Tea. It’s the archetypal British drink, consumed by many of us in large quantities, daily. But it can often prove hard to find a decent cuppa when out and about. Although coffee shops are increasing their presence on our high streets at a staggering rate, tea has traditionally been the drink of choice on these shores, and one that shouldn’t be neglected.

According to the UK Tea Council, around 165 million cups of tea are drunk in the UK per day, compared to 70 million cups of coffee. Speaking at the Caffè Culture exhibition last year, Bill Gorman, chairman, UK Tea Council, told visitors that if their tea offering was not up to their speciality coffee offering, then they were missing a trick. He also said that by improving the quality of their tea offering, there was an opportunity to charge 50p more per cup in some instances around £1.65 per cup, which could make you a profit of £1.63 per cup.

Jacqueline Chapman, customer marketing manager at Twinings, says that to maximise the profit opportunity of tea, bakers need to realise that a simple bag in a cup is no longer enough. "Much like what we have experienced with coffee, consumers are now looking for something different and premium to what they get at home to help justify them parting with their money," she says. "The profitability of tea shouldn’t be underestimated as it accounts for seven out of 10 hot drinks consumed."

She says the speciality tea market has grown in value by 3.9% in the past 12 months, while ’commodity’ or builder’s teas continue to decline. "Sales of infusions are up 7% and green tea 6.2% (Nielsen data 11.06.11) an indication of just how discerning consumers have become in their tea tastes."

In reaction to this trend, Twinings recently introduced smaller pack sizes of its speciality, infusions and green tea ranges. Chapman says this was to make the range more accessible and help operators increase profits, by allowing them to offer their customers a wider range of teas, but reduce stockholding, at no extra cost.

Chapman adds that choice is essential. "The tea purchased can vary depending on the time of day or the customer’s mood," she elaborates. "For instance, where a strong speciality English Breakfast is welcome in the morning, a soothing, light and delicate Earl Grey would be preferred for the afternoon. Camomile and Pure Peppermint are also welcome alternatives for customers seeking a caffeine-free hot beverage." Chapman says bakers could even expand their tea menu, where appropriate, to offer decaffeinated blends or popular infusions such as lemon and ginger.

She adds: "How you market and present your tea is instrumental to how it will perform." As 75% of consumers will generally only ask for products they can see on menus and counters, she says, it is important to promote your teas with high-visibility point-of-sale and branded merchandising.

"Including tempting descriptors and offering tea and food pairings can also help differentiate your tea offering," she adds.

Alex Nazaruk, marketing manager at The London Tea Company (LTC), which supplies teas to the likes of Pret A Manger, says: "English Breakfast and Earl Grey are, and will always be, popular, but what has surprised us is the increasing popularity of herbal infusions. Our biggest sellers are Peppermint and Green Tea."

He reckons the foodservice industry needs to take into account what sells well in the major multiples, as customers will often want to drink the same teas on-the-go. "We have also noticed that retailers are increasingly switching to the corn starch tea bags," says Nazaruk, who adds that the biggest growth of these has been seen with its speciality teas, as they give a better quality loose leaf tea. "Starbucks has just switched to that format, and more and more people are doing the same."

He recommends bakery retail outlets, coffee shops and cafés offer a range of six to eight teas: a couple of standards teas, such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey, a few herbal teas such as peppermint tea and green tea, and maybe a couple of more unusual teas for those customers who want a special tea to accompany the treat they have bought themselves to eat. For example the LTC offers a white tea, elderflower and apricot variety, and vanilla chai, which is popular in Pret, he says.

Costa case study

The Costa store on Queen Street in Oxford sells a wide range of Twinings tea, with tea accounting for an increasing share of its business currently 10% and rising.
Store manager Jenny Coughlan (pictured left) says its most popular tea is Everyday Tea, but it also sells a lot of green tea and peppermint tea.
"We put a lot of effort into our food range, because we want to do everything well. In the same way, we wouldn’t want to serve sub-standard tea as it would ruin what we are trying to achieve as a brand name," explains Coughlan.
"Tea can also drive incremental food sales and, with a broad range of cakes and sweet treats available, tea offers an excellent opportunity to encourage consumers to buy a pot of tea and a cake for some well-earned time out."
She says the store recently added a decaffeinated Traditional English Tea to its offering, which has proved really popular. "Once people see it is available and that it is featured on the board, they tend to buy it."

New products

l Twinings recently introduced three new blends to its expanding foodservice porfolio. The firm says seasonality is a key driver of consumers’ tea choice. It has launched chai tea for the winter months, which features an aromatic scent of cinnamon, ginger and cloves. While for the January detoxers, it has introduced green tea & jasmine, which contains antioxidants, and has a light, floral flavour.
l Lu Lin Tea Cubed has been launched in a bid to give tea leaves more freedom in their bags. The cube-shaped nylon bags, which contain loose tea leaves, stay firm and are considerably larger than conventional tea bags. However, one bag can make up to three pots of tea, claims to firm. The product has even been named as an Innovation of the Week by DataMonitor’s Product Launch Analytics. The tea comes in eight flavours including green tea (Dragonwell), puerh tea, and Fujian oolong tea.
l The Drury Tea & Coffee Company, which recently launched a new range of speciality teas in pyramid-shaped bags, has now expanded the range by adding a new catering pack of 100 in each of the varieties. The firm says the new shape and material teabags allow the tea to brew more efficiently. The 17-strong range includes lemon and ginger infusion and spiced chai with assam.
l Jacksons of Piccadilly claims to have launched the first Fairtrade Infusions range for the foodservice sector. The new teas cranberry, raspberry & blueberry, pure peppermint and pure camomile will be available from mid-February, in cases of 4 x 20 enveloped teabags.

Tea stats

n Number of cups of tea drunk per day: 165 million
Number of cups of coffee drunk per day: 70 million
n Approximately 34% of UK daily fluid consumption is tea 14% of this is out-of-home (that’s just over 21 million cups of tea per day)