JORHAT, Assam, India
India is a hot retail climate for hot tea but ready-to-drink tea is a harder sell although it is expected to one-day to achieve levels of consumption like those in similar climates.
Progress has been halting. Last month, the Indian units of Beverage Partners Worldwide (BPW) a joint venture of Coca-Cola and Nestle announced they are reviewing the nationwide rollout of their ready-to-drink iced-tea brand, Nestea, test-marketed in Mumbai a year ago.
While popular with consumers, a national roll-out announced early this year is on hold according to a Coke-Cola spokesman who told the Economic Times "We plan to apply our learning before we make any further launches of Nestea in the country.
Select cities have demonstrated the potential to generate good sales, but distribution, delivery and most critical – retail refrigeration – have proven to be formidable roadblocks.
At this week’s 100th World Tea Science Congress delegates will get a taste of a non-carbonated, healthy alternative to soda and soda-like tea.
“The tea-based soft drink is the first of its kind,” says Tocklai Experimental Research Station Director Mridul Hazarika. The beverage is being sampled at the centennial celebration of Tocklai in Assam, site of the world’s first tea science research center.
The drink has a shelf life of six months, contains natural flavors and is targeted to the younger generation, says Hazarika. The natural version is sweeter and popular with those who like tropical fruit. A citrus flavored version contains a blend of lemon and other citrus in a refreshing balance. The beverages contain healthful minerals and resemble the taste of Gatorade.®
“Our scientists have already carried out successful experiments in presenting tea as a soft drink, and we have already taken the necessary steps for patenting it,” Hazarika told The Indian Express.
Sessions this week culminate a year-long tribute to India’s premier tea research institute, founded in 1911. Work on developing the drink began a decade ago at the research station which is tasked with establishing non-conventional as well as traditional science research on tea.
The Congress, which has attracted 500 delegates to hear presentations by more than 50 scientists, was opened Tuesday with remarks from former president of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Delegates attending the event traveled from UK, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, USA, Bangladesh, China, Canada, Indonesia, Malawi and South Africa.
World Tea News Editor and Publisher Dan Bolton will present a talk Thursday on retail opportunities in North America.