A Brewing Interest in Health
Consumer demand for healthier beverage alternatives has not only fueled interest in ready-to-drink teas but also the entire tea category, say industry tea professionals.
"Tea is one of the fastest-growing beverage categories because as people migrate from carbonated soft drinks, they are looking for a healthy alternative that still has a similar mouthfeel. That's where iced/bottled tea comes in," says Mike Ginal, VP of marketing at Argo Tea in Chicago.
Consumer consumption of sugary sodas has been on the decline for years as more and more consumers are searching for more natural alternatives with zero or low calories, such as bottled water and ready-to-drink tea.
According to the Specialty Food Association's State of the Specialty Food Industry 2017, refrigerated RTD coffee and tea has been growing at a rapid-fire pace. From 2014 to 2016, dollar sales grew 114.3 percent. Dollar sales of shelf-stable RTD coffee and tea increased by 37.2 percent.
When Ito En (North America) first introduced its RTD line to the U.S. market years ago, consumers were taken aback by the low-sugar and no-sugar-added green and black teas. Now, the tide has shifted and consumers are turning toward unsweetened teas, explains Rona Tison, SVP of corporate relations at Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Ito En (North America) Inc.
In addition to consumers seeking out healthier beverages, consumers also have a growing appreciation of tea in all of its forms, say several of the industry experts interviewed by The Gourmet Retailer.
"Consumers are not only looking for healthier beverage options, but want to expand their knowledge and engage in new taste experiences," says Tison.
"The marketplace has grown exponentially with increased consumer demand for teas. What first started as a healthy trend has now evolved into a true appreciation and understanding of the expansive world of specialty teas," she adds.
Savvy retailers have expanded their specialty tea selections in response to growing consumer interest. Specialty tea (non-RTD) has one of the highest market shares, accounting for 55.1 percent of the overall tea category, according to State of the Specialty Food Industry 2017.
"Just consider the increase in linear retail shelf footage of the tea category in any grocery store not just specialty or health stores," says Bill Waddington, founder of TeaSource in Roseville, Minn. "At minimum it has doubled, in most places it has increased much more. And all categories of teas and herbal beverages are growing at a great rate."
Mad for Matcha
Matcha, once considered a specialty tea, has become more mainstream. It is being prepared traditionally, on-the-go and used as a culinary ingredient.
"From savory to sweet, matcha continues to pop up on food and beverage menus around the world," says Jessica Kochik, chief marketing officer of The Tea Spot based in Boulder, Colo. "There's a wonderful health halo that foodservice items enjoy when tea is incorporated into their ingredients, especially a tea as bright green and unmistakable as matcha. Let's face it; even doughnuts and booze look a bit healthier when sprinkled with matcha. But it's not just a gimmick; the facts show that matcha provides a powerful antioxidant punch, which is beautifully explained in Maria Uspenski's new book, Cancer Hates Tea."
Matcha is well on its way to becoming a household name in the United States, says Kochik, and this bodes well for the entire specialty tea segment. These "tea newbies may be more open to trying what's next in the world of tea," she says. The success of matcha, she adds, seems to be closely aligned with the "huge growth" of other powdered teas, such as turmeric.
Tea, and specifically matcha, has become more of a mainstream beverage, agrees Mim Enck, president of East Indies Coffee and Tea Co. in Lebanon, Pa. "It has evolved from having a cult following to becoming more mainstream," she says.
Social media has helped drive awareness of specialty tea, and it too has united tea fans, both newcomers and loyalists.
As the tea market evolves and as more consumers embrace specialty tea, more opportunity opens for "premiumization and provenance," Ginal says. "Similar to other categories, consumers are looking to trade up from value and everyday brands to teas that have the highest quality ingredients and unique flavors. This means all natural, non-GMO and organic are stealing share from products made with artificial ingredients. In terms of provenance, consumers are looking for unique-flavored teas and — importantly — they want to know where those teas come from."
To capitalize on this trend, Argo Tea is listing the teas' origin on the bottle of its Signature RTD line. "On our Green Tea Ginger Twist, we're now Non-GMO Project Verified and calling out that the tea is a blend of sencha and matcha green tea from Ise Bay in Japan," says Ginal. In December, the company introduced its line of 24 Garden District loose-leaf teas that are all from single estates. "Premium quality ingredients and provenance matters, because they lead to the best-tasting tasting products," adds Ginal.
Consumers interested in reducing their sugar intake may be looking to add more functional ingredients, such as turmeric, ginger and other herbs, that may enhance their sense of wellbeing. In fact, Teas and Wellness is one of the educational seminars at the upcoming World Tea Expo. In recent years, a number of companies have introduced wellness teas, including Choice Organic, Republic of Tea, Numi Tea and Argo Tea.
"Teas with unique flavor profiles and functional benefits are continuing to experience growth," says Ginal. Argo Tea has seen firsthand the increased consumer demand; its line of wellness teas "sold out in the first few days after we launched."
World Tea Expo Focuses on New Products, Education
Retail buyers attending the World Tea Expo will not only see what's new in tea, but also have the opportunity to learn business-building strategies to profit through tea.
The trade show takes place June 13-15 at the Las Vegas Convention Center North Hall. The pre-conference program is on June 12.
World Tea Expo's new expo hours are: Tuesday, June 13, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.; Wednesday, June 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; and Thursday, June 15, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. The new World Tea Expo Networking Reception takes place on the show floor on Tuesday, June 13 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
|Attendees can learn more about herbal teas during the World Tea Expo's educational program.|
Educational seminars include: Tea Retail Innovations & Trends; Tea in 2021 – Growth Markets, Key Drivers and Opportunities in the Global Beverage Market; Tea in Hospitality; Tea on the Menu and as a Culinary Ingredient; Teas and Wellness; How to Source & Select Your Teas; Hot Brewed vs. Cold Brewed; How to Find Your Niche in a Crowded Marketplace; Launching a RTD Tea in the United States; Sustainable Branding – What Aspects of Selling Tea Can Defy Generational Stereotypes?; The Chemistry of Tea Production; Turning Your Passion Into a Tea Vocation; and Exploring The Herbal Tea Galaxy, among many more.
Additional highlights of World Tea Expo include: the World Tea Awards program on June 14; the Best New Product Awards, which recognize the best new tea and related products; the Global Tea Championship (formerly the North American Tea Championship) Winners Tasting Circle, where attendees taste and vote on award-winning teas; the World Origin Tasting Tour, an interactive and educational tour of some of the most important tea growing regions; and the Tea Business Boot Camp, an intensive, hands-on program that covers critical topics facing the tea entrepreneur.
World Tea Expo attracts top companies and professionals from more than 50 countries, representing tea and coffee shops, grocery chains, private-label brands, gourmet retailers, convenience stores, distributors, restaurants and others interested in building their business through tea.
For additional information visit www.WorldTeaExpo.com or follow World Tea Expo on Twitter: @worldteamedia (#WorldTeaExpo or #WTE17).
Dark Tea with Rose
and white) that most Americans have never heard of. The Chinese have been drinking Dark Tea for more than 1,000 years, but it's almost brand new to the western market. It is the only authentic tea that goes through a post-production fermentation process so that there are active microbes in the dry tea leaf. It is literally a probiotic tea.
Pictured is Dark Tea with Rose, just Dark Tea leaves with rose petals; and it makes a medium-bodied, sweet, smooth, silky cup. It can come in loose-leaf form, or compressed into shapes or pieces. Drop one into a cup, add very hot water and experience a tea like none you've ever had before.
Cancer Hates Tea
The Urban Tea Tumbler shows off hot or cold tea infusions. Its precision infuser can keep on steeping cold brews or be removed when hot teas are steeped to perfection. Constructed of borosilicate glass, brushed stainless steel lids at both ends for easy cleaning, and accented with a cork sleeve and strap. Custom branding is available.