Starbucks Coffee Company (NASDAQ: SBUX – News), PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE: PEP – News) and Unilever (NYSE: UN – News) (NYSE: UL – News) today announced a licensing agreement for the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of Starbucks super-premium Tazo Tea ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages in the U.S. and Canada. The agreement leverages each company’s world-class capabilities with the aim of igniting further growth in the RTD tea category.

Tazo’s RTD line will be integrated into the Pepsi/Lipton Tea Partnership (PLP), expanding the joint venture between PepsiCo and Unilever. Established in 1991, the PLP is the leading distributor of RTD tea products in the U.S.

“By joining forces with the Pepsi/Lipton Tea Partnership, we’re tapping into a long history of innovation and expertise in the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of refreshment beverages,” said Gerry Lopez, president, Global Consumer Products, Foodservice & Seattle’s Best Coffee. “This move puts us in a prime position to take our successful Tazo bottled tea business to an even higher level.”

Starbucks relationship with PepsiCo dates back to 1994, when the two companies formed the North American Coffee Partnership (NACP), a joint venture that helped build the RTD coffee category in the U.S. through the development and distribution of Starbucks bottled Frappuccino, Doubleshot espresso, Doubleshot Energy + Coffee, and other beverages.

“By engaging the passionate base of Tazo consumers already established by Starbucks, leveraging the strength of the Pepsi bottling system, and employing the beverage expertise of the Pepsi/Lipton Tea Partnership, we’ll be able to share Tazo RTD products with a larger audience than ever before,” says Mary Barnard, GM/VP, Pepsi/Lipton Tea Partnership.

Kraft Foods, which previously distributed the Tazo RTD product line as part of its 10-year relationship with Starbucks, will continue the significant momentum it has built marketing and distributing Tazo filterbag teas and tea latte concentrates, as well as Starbucks and Seattle’s Best Coffee packaged coffees in non-cafe channels.

News, Starbucks