What 2023’s consumers are looking for at tea time

22 February 2023, 07:48 AM
  • Far from just a teabag, hot water and a splash of milk, tea is evolving into something innovative and functional in 2023
What 2023’s consumers are looking for at tea time

The tradition of tea drinking is certainly a British one, with consumers sipping 100 million cups of it every day of the year. After all, there’s nothing that can’t be solved by popping the kettle on.

The art of brewing a cup of tea isn’t something to be taken lightly. From the mug used through to the order of tea-making events, everyone has their own individual way of doing things; it’s what makes tea time so special.

But while the ritual remains, the tea itself is evolving into something new in 2023, and independent retailers are well-placed to lead the revolution.

From kombucha to CBD and matcha, we explore what the sector looks like and how indies can stock up and cash in on the latest tea trends.

Catering to 2023’s consumer
Things are changing in the ‘tea sphere’ this year, and today’s consumer is looking for more than just a teabag and a splash of milk.

According to Angharad Goode, research analyst at Mintel, “Tea holds a comforting constancy for people. The cost-of-living crisis will boost the appeal of this perception, as consumers seek out emotional support during stressful times, while cost-saving efforts fuelling at-home occasions should prevent a steeper drop in tea retail sales. Localism and alcohol moderation trends represent potential areas of growth in the longer term.”

This is something that Urvashi Agarwal, founder of JP’s Originals, has noticed, “People are no longer just throwing their tea bags in with hot water and milk. There is now an interest in enjoying tea how it should be, which involves filtering your water, boiling it to a specific temperature and paying attention to the required brewing times for different teas. Enjoying tea is no longer only about comfort.”

Enjoyment of tea is something that has really come into play as purse strings are tightened and retailers see the Lipstick Effect.

Kat Hall, senior brand manager at Broadland Drinks, creators of Twistea Sparkling Alcoholic Teas, added, “As the cost-of-living crisis continues, we’ll see consumers looking for frugal luxuries, and tea can play a key role in this, it’s already seen as a comfort to many consumers so innovation in this category may be seen as a treat that won’t break the bank, whether that’s trying a more premium offering, a new flavour or venturing into alcoholic tea.”

In fact, we are in the middle of the tea revolution, like coffee before it. Just as consumers are interested in the origin of the bean, the type, and the roast, people now want to feel connected and learn about where their favourite teas are grown and why.

In Urvashi’s experience, “Consumers are no longer just looking for the first box of tea they can get their hands on or the cheapest option. They now consider factors such as origin, provenance, quality, social responsibility and environmental impact.

This is something that Kat has also identified. “Coffee has already succeeded in stretching into other areas and categories and we’ve started to see this happen in tea in recent years with the launch of cold brew and cold infuse products”, she explains.

“Tea lends itself well to flavour innovation and consumer trends including low sugar, low calorie, functional benefits and more sophisticated flavour profiles so there are endless opportunities to evolve the category.”

Indeed, as Urvashi points out, “There is definitely a growing interest in single estate teas, of which will likely continue to increase. Instead of simply asking for green tea, people have started to ask for more specific types of green tea, for example a Sencha, Lung Ching or Chunmee green tea.

“Consumers are becoming more adventurous in line with these kinds of teas becoming more accessible and as they are educated on the plethora of tea varieties out there to be enjoyed.”

The healthy choice
The pandemic undoubtedly had a huge impact on the way in which consumers look at health, and inspired a newfound appreciation for the power of plants and holistic methods of wellness. Whilst regarded as a comforting brew, different varieties of tea actually offer a host of health benefits.

As Freya Twigden, founder of Fix8 Kombucha, tells Speciality Food, “We’ve long loved a good ‘builders brew’ which is full of polyphenols and l-theanine from the black tea. But more studies are showing the benefits of green tea (including matcha, which is high in caffeine).

“The catechins in green tea have even been scientifically linked to preventing types of cancer. We use sencha green tea in our kombucha, which when fermented acts as a super-tea as the benefits (like polyphenols) are more bio-available.”

Alongside this realisation of the power of green tea, matcha powder has grown in popularity. According to Urvashi, “From a tea perspective, matcha is making a massive emergence in the market, simply because of its incredible health benefits such as its nutrient density, and antioxidants.

“Although matcha is becoming trendy it will likely retain its popularity well into the future as people discover how beneficial it can be for their health. We have noticed people switching from a daily coffee to a daily matcha. Whether enjoyed at home or out and about, there is a ritual involved in the preparation of matcha and so it becomes ceremonial and part of one’s routine.”

This is something that Alexandra Foster, category merchant for non-perishables at Whole Foods Market, has also noticed. “We have witnessed the peak of Matcha and customers trading up for better quality Matcha. OMGTea is a gorgeous artisan brand and an example of a high-quality Matcha that consumers enjoy.

“In addition, new brands are using matcha as their source of caffeine in drinks outside of traditional matcha teas and lattes such as chilled energy drinks.”

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