Milo's Tea builds home in Tulsa

Milo's Tea founders
Posted at 9:08 AM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 14:03:06-05

TULSA, Okla. — What do southern hospitality and iced tea have in common?

A lot, especially when it comes to Tulsa.

Over this past year, Milo's Tea opened a new $60 million facility in Tulsa.

"We're so proud to be made in Oklahoma now and just look forward to continue to put down roots," said Tricia Wallwork.

She knows all about deep family roots. She's a wife, mother, and third-generation CEO carrying on a legacy her grandfather Milo built.

"Milo's was actually founded by my grandparents Milo and Bea Carlton. My grandfather returned from serving our country in WWII, he married my grandmother the next week, and they opened a hamburger restaurant on the working-class side of Birmingham, Alabama," she said.

It didn't take long for the family to realize their restaurant's recipe for success boiled down to one thing: Milo's Tea.

"People would drop through just to get the tea. Since the day my grandparents started brewing it for the past 75 years, we have never added preservatives, colors, no added acids. And that's what makes it taste like homemade," said Wallwork.

According to Nielson data, Milo's All-Natural Tea is the fastest growing national brand of refrigerated tea in the US.

With increasing demand-- the company needed to expand. A nationwide search led Milo's to Tulsa to build its second home and pour $60 million into a new production and distribution center.

"We realized this felt like home, and then we got to know the wonderful people here, the family-centric culture, and the community that exists here. And the wonderful quality of life that we could offer our associates in this community, so many green spaces, great opportunity, we just knew this was where we needed to come," said Wallwork.

In the spring of 2019, Milo's broke ground on 20 acres in Tulsa County near Owasso for its new 110,000 square foot facility, and by the spring of 2020, the company started hiring.

"Right about the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. And we opened our doors in our site July of 2020 producing our first shippable product by the end of August," she said.

"Having this place is great, knowing that I have the stability to come here every day," said Lacy Massara. She was among the first Tulsa associates.

She's part of the team that brews, bottles, packages, and ships the tea.

"They preach people first, and they do come first. We know we come first every day we walk through these doors, and it's a good feeling," said Massara.

The Tulsa Milo's employs 60 and plans to expand to over 100 by next fall.

"We've been able to recruit a lot of diverse talent. 40% of our salaries go to women, 20% of our managers are women, and about 40% of our associates are minorities, and that's something we're really proud of" said Wallwork.

The company is a certified women's business enterprise, which means it is majority-owned and controlled by women.

"So my dad is the minority owner, and yeah, my sister, my mom, and I outgun him," she added.

With family values at its core, Milo's strives to be a good neighbor too.

"A certified zero-waste manufacturer. What that means is that over 97% of the waste that we produce is recycled or re-used," said Wallwork.

Milo's "spent" tea is used in compost at the Tulsa Botanic Garden. The company also has a yearly 1% profit pledge to give back to the community.

"I look forward to providing donations when people can gather again here in Tulsa and Oklahoma," she said.

Milo's famous tea-- a legacy born in Alabama and now booming in Oklahoma.

"We're just getting started, and it's going to be sweet," she said.

Milo's investment in Tulsa is the largest capital investment in company history, and they have plans for more growth here.

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