High Time For Tea


Innovative varieties, health benefits warm consumers to tea

Morning, noon or night, hot or cold, more consumers are making time for tea. Thanks in part to news about myriad health benefits from all varieties of teas – black, oolong, green, white and red – consumers are stepping up their sipping. The additional attention has led to clever innovation in the category, which includes whole leaf, bagged and ready-to-drink teas.
This year’s introductions have departed from the traditional and brought new varieties, exotic flavors and outside-the-bag shapes to the category. While green captured the health-conscious consumer’s focus for a time, manufacturers launched red, white and even blue varieties of tea this year. Trendy flavors, such as pomegranate, made their way into both bag and RTD options. This year also saw the mainstream launch by Lipton of the pyramid-shaped tea bag, which is one of many unique shapes pioneered by smaller tea companies.
Green’s day over?
Attention had been focused on green tea, which has been credited in studies for protecting against cancer, heart disease and arthritis. The headlines have created strong demand for green tea and attracted iconic brands to the trend. Lipton and Snapple, Rye Brook, N.Y., both launched regular and diet green tea lines this year. Last spring, Arizona Beverages, Lake Success, N.Y., introduced Lite Green Tea and Lemonade, Red Apple and Extra Sweet green teas in its signature 23.5-ounce cans.
Tea bags/loose sales by brand
LIPTON $169,469,300 -4.3% 24.6
BIGELOW $69,345,570 2.0% 10.1
PRIVATE LABEL $46,826,680 -5.7% 6.8
CELESTIAL SEASONINGS $43,843,330 -8.0% 6.4
TWININGS $38,868,370 3.6% 5.6
LUZIANNE $34,756,300 -1.0% 5.0
TETLEY $28,306,790 -2.3% 4.1
STASH $21,506,070 1.4% 3.1
SALADA $19,013,750 -14.0% 2.8
LIPTON COLD BREW $17,897,990 -1.6% 2.6
CATEGORY TOTAL $688,468,300 -3.6% 100.0
Source: Information Resources Inc. Total food, drug and mass merchandise, excluding Wal-Mart for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2006.
The newest launch to grab the spotlight was the first product from Beverage Partners Worldwide. The company, which is a partnership between Coca-Cola and Nestlé, created Enviga, a calorie-burning beverage said to get its benefits from green tea. The debut product from the joint venture has more EGCG than any other RTD tea and only five calories per 12-ounce serving.
Despite this healthy buzz, companies have not left advancement to green tea, but have added new red, white and even blue teas this year. Lipton and Snapple both released white RTD lines this year and a blue tea was launched by New Leaf, which took the name from the hue of dried oolong leaves.
“Many consumers make their single-serve beverage decisions at the cooler door,” says Eric Skae, founder and developer of New Leaf Beverages from Skae Beverage International, Orangeburg, N.Y. “Blue tea is something that is different, that people have not seen before.” New Leaf also changed its entire identity this month with a new label and logo.
Red tea, or rooibos, is an herbal variety originating in Africa, and hit shelves in RTD form by 10° South and Snapple. Snapple’s Red Tea line is naturally caffeine-free with antioxidants and vitamin C. As part of the company’s “good for you” platform, which includes its RTD green and white teas, Snapple’s red teas are available in Acai Mixed Berry, Peach Pomegranate and Mandarin Tangerine flavors.
In bagged teas, The Republic of Tea, Novato, Calif., introduced its Be Well line of red teas, which are individually formulated blends for various health benefits.
“Last year we launched our Be Well Red Teas, which were a major call-out to the healthy benefits of tea,” explains Marideth Post, “minister of enlightenment” for Republic of Tea. “Each blend addresses unique health needs. One is a sleep aid, another for clear skin.”
The nine teas in the Be Well line each have an individual blend and clever name, such as Get A Grip for PMS and menopause that features “hormone balancing herbs.” Republic of Tea continued feminine appeal with the January launch of RTD nutritional iced tea for women. The company collaborated with Luna, better known for nutrition bars for women, for an all-natural line of iced teas that address women’s nutritional needs.
“The Luna teas have folic acid, calcium, vitamin D and are lightly sweetened with a little evaporated organic cane juice, so they’re indulgent but still have a number of the daily nutritional requirements,” Post says.
The line offers the original flavors of Ginger Currant Black Tea, Lemon Blueberry Decaf Black Tea, Kiwi Strawberry Green Tea, Mandarin Orange White Tea, and naturally caffeine-free Cherry Vanilla Red Tea. The teas feature the color scheme and graphics of Luna. As part of the collaboration, Luna launched a line of tea cakes made with Republic of Tea’s blends.
Viva varie-tea
Fruit flavors have long been blended with tea, but variety seekers are looking for something beyond lemon or raspberry. Companies are now incorporating trendy flavors, especially those with functional benefits. Pom Wonderful’s Pom Tea combined the healthy buzz on pomegranate juice with tea for a brand that was the No. 4 seller in refrigerated teas in its premier year.
Also growing in 2006 was Honest Tea, Bethesda, Md., which is just part of a 40 percent growth in tea as reported by the company’s co-founder and “TeaEO,” Seth Goldman. The company’s organic products feature health benefits and enjoyed expanded distribution. Combining well-known antioxidant sources, Honest Tea’s latest launch was the low-calorie Pomegranate White Tea with Acai.
“Our brands are part of a move away from carbonated and/or sweetened products,” Goldman says. “People who are choosing to go organic for health reasons are increasingly seeing the connection between tea and health, which is what Coca-Cola did with Enviga – taking the health benefits. But our products aren’t carbonated, green tea energy drinks; they’re real brewed tea.”
In fact, the health benefits of tea and those of pomegranate have helped the popularity of pomegranate-flavored tea varieties.
“It’s interesting, originally [Republic of Tea’s] Ginger Peach Black Tea was the most popular tea in the brand since 1992,” Post explains. “Pomegranate Green Tea displaced it this year. The news and pop culture around pomegranate has helped create this buzz and consumers like the taste, which is good hot or cold. It’s one I see continuing.”
More trendy flavors also are making appearances in bagged teas from Celestial Seasonings. The Boulder, Colo.-based company recently launched Goji Berry Pomegranate Green Tea, Tropical Acai Berry Green Tea, Acai Mango Zinger and Antioxidant Plum White Tea to its extensive line of teas. The company also launched a line of Organic Teas in six varieties, which include Black as well as Sweet Clementine Chamomile flavor.
With health in mind, tea and juice hybrids have hit shelves this year. Arizona introduced Pomegranate, Apple and White Grape green teas with 50 percent tea and 50 percent juice. Juice company Old Orchard Brands, Sparta, Mich., also introduced a line of four RTD teas with juice, including Red Tea with European Black Currant. Combining two refreshing favorites, Sweet Leaf Tea, Austin, Texas, introduced organic Lemonade Tea last fall. The product mixes black tea with lemonade and joins the company’s lineup of nine tea flavors. It also recently rolled out four-packs of its most popular offerings.
Family-owned R.C. Bigelow Tea Inc. has one of the most popular specialty bagged tea flavors with its Constant Comment, but the Fairfield, Conn.-based company also continues to develop new flavors.
“The interesting thing is that the consumer likes variety and we’re clearly recognizing it,” explains Cindi Bigelow, co-president of the No. 2 selling bagged tea in the United States. “Our new flavors don’t take away from the traditional lines but new flavor introductions add to the variety, including Blueberry Green, Chai Green and White Tea with Tangerine. In addition to our Harvest line with Pumpkin Spice black tea and an herbal Apple Cider tea and Holiday line with Ginger Snappish Herb Tea and Eggnogg’n Tea. We’re launching a good 10 new teas per year.”
Many shapes of tea
The standard bag has outgrown some consumers’ gourmet tastes as companies change the shape of tea bags for better taste. According to the manufacturers, shapely bags allow the tea and its flavors to better unfurl and steep. New materials also are the rage with nylon, mesh and fiber bags adding to the upscale appeal.
Revolution Tea, Phoenix, Ariz., encourages trial with its new single-serve T-Box, six-pack T-Mini tin, and five pack samplers this year. The T-Box is a single-serve, full-leaf tea bag available in five varieties in specialty retail stores. For tea lovers on the go, Revolution Tea launched the T-Mini, a compact tin with six flow-through infuser tea bags in the company’s six most popular blends, including Earl Grey Lavender, Tropical Green and White Pear. Also new are five varieties of five pack samplers, which “are great for first-time tea drinkers who aren’t really sure what kind of tea they like best,” says Jeff Irish, creative director of Revolution tea.
Canned and bottled tea sales by brand
ARIZONA $265,114,000 23.3% 27.9
LIPTON $162,554,900 193.9% 17.1
SNAPPLE $111,799,000 14.1% 11.8
DIET SNAPPLE $84,527,000 -3.8% 8.9
LIPTON BRISK $82,757,750 5.9% 8.7
LIPTON ICED TEA $53,199,970 27.1% 5.6
NESTEA $46,576,750 225.3% 4.9
PRIVATE LABEL $30,378,470 10.1% 3.2
NESTEA COOL $17,870,090 -67.8% 1.9
SOBE $14,287,110 -3.9% 1.5
CATEGORY TOTAL $950,411,200 26.6% 100.0
Source: Information Resources Inc. Total food, drug and mass merchandise, excluding Wal-Mart for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2006.
The T-Mini brings the convenience factor to the tea category, Irish says. “Shouldn’t everyone be able to enjoy a cup of tea anywhere, anytime?” he asks. “At Revolution, we’re working to help make tea more convenient. The T-Mini was designed for people on the go. It’s easy to travel with, and allows consumers to make tea an everyday indulgence.”
Available on the specialty circuit by Bigelow’s Novus brands and others for some time, the pyramid tea bag was mainstreamed by Lipton last fall. The Unilever-owned brand line has gossamer tea bags filled with long-leaf tea and pieces of fruit and herbs. The debut varieties include Vanilla Caramel Truffle, Island Mango and Bavarian Wild Berry mixed teas in addition to white, black, green and red varieties.
Stepping outside standard options, Chicago-based company Ineeka Inc. created the Brew Tache for its unique tea line. The Brew Tache is a cube-shaped bag with side arms that expand to hook over the side of a cup. This provides the leaves with ample space to unfurl without having to be strained out. The company’s Ineeka and Treleela brands are available in sleek canisters at Whole Foods, Wild Oats and other specialty retailers
Yerba Mate
A twist on herbal teas and beneficial rainforest plants, yerba mate is forging its way into the American marketplace. Rainforest-native yerba mate is an herbal plant that brews similar tea but with quite a nutritional punch. It has more antioxidants than green tea and similar amounts of caffeine to coffee and energy drinks. Mighty Leaf Tea Co., San Rafael, Calif., launched a Rainforest Mate with mate, cloves, rosehips and apple pieces last spring. California’s Guayaki offers a line of six Yerba Mate Tea Bag blends, a new line of bottled Organic Yerba Mate drinks, two varieties of Mate Latte concentrates and loose traditional yerba mate and accessories. New York’s ABF Beverages released its line of Herbal Mist Yerba Mate iced tea. The 16-ounce “natural stimulant” beverages are sweetened with pure cane sugar and available in six flavors. For those looking ahead, Seth Goldman, co-founder and “TeaEO” of Honest Tea, hints at a Yerba Mate product in the works from his brand.