Phendula 21st birthday

PHENDULA Tips, the brand that launched Durban-based Joekels Tea Packers and their award-winning tea brands, has come of age to earn the key to the door – and what a journey that has been. In the 21 years since Joekels founders Joe Swart and Jonathan Kelsey brought Phendula to the market, blended in the company’s now iconic gold-painted cement mixer, the world has changed almost beyond recognition. In 1995 there was no internet, Google was still three years away from coming into being and South African smartphones were those fortunate enough for their brick-sized cellular telephone to have SMS capacity – all 30 characters per message. Throughout these evolutions Phendula has not only been a constant, but grown to be a firm KwaZulu-Natal favourite considered on par with the best tea brands in the world. Vibrant and refreshing, Phendula gets its unique taste from an all-African blend of South Africa, Zimbabwean and Malawian teas. Swart and Kelsey have each been in the tea business for more than two decades, coming together to found Joekels (the innovative combination of their names JOE Swart and Jonathan KELSey) in 1994. They resigned from their jobs and pooled their resources, essentially investing everything they had behind their dream of making tea their business. Phendula came to the market the following year, initially blended in Swart’s garage in that now famous cement mixer purchased from a friend. Swart, the behind-the-scenes businessman, was previously an accountant for a fast-moving consumer goods company, while Kelsey, a master tea blender since 1989, may yet have the most expensive tongue in Africa after last year insuring it for R5 million. The men taught themselves the basics of blending, packing and sales, working hard to realise their dream and knowing it took dedication and determination to build a successful business. Today, Joekels is South Africa’s third largest tea manufacturer and pack about 95% of all private label tea products in the country. Over the years the company has acquired the Laager brand and in 2006 Tetley, a division of the Tata Group and one of the world’s largest tea companies, joined forces with Joekels to bring that international brand to South Africa. Tetley later acquired a majority stake in Joekels. Teeco and Southalls have also been added to the Joekels family, while the move to insure Kelsey’s tongue promises consumers the continuation of the company’s trademark quality and consistency. “Yet, it is a testament to our quality that we are still selling our very first product Phendula Tips despite all the changes and growth that has happened over the last 21 years,” Kelsey says. Statistically South Africans consume 20 million kilograms of black tea and 7 million kilograms of rooibos annually, placing the market value around R1.8 billion. Joekels has a 10% share of the black tea market and a 26% share of the rooibos market.