Tuesday, July 24, 2012

QTrade and L.A. Business Journal...Tea is here to stay

Tea Maker’s Santa Fe Springs Exit Was in Leaves

RELOCATION: QTrade moves to Cerritos with eye on future expansion.By JAMES RUFUS KORENMonday, July 23, 2012
You’ve probably never heard of QTrade International Corp., but if you’ve ever strolled down the tea aisle at Whole Foods Market, you’ve probably seen the company’s products.
And you might see more. The company, a major importer and processor of specialty teas and herbs, is expanding and this month finished moving into a new manufacturing center and headquarters in Cerritos.
The 64,000-square-foot building, at 16205 Distribution Way, was purchased last year and nearly doubles the company’s footprint compared with its previously facility of 34,000 square feet in Santa Fe Springs.
“It gives us additional capability, especially in our manufacturing,” said QTrade President Manjiv Jayakumar. “We went from 2,000 square feet of blending area to about 12,000 square feet.”
QTrade imports teas and herbs, mostly through the local ports, then processes, blends and packages teas for private-label customers. Jayakumar said he could not disclose the names of any customers, but they are brands “you’d typically find in a Whole Foods environment.”
The company imports about 800 different ingredients, most of them organic and fair-trade certified, and has roughly 2,000 different product blends. Its products are available in all 50 states; the company also serves customers in Canada and the Middle East.
QTrade has grown significantly since Jayakumar’s father, Chief Executive Manik, founded the company in his garage in 1994 after emigrating from Sri Lanka. It was a one-man operation until 2005, when it moved to a small warehouse in Santa Fe Springs; QTrade now employs about 50 workers.
Manjiv Jayakumar said QTrade doesn’t need all of its 64,000 square feet today and called the $4.3 million purchase a gamble, but he expects the company to grow into its new space as the specialty tea market grows.
“It’s a bet on the future of the industry,” he said. “We felt we wanted to build ahead of what the current state of the business was. In the short term, we certainly face lots of cash-flow pressures, but we’re confident our tea is here to stay.”

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