Starbucks is switching the manufacture, marketing and distribution of its Tazo Tea RTD brand in the US and Canada from Kraft Foods to the Pepsi Lipton Tea Partnership.

The company confirmed yesterday (19 August) that it has secured a licensing agreement with PepsiCo and Unilever, the joint owners of the partnership, for the RTD range. Tazo's filterbag teas and tea latte concentrates will continue to be handled by Kraft in North America.

Starbucks' relationship with PepsiCo dates back to 1994, when the two companies formed the North American Coffee Partnership (NACP), a joint venture which developed and distributed Starbucks' bottled Frappuccino, Doubleshot espresso and Doubleshot Energy + Coffee.

"Unilever and Starbucks have both been great partners of PepsiCo for over a decade, so culturally it's a great fit," said Mary Barnard, GM/VP at the Pepsi/Lipton Tea Partnership. "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."

James Wong, vice president of business development at Unilever Americas, added: "As the leading marketer of tea beverages in the world, we're always looking for opportunities to bring our global expertise to more tea lovers. We're really excited about this opportunity to expand the Pepsi/Lipton Tea Partnership and enter into this agreement with Starbucks."

Established in 1991, the Pepsi Lipton Partnership is the leading distributor of RTD tea products in the US.