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Years ago, Trend Watch’s dental hygienist was gazing deep into my mouth. “Are you self employed?” she asked. Apparently, home-workers drink cuppas throughout the day and dentists see the evidence. Ouch. Fast forward to Lockdowns I and II, 2020. The rise in sales of teapots, plus breakfast and afternoon tea goods, suggested consumers were lingering over, even ritualising, their meal and refreshment breaks. Putting the kettle on calms you down.
How can a drink containing caffeine – even if half as much as coffee – be calming?
Tea contains L-theanine which elevates serotonin and dopamine levels. It relaxes you and mitigates the effects of caffeine. That’s why you feel both revived and soothed after a cuppa.
I heard sales of black tea in bags were dropping.
Right. Retail sales volumes of mass-market black tea dropped in the five years to 2019, but the value sold rose over the same period because many buyers traded up to premium versions (Euromonitor). Such was the effect that a year ago, Unilever considered selling its Lipton and PG Tips brands.
I suppose everyone’s drinking coffee now?
You’d think so with all the hype about baristas and flat whites, but it’s more the case that tea has not benefited from coffee’s product differentiation and marketing support. While tea companies launched more profitable lines including cold infusions and iced tea, a more affluent, educated, young and health-conscious tea drinker traded up in quality.
Where are the opportunities?
We see four types of drinker: connoisseurs, alcohol avoiders, immune-boosters and adventurous gourmets. Connoisseurs enjoy the ritual of pot on tray. Premium tea company, Jing, saw sales of its one-litre capacity tea-iere jump 73%, year on year, between March and November, and its porcelain tea infuser sales grow by 108%.
How do I appeal to these fusspots?
Remind them home-brewed tea tastes better than tea at a high-street chain because the water hasn’t had all the oxygen boiled out of it. Then stock up on Earl Grey and Great Taste Award-winning loose leaf teas; and launch a tea of the month and complementary cake, biscuit or savoury snack promotion. Black teas go surprisingly well with spicy snacks such as samosas. Consider a paid-for online tea-and-food matching event.
What about the second group, alcohol avoiders?
Over a fifth of Brits claim to be teetotal (2017, ONS), and a third of under-25s. In the last few years, tea-based innovations have greatly improved no- and low-alcohol choice. The new generation of ready-to-drink teas, of which Suki’s Black Tea and Peach infusion in 250ml cans is a good example, tastes far better than the sickly sweet, artificially flavoured iced teas of old. The innovation we are really excited about is sparkling teas in gift-worthy 750ml bottles. The corks pop, the taste is multi-layered and complex, and unlike most soft drinks they work with food. Fortnum and Mason launched their own range in July 2019 and a rosé last summer. Waitrose will be carrying non-alcoholic fermented tea made by the Real Brewing Company.
Who created sparkling tea, and how is it made?
A Danish wine sommelier called Jacob Kocemba of The Copenhagen Sparkling Tea Company claims the invention because there was nothing in his wine cellar to complement desserts. A selection of different tea leaves is soaked in hot water, then cooled. The makers add grape and lemon juice followed by bubbles. At the Great Wine Company in Bath, both the Copenhagen Sparkling Tea Green and Sparkling Tea Blue sell well to 25-45 year olds who choose them for baby showers and Christenings. Buy from Enotria&Coe.
What about those immune boosters keen to stay healthy?
Appeal to its often younger drinkers by emphasising the purity of its ingredients. Have an anti-viral or immune boosting tea of the month. Planet Organic says Wunder Workshop’s Golden Turmeric Tea, made from at least 50% turmeric root, sells well. Suki Tea reports that green tea is rocketing in sales, and points out that Japanese Matcha could have more than double the L-theanine content of black tea, increasing potential for that Zen moment.
And lastly, what about those adventurous gourmets?
These probably female consumers may start the day with Rooibos Earl Grey, move on to full-fat coffee, sip rose pouchong mid-afternoon and Tea of India’s Masala Chai when it’s raining. Motto: keep them interested. Perhaps copy Suki Tea who launched a Work-from-home bundle. For £36, customers received four cans of sparkling iced tea, real coffee, oat milk, Suki’s tea of the month plus 50 classic breakfast tea bags.
Will working-from-homers continue to make time for tea?
Yes, and many predict that home-working will be a long-term trend, which is good news for tea companies and dental hygienists. The bad news for retailers with no online presence is that tea is light and easy to buy online and the popularity of tea subscription services is growing. Study their bestsellers and promotions. If you have a café, identify your drinker types and be sure your tea-to-go tickles their tastebuds.