British Tea Drinkers Turning Green


Britain’s new appreciation for green and herbal tea has led to “sensational growth” according to market researchers.

Mintel Internationalreports sales of green tea bags have shot up an impressive 83% in past two years while sales of old-fashioned English Breakfast tea have declined. Loose leaf tea sales also dropped slightly.

“Since 2009, the share of ordinary bags as a percentage of all in home tea sales has declined from 73% in 2009 to 70% in 2011,” according to Mintel Senior Food Analyst Alex Beckett. “What is more, the number of Brits using English Breakfast tea in the past 12 months has fallen from 87% in 2010 to 83% in 2011,” writes Beckett.

“While English Breakfast tea is fondly regarded, the expansion of coffee chains and the exotic flavours of fruit, herbal and green teas are encouraging consumers to diversify their consumption habits, prompting fewer cups of standard tea to be drunk,” according to Beckett. “Though the segment continues to play only a niche role in the market, Green tea, like Fruit and Herbal teas, has benefited from positive associations with healthiness. Green tea extracts are increasingly found in cosmetic beauty products, raising the profile of Green tea among women in particular.”

The sales value of tea in the UK jumped by 22% to $1 billion between 2006 and 2011. Sales growth rapidly accelerated to 11.9% in 2009 when the market was valued at $967 million. This was largely fuelled by price inflation, which also remained high in 2010 when retail sales first topped $1.05 billion. The tea market then declined in 2011, when value fell 1%.

Today, tea is drunk by almost nine in ten (87%) British residents.

Sales of ordinary English Breakfast tea still accounts for the biggest share of the tea market(70%). The number of Brits who said they drink English Breakfast fell from 87% to 83% in the past 12 months. Sales are down 1.5% to $734 million.

Meanwhile, other more exotic varieties have shown more positive performances, indeed, between 2009 and 2011, sales of “Fruit and Herbal bags” (valued at £54 million in 2011) increased 10%, while “Specialty bags” ($86 million) and “Decaffeinated bags” ($57 million) grew by 8% and 16% respectively.

“But it was the “Green bags” sector which was the real star performer of the home tea sector,” writes Beckett. “Sales of Green bags grew a sensational 83% between 2009 and 2011, the market almost doubling from $19 million in 2009 to $35 million in 2011. Today, as many as 12% of Brits drink Green tea on a weekly basis,” he says.

Loose Leaf Usage Declines

Sales loose leaf tea dropped by 11% between 2009 and 2011, to record £16 million, accounting for just 2% of overall tea sales. While usage of loose leaf remained flat over the period, with 9% of tea users choosing this format, sales have declined slightly in recent years, with the higher price of loose tea making it more vulnerable to consumer cut backs in the recession.

Surprisingly, the biggest users of loose tea are aged between 25-34 at 12% rather than those aged 65 and over (10%) who were more likely to have grown up using loose leaf rather than tea bags.

“Most people would think over-55s are the biggest users of loose leaf tea, but it is actually those aged 25-34,” writes Beckett. “Tea has an increasingly cool image. With many of the nation’s younger consumers’ having a keener interest in food, as well as quality coffee, this group are more likely to be more open to discovering the benefits of loose leaf, such as the full flavor of the larger leaves,” he adds.

Despite the looming threat of recession tea sales are unlikely to be strongly adversely affected, according to Beckett. Mintel predicts the overall tea market will grow by 8% to $1.12 billion between 2011 and 2016, as global wholesale tea prices rebound, forcing manufacturers to pass on the costs.

Source: Mintel International