Annual Coffee Survey Reveals Insights About Retailing Tea

Tea consumption among American adults dipped to 48 percent in January, falling two points since last year according to a long-running national survey of drinking trends.

Coffee drinkers in the U.S. reversed a six-year decline as past-day consumption rose to 64 percent among adults, according to the National Coffee Association (NCA). The annual survey, conducted since 1950, revealed a 4 percent increase to 79 percent of coffee drinkers who prepare their coffee at home. The study showed a decline in away-from-home coffee consumption which dropped from 40 percent to 36 percent.

In 2016 the survey of 3,000 adults, selected to be representative of the population as a whole, revealed that 44 percent of American adults drank tea the past day. That number has increased since 2010 when 40 percent of respondents reported drinking tea the previous day. In January 2017 that number climbed to 50 percent. Results of the National Coffee Drinking Trends (NCDT) survey, compiled primarily for the coffee industry, is relevant for cafés, coffee shops and wholesalers that carry tea. The survey has expanded to include several questions illuminating trends on which teas are consumed and at what time of day.

Among past-day beverages consumed, regular black tea (typically iced) ranked first with 30 percent of respondents reporting they enjoyed a cup the previous day. The category declined 2 percent compared to last year’s results but remains ahead of the 27 percent who reported drinking black tea in 2016. Green tea followed at 14 percent, but here the total declined below that recorded in 2016. Last year 17 percent of adults reported drinking green tea the previous day. In 2016 the tally was 15 percent. The decline in green tea was the most significant decline among all tea categories which includes herbals, chai, tea latte, bubble tea, matcha, sparkling tea, and kombucha.

Every single category recorded slight declines except kombucha which remained at 2 percent. Herbals were consumed by 8 percent of adults, tea lattes by 7 percent followed by chai at 6 percent of adults. The tally for bubble tea, matcha, and sparkling teas was 1 percent of past day tea drinkers, concentrated largely among the young.

Unflavored bottled water, by comparison, was consumed by 56 percent of adults (up from 41 percent in 2010) to a total greater than half the population. Consumption of tap water (49 percent) has remained steady. Only 35 percent of respondents consumed a soft drink the previous day, a total that has declined for a dozen years with a 22 percent drop since 2010. Those consuming juice (27 percent) are also in decline since 2010 when the report showed 37 of American adults had consumed juice the previous day.

One question of interest to retailers is the time of day most popular for drinking tea. Among those drinking tea the previous day, 20 percent preferred lunchtime followed by 18 percent who drank their tea in the afternoon. Consumption of regular tea peaked at lunch (13 percent), but green tea drinkers showed no change, with 4 percent reporting they drank tea at breakfast, 4 percent in the morning, 4 percent at lunch, and 4 percent in the afternoon. Dinner and evening dayparts were both 3 percent.

In contrast, black tea drinkers preferred breakfast (7 percent) over morning (6 percent) and dinner (11 percent) over evening tea (8 percent).

The northeastern states remain the most tea friendly followed by the south, but green tea has the most fans in the Western states. Males trail female tea drinkers in every category except tea lattes which are enjoyed mainly by those 18-39 years of age. Women are more likely to drink black tea than men, but among green tea drinkers, there is no difference. Asian-Americans drink more than twice the green tea and chai consumed by Caucasian, African-American, and Hispanic-American tea drinkers.

During the organization’s annual conference last week NCA President and CEO Bill Murray said, “Younger consumers appear to be leading the charge” when it comes to increased consumption. Murry explained that America’s growing taste for gourmet varieties “is driving a wider trend toward specialty beverages.”

Gourmet coffee now makes up more than half the coffee segment with only 31 percent of past-day coffee drinkers choosing traditional brewed coffee, according to market consultant Michael Edwards with DIG Insights.

Source: National Coffee Association