TBWA\ chronicles Bell Tea’s history, illustrates the sleeve-rolling power of a cuppa

According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, New Zealand has the 45th highest rate of per capita tea consumption, with an average of 0.65 kg downed by each person every year (well behind the English on what is almost certainly a made up number of 68.69 kg per year, although the UK Tea Council gives the top spot to the Irish). Bell Tea is hoping more of that will come from its two factories and to help do that it’s launched a new 60 second TVC via Whybin\TBWA that celebrates the long history of the brand and the performance-enhancing properties of tea.  

Whybin\TBWA’s chief creative officer Toby Talbot says in a release that as the agency researched the brand’s extraordinary heritage from its origins in Dunedin in 1898, it became clear that Bell Tea was something of an unsung hero.

“Let’s be honest,” says Talbot, “our nation wasn’t built on a soy latte. Bell has been front and centre as the staple drink of Kiwis for over 100 years and we felt there was a unique opportunity to hero the true power of the cuppa. Even more encouraging was when we unearthed some incredible archive footage which we’ve cut into the commercial itself. And full credit to the Assembly team who did an outstanding job of re-creating original scenes.”

Bell Tea’s marketing director Michaela Dumper is confident the decision to play off their heritage and Kiwi provenance is the right choice to standout.

“We’re the only major tea brand that actually blends and packs our tea in New Zealand especially for New Zealanders [according to Stuff, it still produces four million tea bags a day in its factories in Dunedin and Auckland]. Bell’s unique taste attributes have long been popular with Kiwis and I’m particularly happy with how the TVC captures the renewed vigour and enjoyment that comes from a good cuppa.”

The campaign will launch with the TVC supported by 30” and 15” cut downs and be on-air from 3 November for five weeks. The Bell Original tea pack has also had a redesign that will be seen on shelves in late 2013.

Foodstuffs bought Bell Tea in 1962 and renamed it The Bell Tea and Coffee company after buying Burton Hollis in the mid 2000s. But because it was having trouble getting distribution in the supermarkets of its main competitor, Progressive, it looked to offload the company, which has more than 40 percent of the total tea market and an annual turnover of around $60 million, and it was bought by Wellington investment company Pencarrow Private Equity in September (it has previously invested in BJ Ball Group, Phil and Ted’s and cosmetics marking firm CS Company). 

As well as Bell, the company also has the license for Twinings. It also owns Gravity Coffee (which is handled by Special Group), Native Infusions, Jed’s Coffee, Burton’s and NZ Live, as well as espresso machine brands Jura and La Cimbali.

New Zealand has quickly developed a vibrant coffee culture, and Bell Tea’s chief executive Mark Hamilton told Stuff that coffee is the fastest growing area of its business. Gumboot is obviously a mature market, but there’s still plenty of opportunity for growth in the tea sector. 

“There is a lot of value growth in the tea category because people are trading up to these more premium products rather than the standard old cuppa they used to have,” Hamilton said. “While it is not the fastest growing overall, there is still a lot of growth in the likes of green tea which is now 11 percent of the total tea market and growing quite rapidly, and herbal infusions.”



Todd Mcleay – CEO

Toby Talbot – ECD

Julian Andrews – Creative

Richard Maddocks – Creative

Nick Bulmer – Group Account Director

Mark Wilson – Account Director

Lynne Smith – Account Executive

Liz Rosby – Head of content

Production (Assembly)

Jonny Kofoed – Director

Damon Duncan – Director

Amanda Chambers – Producer

Ian McCarroll – DOP

Phillippe Lods – Offline Editor


Liquid Studios – Audio Suite

Craig Matuschka – Engineer

Peter Hobbs (Harmonic Studios) – Original Music Composer

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