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With much of the British population spending more time at home than ever, it’s perhaps no surprise that the nation has been indulging in a hot cuppa or two more than usual. According to Nielsen, we’re drinking 38% more tea than we were before lockdown, meaning that we’re well on course to reach Project Tea UK 2018 report’s projection of a sector value of £439 million by 2022.
Lives have been turned upside down by the Coronavirus pandemic, and with them our habits and priorities have evolved too. Emilie Holmes, founder of Good & Proper Tea, believes that former commuters are indulging in the three-minute brew time which would previously have been pushed aside in the rush to get out of the door.
“Whereas busy commuters may have pushed taste and flavour aside, opting for a speedy dunk-and-dash in the morning, being at home and a slower pace has encouraged us to find pleasure in these little moments in our day,” she says. “Customers are now looking for more than just their morning caffeine hit – they’re after something delicious and are therefore more willing than ever to take the time and pay the premium to ensure the best possible flavour in every cup.”
“Especially now, it is crucial we allow time for self-care, to support our local communities and the environment,” says George Dunkerton, owner of A Little Cup and champion of the social healing properties of tea. “The offering of tea in particular allows for this moment of break, which is embedded in a long history of ritual, respect and care,” he says. “Why is there such a power surge during TV breaks? It’s the nation’s kettles boiling happily away!”
It’s not for nothing that Brits have become known as the world’s most avid tea drinkers, and this reputation has certainly come into its own during the challenging period we’re currently experiencing. “Over the past year we have learnt to never underestimate the impact of a proper brew in testing times,” says Helen Boulter, multi sector sales controller at Taylors of Harrogate.
“However, our role over the last year has gone far beyond making tea. Supporting our suppliers and our communication with consumers have both been particularly important to us, and we have been committed to putting proper smiles on faces, whether that has been through our Social Distancing Teapot video or our Yorkshire Tea Instagram filters and Zoom backgrounds – all of which have resonated with our drinkers in these uncertain times.”
As well as being more mindful of taking “a natural, mindful pause to break up the day,” as Emily suggests, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of what they’re putting into their body.
“Trends in tea are currently being influenced by a shift in consumer mindset rather than flavours,” says Bryan Martins, Clipper marketing and category director at Ecotone UK (formerly Wessanen UK). “As well as health and wellbeing, the pandemic has given customers time to reconnect with nature and consider their consumption habits.
“Demand for Fairtrade and organic tea has soared, with sales for Fairtrade tea up +14%, while organic sales boomed by +43% (Kantar Worldpanel, data to 14th June 2020). Clipper’s own organic, Fairtrade and GMO-free credentials – as well as its unbleached teabags – are bang on trend for today’s more conscientious tea shopper,” says Bryan.
For the fine food consumer, heritage and health are an attractive combination. Morocco-based Sultan Tea has honed its tea-crafting skills over 80 years, allowing its experienced tea-makers to expertly balance health credentials with the delicious taste Sultan-branded teas are synonymous with. “Because of the decades of expertise Sultan Tea has accrued, our reputation in health and wellness teas goes hand in hand with our long-standing Moroccan heritage,” explains Zayd Idrissi, CEO.
“Sourcing only the highest quality tea leaves and ingredients, it’s our unique Moroccan recipes – and having the largest green tea factory in the world – that makes our health teas our most popular blends in the range alongside our signature Moroccan Mint Tea.” In line with the growing consumer interest in all things health and wellness, Sultan Tea’s best-selling product across all platforms is the Pure Verbena tea from its Nature collection.
“We’re seeing huge growth in the wellness sector and our Verbena tea is just one of a wide collection of natural blends that keeps our health-conscious customers returning to Sultan Tea,” he says.
Some ‘wellness’ claims may often be approached with a pinch of salt, but scientific studies have shown that when it comes to tea they’re not unfounded. “Health messages are often dismissed as being unfounded by those outside the tea industry as there are no ‘drug trial’ style tests done on the effects, but in 2017 Dilmah, who are usually ahead of the curve, published their book Tea and Your Health with Dr Tissa Amarakoon,” explains Jane Milton, ambassador for Dilmah Tea.
“It backs their claims with scientific evidence and studies by other academics showing the real benefits of tea in a number of situations,” she says, “and realising that there are an abundance of ‘healthy’ herbal and other teas on the market – many making tentative links to health – Dilmah has developed a new Ayurvedic range, pulling on 3,000 years of Ayurveda in Sri Lanka and a culture of Ayurvedic heath, and working with a physician full time to ensure they always maintain the very highest standards.”
Interestingly, tea offers consumers a familiar way to experiment with wellness trends they might otherwise be nervous to try. Indeed, in the case of CBD – an undeniable trend which has experienced steady growth in the past couple of years – tea is a great ‘gateway’ option. “Body and Mind Botanicals Herbal Cannabis Tea actually outsells CBD oil in terms of units sold by 10x,” says Michael Fitzgerald, co-founder.
With no clear end to the impact of Covid-19 – and the home-working, health-seeking lifestyle changes that incurs – there’s no doubt that tea will more than earn its place on shelves in 2021.
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