Monday, July 25, 2011

Teavana IPO

Marlena of Tea for Today, in her recent post keeping cool, mentioned something about Teavana selling stock, and I looked it up and sure enough, I found that Teavana is planning about an IPO. Another earlier article shows that this has been in the works for a while, although I just learned of it now. (Unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal has taken both of these articles down, so you can only view the headline and a brief excerpt on now) For those who are not familiar with the world of finance and investing, what this means is that Teavana is going to move from being a privately-held corporation to a publicly-traded one, like most of the world's biggest corporations, with a stock that trades on the stock exchange. It is doing this primarily to raise more money.

This would be the first publicly-traded corporation in contemporary times which is in the business primarily of loose-leaf specialty tea. I say in contemporary times because there is a long history of tea companies in the U.S., UK, and other countries. There are big companies like Unilever, which own numerous brands like Lipton, but there is no way to trade these tea companies or brands on their own. There are also publicly-traded companies, like Peet's, which sells both coffee and tea, or Starbucks, which owns Tazo tea but, similarly, is more in the business of coffee. In today's world, Teavana becoming a publicly traded corporation would make it a first of sorts.

How do you feel about this?

I have complex and mixed feelings about large corporations. They're not all good but not all bad either. I don't like the idea of a single large player dominating the market for specialty tea, but somehow, I don't think there's a very big risk of this happening.

One good thing I can hope for coming out of this is greater transparency. Teavana hasn't exactly been the most transparent organization. Being a publicly traded corporation comes with regulations and responsibilities. It will become more difficult for them to carry out sneaky deals out of the view of the public, like their relationship with SpecialTeas, which has since closed.


  1. I think the transparency will be primarily financial transparency and won't affect much of their tea.
    I am not into the stock market, so feel totally neutral about it.
    But I feel many tea drinkers somewhat over-critical on Teavana's big corporation behaviors. A big company is a big company. Teavana is not worse, probably even better, than a lot of big companies of other fields. It's not fair to use criteria for a cultural institute or a small family business to evaluate a big company.

  2. I agree with you in general that it's important to use different standards to evaluate small and large companies. But sometimes I think it's fairer to actually hold bigger companies to stricter standards, and I have an example:

    My main criticism of Teavana is their use of sloppy and sometimes misleading or outright false health claims in marketing. If anything, I think that such errors are a bit worse when carried out by big corporations, as big corporations both carry more weight when they distribute information, and they also have more resources to put into adequate research.

    But as an example of somewhere where I would treat small and large companies equally:

    When people complain about Teavana's pricing, or that similar teas are available from other companies for a lower price, and that a significant portion of the price of their tea is funnelled into the consumerist machine of high-rent shopping malls that Teavana locates in, I think that is also a legitimate criticism.

    I'm not convinced that this second criticism of Teavana really has anything to do with their size. A small, private company can open a single store in a high-rent location, and charge high prices for their teas, and the same criticism would apply to them. So, at least in my case, I think I am holding them to a higher standard in the first case, when it comes to the health claims...whereas in the second case, pricing, I think I treat them as I would any other company.