Tea Influencers Share Trends and Opportunities for 2018

World Tea News contacted tea industry influencers for their outlook on tea industry trends and opportunities in 2018.

Here we asked:

What is the tea industry’s greatest opportunity in 2018? What trends will emerge in 2018?

2018 tea trends: The trend toward functional ingredients in tea blends is exploding right now. I believe the surge of this wave dovetailed immediately following the spike in green tea, and particularly matcha, a few years ago. This trend won’t be going away anytime soon because the awareness and perception of tea as a healthy beverage is what still drives many new consumers its way. Another significant trend in tea, especially strong in foodservice, is the cold brew phenomenon, which follows right on the heels of the same trend in coffee. Every boutique premium teahouse, and even most major foodservice tea outlets are now offering cold brewed options for iced tea. Its smooth and subtle flavor profile, combined with the ease and consistency in preparation, make cold brew tea a perfect choice for premium restaurants and cafes. This is a trend which is becoming more prevalent and touted in a consumer-ready bottled tea options as well.

Opportunity: We view the most exciting opportunity for tea in the U.S. in 2018 as an integral player in the functional botanicals space. The trend toward simple and natural plant-based diets is driving innovation for new formulations throughout the food and beverage spectrum. Tea (and herbals) will be prevalent in products ranging from culinary ingredients to specialty drinks and menu items, sparking beverages and cocktails. Leveraging plant power, not only when you’re eating your salad, but morning, noon and evening will showcase tea in many new and nontraditional ways. At the same time, the continued premiumization of tea in cafes and restaurants remains a growing and viable opportunity for tea in 2018 as well. 

—Maria Uspenski
Founder and CEO of The Tea Spot, author of Cancer Hates Tea

2018 tea trends: I think we will start to see the use of plant-based proteins being incorporated into functional teas; we will continue to see a deeper and wider selection of functional teas; and the soluble tea market will become a big hit with consumers. On the flavor and blend front, I think culinary-based teas will start to become more popular.

Opportunity: Tea is still a very popular beverage and is growing strong in the US. For 2018, I see matcha and matcha based drinks, on the go quality soluble tea based drinks, kombucha, on the “tap” tea, and functional tea beverages as real growth opportunities for 2018.

—Scott Svihula
Owner of Hula Consulting

2018 tea trends: Herbal blends. Tea as one herbal ingredient in a blend of other herbs with flavor and health benefits.

Opportunity: Tea—camellia sinensis—has untapped resources to be more relevant to lifestyle. We have the history, the storytelling capability and the health science that will all be valuable tools this year.

—Babette Donaldson
President of the International Tea Sipper’s Society, author, tea educator

2018 tea trends: Trends in tea look to follow other trends in foods and in health. Continuing demand for pure and healthier beverages will impact what is required in tea products. One example is the concern in states such as California to regulate the amount of sugar in beverages.

Opportunity: We need to build on the progress of the tea movement, especially in the specialty tea segment. Demand for products that are healthy, enjoyable and convenient continues to drive consumers. We need to create an awareness of how tea fits into those trends, and at the same time create product differentiation which will move more of our offerings away from generic and commodity images.

—Tim Smith
Owner of The Tea Smith

2018 tea trends: I am looking forward to sophisticated tea beverages becoming a more top-shelf offering. I know people are just losing it over cheese tea and milk tea right now, and that’s well and fun. But I’ve been inspired by how restaurants, bars and cafes are increasingly aware of their audiences’ shifting tastes when it comes to drinking habits. Millennials are consuming less alcohol than previous generations. Being sober or taking a booze break is far more socially common and less awkward. Because of this trend—which is part of an increasing awareness of health and habits that support healthy living—tea is in a great position to shine as a go-to ingredient for creative, alcohol-free cocktails. I’ve seen some stunning examples this last year, in both coffee and tea, and definitely want to see that grow!

—Suzette Hammond
Founder of Being Tea, tea trainer and consultant

2018 tea trends: More cold brew iced tea RTD products, endless functional teas aimed at the wellness market, more organics and larger companies chasing specialty tea brands for acquisition.

Opportunity: Roughly half of the American population does not drink tea or least rarely. This is a huge pool of potential customers. Endless sampling of great tea is pinnacle; specifically, we have always noted chai remains the ‘tea beverage bridge’ which attracts and satisfies new tea consumers. If you’re simply promoting tea on its sensory merit, ignoring the wellness benefits, you’re missing a major opportunity; and yes, there are legally sound ways to discuss tea and health with customers.

—Brian Keating
Blend Master & Founder of Sage Group



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