By Shabnam Weber, The Tea and Herbal Association of Canada
The Canadian market where I’m based – and, quite frankly, the global market – is shifting rapidly. Historically, industries have always adapted to changing demographics and the new values they bring with them. We are, however, in a new paradigm that is making adaptation far more challenging than ever before. As industries, we are shifting not only to the changing demographic by nature, but the speed at which values and demands are being shaped by technology.
The Tea Industry Must Change
Think about this: Ten years ago, smartphones as we know them didn’t exist. Thirty years ago, nobody owned a home computer. And yet, living without either today, is unthinkable. Add to that the Internet and the world is changing at a faster pace than it has ever before. With that, we too must change.
Canada is a land of stability and consistency. In terms of tea, our imports and consumption have been steady and on a slight increase for the past decade. But the opportunity to grow the market is ripe with a new generation that’s influenced by technology to a far greater extent than we’ve ever seen before. If we look at what this generation values and what they want, we can see that our world of tea can check off all the boxes.
For this new generation, customization and diversity are key. They have always ordered their music and coffee using their phones, so creating a platform through which you can sell to them must include technology. Do not tell them because they won’t read it! Show them. Do that through pictures and images using the technology that is second nature to them. They are driven by the latest trend and will immediately share it on their connected social networks. They are the perfect vessel to spread the tea industry’s message, so long as it speaks to them. For this generation, there is no such thing as “before the internet” – it’s a concept they simply do not understand. Let that sink in for a moment.
Generation Z Canadians have been raised in a multi-cultural world; they are the most ethnically diverse cohort in Canadian history. And for that reason, their identification with the rest of the world is strong. The desire to be a part of the world beyond their borders is fundamental – and connecting them with producers and tea makers around the world is the ideal avenue.
Canadians have shifted from mindful food and beverage consumption to virtuous ones. Millennials and now Generation Z are pushing us from being products of truth to products that generate trust. These are fundamental questions we’ll need to address for these new consumers: What is our global footprint, how much waste do we produce, what are we doing to remain sustainable? Are we products with a purpose?
Shift with the Times
As our market shifts at lightning speed, it’s critical for us in the tea industry to shift along with it. Perhaps that’s something that doesn’t come naturally to an industry as old as ours. But by paying attention, adapting and being open to the opportunity, we are aligned to speak loudly to the next generation of consumers – if we do it properly.
Shabnam Weber is the president of The Tea and Herbal Association of Canada, the leading authority and industry voice on all things tea in Canada, representing members from bush to cup. The association provides proactive leadership in the areas of advocacy, generic promotion, education and information in order to ensure the long-term viability of the tea industry. It serves as a source of information and research about tea, and it offers a Tea Sommelier Certification program in Canada.
World Tea Virtual Summit, Oct. 12-14, 2020
Hear more from Shabnam Weber, who will speak at the upcoming World Tea Virtual Summit, Oct. 12-14, 2020. The digital event will feature tea industry leaders who’ll explore the global state of tea, opportunities and challenges, trends, and how to stay relevant in 2020 in both product development and messaging, among other topics. Registration for the digital event, along with the full conference program, will be available in early September at WorldTeaExpo.com/VirtualSummit.