Starbucks Sparkling Tea Test

North American chefs surveyed last December by Nation’s Restaurant News predicted lemonade and specialty teas would be the first and second most important innovations in non-alcoholic beverages for 2015.

Teavana® Sparkling Passion Tango™/mc Tea & Pineapple (CNW Group/Starbucks Coffee Canada)

Teavana® Sparkling Passion Tango™/mc Tea & Pineapple (CNW Group/Starbucks Coffee Canada)

Six months into the year their predictions are holding true with Starbucks test marketing tea-juice blends in Canada and introducing an Iced Mango Black Tea Lemonade in the U.S. Sales of Teavana branded shaken iced teas including sweet tea lemonade, green tea lemonade, peach green tea lemonade and black tea lemonade were up 15% last year.  The green and black tea lemonades contain 120 calories per 16 fl. oz. serving. Teavana sweet tea is made with cane sugar at 100 calories per 16 fl. oz.

Last week Starbucks sparkling tea juices began testing in Toronto and Vancouver Canada. These combine real fruit juice and either green or black teas or green-black mixtures.

“Year after year we are evolving our core coffee and tea platforms to bring the latest trends and elevated taste experiences to our customers across the country,” says Kevin Reid, director, Food & Beverage, Starbucks Canada.  “We’re thrilled that Canadians are among the first in the world to taste our refreshing new handcrafted Teavana® Sparkling Tea Juices.”

The sparkling teas are available in two flavors: Black Tea & Tangerine and Passion Tango Tea & Pineapple. Baristas prepare the blend and carbonate in the cup using the company’s proprietary Fizzio machines.

This is a significant innovation popular in Teavana stores and with the likelihood of expanding to beverage outlets including Jamba Juice (which currently offers Skylar Haley Sparkling Fruit Varietals), and other firms with juice bars. The blends dilute the high-calorie count of fruit juice and are promoted for their health benefits from tea. Carbonation enhances the experience and appeals to diet soda drinkers concerned with artificial sweeteners.

In February the PepsiCo Lipton Tea Partnership began aggressively promoting a line of “lightly carbonated” teas to increase the number of tea occasions for consumers. In a national advertising campaign Lipton offered canned Sparkling Raspberry and Sparkling Peach iced tea along with Lipton’s Sparkling Iced Tea Lemonade and a non-carbonated Half and Half (half tea, half lemonade). Each contains 70 calories in 12 fl. oz.

Lipton grew its tea business by 8% in 2014 to 40% market share. Coca-Cola, which produces Gold Peak and Honest Tea, grew its tea business by 16%, according to a report in Ad Age.

Beverage retailers who install carbonation systems are enthusiastic about consumer response to hand-crafted sodas.

“Customization is a cornerstone of the Starbucks Experience, the Starbucks Fizzio™ machine was built with the capability to adjust the amount of carbonization in beverages. Customers will also be able to add carbonation to existing beverages like Iced Tea and Starbucks Refreshers® beverages for an additional charge of $.50.,” according to Starbucks.

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Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.