Louisville's Rooibee Red Tea shuts down, cites lack of funding
Rooibee Red Tea Co., an organic tea maker founded in Louisville, has ceased operations after about 10 years in business, according to a statement from the company.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Rooibee Red Tea Co., an organic tea maker founded in Louisville, has ceased operations after about 10 years in business, according to a statement from the company.
“While the company had a loyal following of consumers, unfortunately we could not get the funding to grow the company," Phoebe Wood, chairwoman of the Rooibee Red Tea board of directors, said in the statement. "We thank all of our loyal fans and specifically the Louisville community for supporting us over the last decade."
Rooibee Red Tea started at a farmers market in Louisville in 2008, according to the release.
The company said in the statement that it was the first "to create and market a full line of organic, ready-to-drink rooibos teas in the United States."
The company has Prospect listed as the city where it's from on the tea bottles, but city officials say they didn't know about the company's closure.
Rooibee Red Tea got a big break in 2013 when it began being stocked in regional Kroger grocery stores. The company later sold the tea nationwide.
A search of public records did not turn up bankruptcy filings, lawsuits or other signs of trouble for the company.
In April 2017, the company filed a document with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicating it had raised $1,495,970 in equity from 14 investors. The company had planned to raise just over $2 million, according to the filing.
You can still find Rooibee Red Tea on the shelves at the Rainbow Blossom locations in the Highlands and St. Matthews.
"I'm really sad to see local companies that don't do well, because I think it's so important in our community to be able to support these companies," said Lora Welch, a fan of Rooibee Red Tea. "It's part of our neighborhood. It's part of who we are and sad to see them go away."
Rainbow Blossom Marketing and Event Manager Raegan Stremel said the company didn't have any heads up.
"I suppose they got some products they have to move through still. We're going to sell it as usual," Stremel, adding that sales have been strong. "People like local companies around here ... (It's) one of our favorite products to carry."
Mayor Greg Fischer said it's never good to hear about local companies closing.
"It shows you how tough it is, especially when you are in the beverage market," he said. "They had it all. They had a good team and a good product and threw everything they could add it."
A Kroger spokeswoman says the tea is still available at 50 of its Kentucky store locations and that sales weren't very strong.
David Salmon, who was listed as the company's CEO, said he left Rooibee Red Tea in August 2017 and declined to comment further. Jeff Stum, a former Brown-Forman Corp. employee, founded the company, according to a 2011 story by Louisville Business First.
Chief Tea Officer Heather Howell, who was with Rooibee Red Tea from its early days, left for a job at Brown Forman in 2015, according to Business First.
Rooibee Tea officials have not returned our calls for comment.
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