Pukka Herbs itself has a 30 million euro turnover and grows 30 % annually according to Unilever.
Founders Sebastian Pole and Tim Westwell are believed to have agreed to stay on to help drive global expansion of the brand.
Pukka Tead now employs 110 people in Bristol plan to move into Cadbury’s former Somerdale factory in Keynsham.
With sales of £50m Pukka is the world’s fastest-growing herbal tea brand, but is not yet profitable as it made a pre-tax loss of £24,000 a year ago.
The sale may raise fears that the independent ethical brand may lose its values by being taken over by a large corporation.
In a statement, the consumer products giant – whose brands include Marmite spreads, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Dove Soap, and PG Tips tea – said Pukka’s strong values and clear objective aligns with its own sustainable growth model.
However, Sebastian Pole said that choosing Unilever came down to two fundamentals: scale and sustainability. “It is a leader in social and environmental change and it wholeheartedly embraces Pukka’s beliefs”.
“Pukka will remain 100% organic and a champion for fair trading through pioneering schemes like Fair for Life, and continue to donate 1% of its sales to global environmental charities”.
The purchase of California-based Sweet Earth – which has brands like “harmless ham” and “benevolent bacon” – gives Nestle a foothold in the market for plant-based foods, which it expects will reach US$5.3bn worldwide by 2020.
“In the morning a lot of people still drink black tea as it picks you up, but in the afternoon or evening herbal tea is wonderful with different benefits”. In 2013, it bought high-end Australian tea company T2, which has since doubled in size.
Kevin Havelock, Unilever’s refreshment category president, added: “Pukka has strong values and a clear goal that aligns fully with our own sustainable growth model. Tim and Sebastian have cultivated Pukka into a successful business without ever compromising ingredients or their ideals”. “We look forward to bringing Pukka to even more consumers”.