Why tea? Why now?

June 26 2012

At The Fancy Food Show: Part One

Last week, I was doing market research for one of our favorite food clients at the Fancy Food Show in Washington, DC, which is the definitive annual expo for new food introductions and marketing. My trend nose has been twitching about tea for quite some time, and the show proved that my sense of what’s coming in the market is correct.

There were an abundance of tea companies, big and small, artisan and mass-market, and it seemed that there were more tea than coffee companies at the show. The tea trend appears to be more far-reaching than ever. Every time I pick up a magazine, there is an article about the health of benefits of tea, whether it’s the anti-oxidants of green tea or the theanine in black tea (good for sharpening your brain).

The show featured some lovely fledgling brands, including organic Octavia Tea: Exquisite Teas & Herbs, whose marketing is focused on the healing properties of black, green and white tea, and Hale Tea Company, whose tagline reads: “Infusing the luxury and health benefits of gourmet loose tea into every day life.” In an interesting contemporary twist from the ultimate tea drinkers, English organic and fair trade Clipper Teas England is a supermarket brand looking to establish market dominance in the US market. In a side note, Britain is in the news here in the USA because of the Olympics, and British design and products (including tea, good for the Clipper folks) are being promoted everywhere. You can’t get away from the Union Jack.

In the mean time, talk about synchronicity. Only three days after the show, Starbucks announced that they’re opening their first Tazo teashop in their native Seattle. Starbucks was way ahead of the curve when it purchased the award-winning Tazo in 1999 from veteran tea entrepreneur Steve Smith. For many years, Starbucks was one of the only companies in the mainstream market to offer artisan teas, and their choice of Tazo, which had won many awards for its packaging, offered robust flavors that aligned with Starbucks’ high-end coffees. This is another way to understand how branding works. Starbucks didn’t pick teas with an indifferent flavor profile. They made a smart move in selecting a tea company that married well with their own brand.

It’s no news to say that the tea trend is only beginning. We are going to see more and more emphasis on tea, the tea house experience, and tea’s health benefits. Happy drinking!


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