April 27 - New data shows U.S. economic growth slowed in the first quarter, but Bigelow Tea is stirring in innovation to grow sales as the consumer-driven sector of the economy holds up. Jill Bennett reports.
Bigelow Tea makes 1.6 billion tea bags a year. This Fairfield, Connecticut based tea company says despite the stumbling economy, and an unusually warm winter, sales were up slightly last quarter. Business spending was up as well, says President Cindi Bigelow. SOUNDBITE: CINDI BIGELOW, PRESIDENT, BIGELOW TEA (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We are spending, I'll tell you that we are spending on research. We just had a huge program researching our consumers. We're spending on R and D and we're spending on marketing. We're working on a couple campaigns that are relatively expensive but as I said we have to invest in the business." Bigelow is spending at a time when many other companies are holding the reins. The government reports the nation's economy grew a weaker-than-expected 2.2 percent last quarter, compared to 3 percent the previous quarter. The first drop in capital spending since the end of 2009 was a factor. David Levy of The Jerome Levy Forecasting Center. SOUNDBITE: DAVID LEVY, CHAIRMAN, THE JEROME LEVY FORECASTING CENTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think capital spending will pick up. It's not going to grow nearly as fast as it has before but I think the economy overall doesn't have that much strength to do well, unless consumers really binge." But consumers are not likely to binge on tea, so the family-owned company is adding workers in Research and Development and Branding. It's focused on innovation -new product lines include fresh brewed half tea and half lemonade and coconut water with green tea. SOUNDBITE: CINDI BIGELOW, PRESIDENT, BIGELOW TEA (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It's very important that we are always challenging ourselves, our products, our packaging, our methodology of selling it to the consumer. We have to be looking at everything and questioning ourselves all the time, which we do." And that includes constantly reading the tea leaves in an economy where every penny counts for businesses and consumers. Jill Bennett, Reuters