Tea is Trending Like Never Before

In most food and beverage categories, consumers are continuing to shift towards products that offer greater health benefits than their alternative options. Further, they are moving away from sugar and, in many instances (save for keto dieters), added fat. For these reasons, tea brands have been able to sway some coffee lovers to their side.

Tea, being milder and less bitter in flavor than coffee, is generally much easier to drink without flavored syrups or creamers. Nearly two-thirds of coffee drinkers take their brew in some way other than black, and their options tend to be limited for those who are health-conscious. Considering that tea typically doesn’t require this kind of doctoring and offers a myriad of benefits in addition to caffeine, it’s easy to see why it is looking increasingly attractive to some.

Several strong tea trends have seen fantastic momentum over the last few years. Kombucha obviously comes to mind, but matcha and yerba mate have also received serious new interest from shoppers. Matcha is in a particularly unique position, because its function is no longer limited to beverages; the processed green tea powder has been showing up in all sorts of unexpected places, from cakes to noodle dishes. There are even entire cafes dedicated to the ingredient. 

Yerba mate, while newer and somewhat less familiar to consumers, is still at the top of the list of 2020 beverage trends. In October 2019, yerba mate startup Clean Cause managed to raise a whopping $7 million in Series A funding from investors. According to TrendHunter, yerba mate is poised for success because of a few key factors. Namely, that North American consumers have a desire to “experiment with wellness solutions from around the world”. American consumers largely want to diversify their palates, and traditional South American products are generating interest.

Following the 2019 Summer Fancy Food Show, The Washington Post suggested that innovations in tea offered creative solutions for both consumers of alcohol and non-drinkers alike. Companies like Owl’s Brew are selling hard malt teas (less like kombucha, more like seltzer), while sparkling teas like TÖST appeal to those who are “sober-curious” – people who enjoy the social aspect of drinking culture, but would rather opt out of the alcohol itself (and, most likely, are bored by plain old water).

Companies like Ito En are even combining tea with energy drinks, opening up further opportunities to draw in coffee drinkers. Low in sugar and high in beneficial compounds like antioxidants, these types of energy shots appeal to a market that may be turned off by sweet, chemical-heavy alternatives.

Tea has been around for centuries, yet we’ve never seen innovation in packaged teas like we are today. As a highly adaptable category, it will be very interesting to watch how brands are experimenting with new applications and extensions of the ancient ingredient.

We have called out this trend on Instagram, where we are running a new series called #TrendTuesday. Follow Works Design Group’s account for weekly insights for a variety of categories from across the grocery store.

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