Unilever (Lipton) introduced a colorful and innovative home tea brewer in France last week to compete with Nespresso’s Special.T.
The $200 T.O. by Lipton was designed in collaboration with Bodum, integrates a Brita water filter and is manufactured by Krups. It uses newly designed single-serve capsules of premium tea that are sold online in packs of 10 for $4.50 (€3.90).
There are tea kettles on the market licensed to carry the Lipton brand, such as the Ariete cordless, but the T.O. is a brewing system conceived by 5.5 designstudio that adjusts temperature settings and variable steep times essential in brewing specialty teas and tisanes. The tea leaves and tisane inclusions are visible in a unique brewing chamber where the tea is agitated before it is discharged. The capsule then acts as a tea strainer capturing the leaves as the water exits. This brewer can make a cup of tea in 30 seconds.
“The lines of the T.O. tea maker resemble a statuesque pediment with a backdrop for the infusion chamber that forms the nerve center of the device,” according to a post by 5.5 designstudio. “Similar to a traditional glass teapot in which the tea leaves release their flavor, the machine embodies the swirling bubbles and aromas,” according to the designers.
The brewer design team writes that the brewers are manufactured in four metallic colors “to acknowledge to the four main types of tea – white, red, green, and black. This diverse range of colors gives ’T.O.’ a decorative quality ideal for kitchens as well as lounges.”
Lipton has offered tea capsules that are compatible with Nespresso equipment since last Spring. The newly designed T.O. capsules are larger are only sold online. The teas are available in seven flavors including vanilla caramel, green Marrakesh mint, Earl Grey, and blood orange mandarin. The Special.T brewer ($79) costs less than half as much the T.O. It has been marketed in France since 2010. Like the T.O. it uses a specially designed tea capsule, priced similarly to the new Lipton capsules.
In the U.S. Lipton markets its tea in Keurig licensed capsules that are widely available at retail outlets. The company did not say whether it would market the new brewer in North America.
The French newspaper Le Monde, reported that “in France, sales of tea, dominated largely by Lipton and Twinings distribution has stagnated.More and more people prefer upmarket teas. This trend benefits the specialized brands, like Mariage Frères, the Palace of teas, Dammann Frères and Kusmi Tea.”
Lipton first introduced a single-serve machine for food service in 2014 at the London Caffé Culture Show where it was reviewed by Euromonitor analyst Hope Lee.
“Premiumisation in tea has taken off in Western Europe despite the resilience of private label,” writes Lee. “This is very much a manufacturer driven-trend, with brand owners seeking to drive volume and value sales through the introduction of new flavors, tea types and packaging formats…. Single-serve tea capsules and pyramid tea bags with leaf tea appear to be niches with bright prospects,” according to Lee.
Jacinthe Brillet, executive director of T.O. by Lipton, told La Figaro the company anticipates capsule and brewer sales of $130 million (€115 million) annually by 2020. “That seems ambitious given that sales in France of all Lipton products are $125 million (€110 million), according to the report: “To achieve this objective Unilever could also sell its system to restaurants.”
Unilever’s refreshment division, which includes Lipton, reported revenue of $6.2 billion (€5.5 billion) for the first half of the year according to Bloomberg.