The Tea Spot, Inc. Awarded $460,000 Small Business Innovation Research Grant by U.S. Department of Agriculture

American Banking and Market News - September 28,2011

The Tea Spot has been selected for a competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the cooperative research agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The $460,000 award is for marketing research in support of the commercialization of compostable bioplastic tea filters for making loose leaf tea to-go in mass-foodservice. The Tea Spot will develop a marketing and distribution strategy for the compostable tea filters, trademarked Brewlux™, based on the results of research sponsored by the SBIR grant. Brewlux™ filters are made of U.S. corn resin, and will be manufactured in Colorado. A prototype of this product was awarded “Best Innovation” at the 2010 World Tea Expo in Las Vegas.

The Principal Investigator, Jessica Burtenshaw, will be spearheading the grant research along with other Tea Spot employees as well as collaborators from the Marketing Department at the University of Colorado and an independent consultant. Ms. Burtenshaw’s background in scientific research and overall responsibility as The Tea Spot’s Director of Product Marketing & Development, qualify her uniquely with the skills and perspective necessary to bring the research project to fruition. Burtenshaw commented on The Tea Spot’s impact on the compostable products industry with Brewlux™ “While the total possible market demand for U.S. corn derived from commercializing Brewlux™ is relatively small in the large scope of agriculture, it is a positive step towards making compostable disposable products in mass foodservice more accepted and widely available. We plan to overcome the hurdle of a general lack of composting knowledge, through refining our messaging to be as effective as possible." As more companies help educate consumers on the value of composting and as businesses and cities provide the infrastructure to make it more convenient, composting can take on larger role in the mainstream U.S. culture, similar to that of recycling. The Tea Spot is also pioneering new injection molding techniques while using a state-of-the-art compostable resin, which is an important contribution in the larger scope of promoting the successful domestic manufacture of compostable U.S. corn-based products.

The Tea Spot’s CEO, Maria Uspenski, added "Such substantial funding for extensive marketing research of Brewlux™ allows us to introduce this innovative compostable product like one of the major players in the foodservice industry. This USDA grant is a game-changer for The Tea Spot". Through grants offered by NIFA, the USDA enables researchers throughout the United States to solve problems critical to farmers, consumers, and communities. NIFA is the USDA's major extramural research agency. NIFA-funded research spans problems and issues encompassed within 13 national emphasis areas.