Milo's Tea Company
Milo's Tea Company, located in Bessemer, produces Milo's Famous Tea, which is sold in several southeastern states. The company was founded as Milo's Restaurant Services in 1980 by Milo and Bea Carlton with their son Ronnie and daughter-in-law Sheila. It originally provided tea and hamburger sauce to the Milo's Hamburgers chain, but now also packages and distributes tea products to retail outlets.
The company began selling Milo's Famous Tea to Birmingham grocery stores in one gallon jugs in April 1989. Ronnie Carlton sold the restaurant business to Dean Chitwood in January 2002, but continued providing the chain with sauce and tea.
The company's original plant was located behind Barber's Dairy, just off West Oxmoor Road in Homewood. In 2002, the company moved to the Morgan Industrial Park in Bessemer. The original location, which had grown to 21,000 square feet, no longer had room for needed expansion. When originally constructed, the Bessemer facility was 28,000 square feet. In 2004, the company made plans to expand to 43,000 square feet. As of 2014 the plant with 100 workers was capable of producing 300,000 gallons per day with plans to double in capacity and add a second production facility in the western U.S. In 2017 the company expanded its Bessemer production and distribution facility to 150,000 square feet, housing 150 workers.
In 2008 the company began selling 35 tons of used tea leaves per week, which it had previously sent to landfills, to a Scott's plant in Vance, where it is mixed with pine bark and other components to make "Miracle-Gro" garden soil. Milo's also sources many of its input products from Alabama companies, including packaging from Pratt Industries.
The company's current slogan, introduced on May 23, 2007, is "Taste the Milo's Difference." It replaced the slogan, "The Great Southern Tea Company Since 1946," which had been in use for over a decade.
The Milo's Hamburgers chain began experimenting with brewing its own iced tea at some locations in May 2012. That practice led Milo's Tea Company to end its supply agreement in the summer of 2012. Milo's Franchise preemptively sued Milo's Tea over the matter that August. During the lawsuit, Milo's restaurants switched to using tea provided by Royal Cup Coffee. The two companies resolved the issue in March 2013 and Milo's restaurants began serving Milo's Tea again.
In 2014 Milo's Tea Company expanded its distribution area to 38 states across the South and West. By 2017 it was distributing to 13,000 retailers in 42 states. In 2018 the company moved its headquarters offices to Lakeshore Park Plaza in Homewood.
The tea the company produces only lists three ingredients: water, sugar, and custom blended teas. However, the exact recipe, including the brewing, sweetening, and cooling processes, are kept secret. The company began with a single product: sweet tea in one gallon jugs. As of 2014, the company sells the following products:
- Milo's Famous Sweet Tea, one gallon jugs and 8 and 12 ounce bottles, introduced in 1997. (20 oz. bottle introduced in 2008)
- Milo's Famous Tea Unsweetened, one gallon jugs, introduced in 1999.
- Milo's Famous Tea with Splenda, one gallon jugs and 8 and 12 ounce bottles, introduced in 2006. (20 oz. bottle introduced in 2008)
- Milo's Decaf Sweet Tea, introduced in 2014
- Milo's Lemonade, introduced in 2014
- Milo's Famous Sweet Tea and Lemonade, introduced in 2014
In 2016 Milo's Tea Company developed a new line of "Café Style Organic Teas", brewed with organic tea leaves and organic cane sugar and stevia. The new line includes four varieties: Sweet, Light Sweet, Green Citrus and Light Green Citrus. All four are sold in 59-ounce bottles.
- Barber's Dairy (Alabama)
- Brown’s Dairy (Louisiana)
- LuVel Dairy (Mississippi)
- Mayfield Dairy (Georgia and East Tennessee)
- Purity Dairy (Tennessee)
- "Milo's - History". Milostea.com - accessed August 18, 2006
- Nicholson, Gilbert (February 1, 2002) "Milo's serves up a warehouse in Bessemer" Birmingham Business Journal
- Brooks, Staci Brown (February 24, 2004) "Milo's Tea brews big plan for its plant, distribution" The Birmingham News
- Williams, Roy L. (May 23, 2007) "Fresh idea brewing." The Birmingham News
- Spencer, Thomas (July 29, 2008) "Milo's ships 35 tons of tea leaves to garden soil company." The Birmingham News
- Poe, Ryan (March 4, 2013) "Milo's Famous Tea back on the menu at Milo's restaurants." Birmingham Business Journal
- Azok, Dawn Kent (April 25, 2014) "Alabama beverage company Milo's Tea expands into states across the U.S., adds lemonade and other new drinks." The Birmingham News
- Gamlin, Rachael (May 20, 2016) "Milo's Tea launches a new line of drinks." Birmingham Business Journal
- Van der Bijl, Hanno (October 25, 2017) "Milo's Tea completes massive HQ expansion." Birmingham Business Journal
- Milo's Tea Company website