic and non-GMO ingredients according to our flavor recipes. To extend our shelf life, we utilize the HPP method, which uses cold pressure (over 87,000 psi) instead of heat to deactivate molds, bacteria, and other unwanted pathogens.” And the company never dilutes its matcha with traditional steeped green tea-something chief commercial officer Mike Fulkerson says differentiates the brand from other RTD matchas on the market.

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Photo from Jade Monk