Tea Market Continues to Thrive Despite Tough Economy

The U.S. market for tea sold at retail was expected to reach $6.5 billion in 2011, up 5.2% over 2010, according to "Tea and Ready-​to-​Drink Tea in the U.S.," a recent report from market research firm Packaged Facts. 

Although supermarkets remain the top venue for leaf tea and ready-​to-​drink tea, tea sales have also been strong in alternative outlets such as convenience stores and natural food supermarkets. At natural food stores, the canned and bottle tea classification is posting double-​digit growth.

According to David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts, black tea remains the most popular type, but green tea is now firmly ensconced in second place, with herbal tea, fruit/​spice-​flavored tea, and decaf tea following, in that order. Also attracting consumer interest are more specialized types of tea including chai tea and white tea–both at least sampled by 10% of tea drinkers, according to Packaged Facts survey data–along with oolong, rooibos, and mate.

"Tea and Ready-​to-​Drink Tea in the U.S." also reports that sales of tea certified by Fair Trade USA increased 38% in the past year. Currently, over 90 tea companies offer Fair Trade certified products. Honest Tea, now wholly owned by Coca-​Cola, announced in October 2010 that it was converting its entire line of 28 tea varieties to Fair Trade certification. Such certification seems to be ringing at the cash register, with Fair Trade Certified products growing by 24% in 2010, according to SPINSscan sales data.

In addition, the tea industry has followed coffee's lead into a lucrative new sales channel–Green Mountain Coffee Roaster's (GMCR) Keurig single-​cup brewing system. Celestial Seasonings in particular has already profited from the partnership, taking the lead among K‑Cup tea brands and giving it exposure outside of the hot tea season with its Brew Over Ice offering. Another important new entrant in the K‑Cup market is Starbuck's Tazo, which signed a partnership with GMCR in March 2011.

[Source:  "Tea and Ready-​to-​Drink Tea in the U.S."  Packaged Facts.  2 Dec. 2011.  Web.  5 Jan. 2012.]