Top Tea Trends
1. Quality Tea on the Rise
World Tea Media says, "The tea industry is educating tea consumers about quality, thus improving their palate and desire for better tea. We're still a bit behind here, but many retailers and manufacturers are making progress, and consumers are increasingly looking to buy better teas; they want to know what makes certain teas high-quality rather than relying on the manufacturer's word or enticing packaging," explains Jage. "At the same time, industry members continue to discuss and ask one another, 'How do we internally define quality,' and that's fabulous. We're scrutinizing our own product; we're asking what Fair Trade really means; and we're asking if products calling themselves ready-to-drink [RTD] tea should contain a minimum of tea's total dissolved solids, or if tea-flavored sugar water should be allowed to call itself tea." Jage adds: "We're also seeing big tea buyers take notice of the high-quality winning teas from the North American Tea Championship, a professionally-judged tea competition. A win here means quality has been assessed by a third party professional, and that's making a significant difference for manufacturers when closing major deals."
2. Tea Retail Continues Its Upward Trend
The tea retail trend hit a nice stride in 2011, according to World Tea Media, and it will continue to move up quickly in 2012. Last year, for example, tea retailer Teavana launched its IPO and Canadian-based DavidsTea opened two retail stores in N.Y.C., adding to its line-up of 69 locations. Most recently, Starbucks Coffee Company hired tea-retail expert Charles Cain as its new vice president for Tazo tea merchants and operations, which leads to much speculation regarding Starbucks' plans to launch tea retail outlets. "At World Tea Expo, the industry is set to discuss the future growth of tea retail -- and what will happen in 2012 -- in a session called 'Will Tea Ever Be as Big as Coffee?'" says Jage. "Right now, in the U.S., there are currently more than 25,000 coffeehouses and around 3,500 tea retail locations," she adds.
3. Green Tea Grows in Popularity
World Tea Media is also watching green tea move ahead of flavored and blended herbal teas, in terms of popularity. "No doubt due to its association with health and the preferences of ageing Baby Boomers and conscious Millennials, green tea is experiencing a growing consumer base, and that will continue this year," says Jage. According to Packaged Facts' “Tea and Ready-to-Drink Tea in the U.S., 4th Edition,” green tea is currently the No. 2 top flavor for U.S. tea product introductions (the No. 1 spot is blended teas). Among households purchasing loose leaf tea, green tea edges out herbal and fruit/spice teas with black tea as No. 1. The study notes that green tea is the No. 1 selected specialty tea product selected by customers at restaurants and retail establishments.
4. Tea-enhancing Tea Wares
Glassware maker Reidel creates some of the finest wine glasses and decanters, and it is said that these special glasses make a significant difference in the taste of vino, bringing out the depth, flavor and balance. And now, as the general populous continues to build a sophisticated palate, innovators are emerging and looking at ways they can enhance the tea drinking experience on a more sophisticated level. "Not only are more and more tea enthusiasts embracing particular tea tools to steep specific tea types, we now have contemporary ceramic tea ware to enhance a particular tea type's taste," explains Jage. "Reidel wine glasses changed the way we drink wine, and World Tea Media suspects that this cup philosophy will begin to change the way we drink tea in 2012." Jage notes that this trend is starting with advanced tea drinkers and spreading to the everyday consumer -- just how it did with Reidel and wine drinking.
5. Cold Brew Green Tea
Cold brew green tea is expected to be big in 2012, cites World Tea Media. Last year, Japanese manufacturer Yamashiro Bussan Company launched the first cold brew green tea at World Tea Expo. This year, branded cold-brew green tea takes the stage, including Swirl Tea, by Breezy Springs LLC. Breezy Spring products are already sold in Whole Foods Markets and Publix Supermarkets, to name a few. "World Tea Media predicts that with Swirl Tea's cold brewed green tea on grocery store shelves, there will be a larger consumer base and awareness for this product category in 2012," says Jage. "Imagine the delight consumers will have when they realize they can enjoy green tea without worrying about over-steeping it or water temperatures causing the tea to taste like burnt grass."
6. Matcha Lattes (Real Ones)
Unlike the poor quality Matcha lattes that have "crashed and burned" in the past, there are now superb product offerings in the market, according to World Tea Media. All of these use real and high-quality Japanese Matcha, blended with minimal sugar but packed with flavor, such as AIYA America's Matcha Zen Cafe Blend. "Matcha lattes are already wildly selling in Canadian foodservice establishments," reveals Jage, "and I suspect the time has come for American restaurants to catch on in 2012. They are easy to make, require no additional equipment, taste delicious and are packed with the nutritional benefits of Matcha. They're certainly a wonderful alternative to over-roasted coffee after a lovely dinner."
Tea Growth in 2012 & Beyond
On the whole, tea continues to grow in the marketplace. According to projections from Packaged Facts, tea retail market growth will edge up from approximately 6.6% in 2012 to 8.7% in 2014, reaching $8.3 billion in that year. World Tea Expo presenter David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, notes, "The horizon for tea indeed looks bright. Factors spurring continued overall growth of the tea market include: the success of refrigerated and RTD tea; the acquisitions of Honest Tea and Sweet Leaf Tea that will continue to expand the distribution channels for these and other organic and specialty brands; the rapid expansion of specialty tea retailers such as Teavana; increased emphasis by Starbucks and other coffeehouses on their tea offerings; the sustained promotion of tea by the big restaurant chains, led by McDonald's; the proliferation of tea rooms and other tea offerings at foodservice; the continued recognition by consumers of tea's healthy properties and their switch to tea from carbonated soft drinks."
From the March 5, 2012, Prepared Foods' Daily News.