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After 20 years of teaching crafts at school, Rita Martirosyan decided to turn her love of herbal medicine into a business. Rita inherited her passion for herbs from her uncle, who taught her various herbal tea recipes. Rita’s dried herbs were later exported to Russia as raw material and were very much appreciated by buyers. After these successful export sales, her herbal teas became the first local product supplied to one of Yerevan’s most popular teahouses.

The business expanded over time, attracting other members of Rita’s family. In acknowledgment of her achievements, Rita was even awarded the title “Hero of Our Times” as a female entrepreneur. 

The Ritea brand grows

Rita Martirosyan’s brand grew into two separate product lines: Ritea and Rifruit. Ritea organic teas entered the market in 2014, while Rifruit dried fruits began to sell in 2018.

In 2017, Ritea began receiving support under the Ready to Trade project, an EU4Business Initiative: From branding to adopting the HACCP food safety system. Recently, the company participated in the biggest food trade fair in Europe, Anuga 2021.

“We learned a lot at Anuga,” says Rita Martirosyan. “Events like this are important to understand market demand and trends in product design and packaging. Anuga gave us a plethora of ideas on packaging and products.”

Ritea established a number of partnerships during the trade fair that could result in export orders from France and Spain. It has also signed a partnership deal with a US-based company.

Early in 2022, the brand will introduce new packaging for its old and new products, in line with international standards. The new branding and packaging were also developed under the Ready to Trade project being implemented by ITC and supported by the EU through the EU4Business initiative. The first order with reviewed packaging is going to be shipped to the US.

As a part of this project, Ritea will apply for the HACCP food safety certificate in the next two months, which will facilitate exports to key markets.

Among the activities made possible by the project, the company found most valuable a trip to South Africa, where it gained key skills to improve production.

“In production, one important point is using raw materials efficiently, such as using fruit that’s not suitable for drying, and making fruit lavash or using the pits to make oil,” says Rita. “Our study tour to South Africa and consultations with Anton Erwee both on site and here in Armenia have been extremely useful. We learned a number of production secrets on how to correctly dry fruit to ensure the proper level of moisture and extend shelf life.”

New ideas, new products and new markets

Ritea’s future plans include making bagged tea, adding fruit and berry teas, and expanding their varieties of fruit lavash. Soon, more products made from Rita Martirosyan’s recipes will enter new markets, bringing their healthful qualities to different parts of the world.

Despite the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the family is also planning to open a guesthouse and restaurant near its production facility in Garni. The new business will host tourists from around the world with the added benefit of enjoying original dishes, dried fruits and herbal teas made from family recipes. 

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