Chilled tea is getting hotter

by Donna Berry
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The Jimmy Buffet's Island Tea line combines tea with fruit juice and natural tropical flavors.

Tea innovations abound

The emergence of new categories of tea products, including tea-infused waters, tea energy drinks, and even tea-based cookies and ice cream continue to drive interest in tea. New versions of tea-infused alcoholic and malt beverage specialties, such as hard tea, have opened an entirely new, young market, Mr. Goggi said.

“The amount of space supermarkets devote to tea has increased dramatically; tea-based beverages are moving beyond the traditional coffee and tea aisle and can be spotted throughout the whole supermarket,” he said. “Significant shelf space is now devoted to R.-T.-D. teas in the soft drink, water and functional beverage aisle, as well as the juice aisle, where tea is added to products as a beneficial ingredient. Tea is also increasingly found in the dairy case, in bottles, paperboard half-gallon packages and plastic gallon jugs.”

Today’s consumers are taking more control of what they eat and drink. Within beverages, they are looking for simplicity and authenticity, and R.-T.-D. tea may deliver on that, said Julia Balakrishnan, marketing manager, Tradewinds, Stamford, Conn. Tradewinds’ growth primarily has been driven by its signature slow-brewed line of teas.

“Since the brand launched in the early ‘90s, we have been committed to providing consumers with a high-quality, real-brewed tea, made with premium tea leaves and real sugar,” Ms. Balakrishnan said. “We recently re-launched our slow brewed teas in convenient, 18.5-oz single-serve bottles. This has expanded our distribution footprint. Additionally, our latest product introductions, unsweetened teas with flavor and Jimmy Buffett’s Island Tea, have supported brand growth.”

The majority of unsweetened teas in the market today are unflavored.

“We know there are consumers out there who are seeking the benefits of real brewed, unsweetened tea, however aren’t willing to sacrifice flavor,” she said. “Our new teas were developed specially for them, with just the right amount of natural flavor, zero calories and no added sugar or sweetener.”

The three flavors are: lemon, peach and raspberry.

The Jimmy Buffett’s Island Tea line combines tea with fruit juice and natural tropical flavors. It gets additional sweetness from a touch of sugar and stevia extract. The five tea flavors are paradise punch hibiscus, peach mango black, pineapple coconut white, strawberry lime black and tropical citrus green.

In 2010, Argo Tea Inc., Chicago, launched its first R.-T.-D. line that is now sold in more than 20,000 U.S. retail outlets, making it one of the largest independent bottled tea brands. The company prides itself on sourcing handpicked loose-leaf teas from around the world and communicates this to its customers.

Jade Monk offers an R.-T.-D. line of high-pressure processed cold-brewed matcha tea beverages.

“The R.-T.-D. tea segment continues to grow as consumers demand healthy, great-tasting beverages that are convenient and perfect for on the go,” said Arsen Avakian, founder and c.e.o. of Argo Tea. “We’re committed to innovation, setting trends and addressing consumer needs. This includes the recent introduction of our sweetened and unsweetened products, our new Teappuccino tea-based dairy beverages and a line of vegan beverages coming soon.”

The Teappuccino fuses brewed tea with protein-packed milk and real fruits, flowers, spices and herbs. The shelf-stable line comes in three varieties: chai, earl grey vanilla crème and green tea strawberry crème.

“The Teappuccino line came about in our cafe where they are top sellers,” Mr. Avakian said. “They’ve had over 10 years of consumer testing and flavor finessing, and now we’re bottling them for on the go.”

Hain Celestial Group, Lake Success, N.Y., has introduced two new lines of R.-T.-D. tea this year. The Celestial Organics Kombucha line features flavors such as berry guava, coconut lime hibiscus and tropical green.

Celestial Lattes provide barista-quality beverages brimming with the goodness of real brewed tea. Made with 2% milk and sweetened with pure cane sugar, the flavors are described as being inspired by the “secret menus” at the world’s best coffeehouses. For example, Dirty Chai is masala chai spiked with bold espresso and The Godfather is masala chai with bold espresso and rich cocoa.

This past summer, Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass., entered the tea business with two varieties that combine its famous cranberry juice with black tea. There’s the original cranberry and a white cranberry peach.

Jade Monk L.L.C., Austin, Texas, offers a R.-T.-D. line of high-pressure-processed cold-brewed matcha tea beverages. A single serving delivers the antioxidant equivalent of more than 10 cups of steeped green tea. There are sweetened and unsweetened offerings, as well as a mint and a special cleanse formulation.

San Francisco-based DeNovo Beverage Co. developed Yoot Tea, an artisan tea line made with organic ingredients for well-being. Minimally sweetened, the teas contain herbs, spices and medicinal roots to detoxify the body, enhance mental alertness, lower chronic stress levels and improve overall body functions.

On the food service side of iced tea, S&D Coffee Inc., Concord, N.C., offers the Teafinity Brewmaster system. The on-demand beverage dispenser combines liquid tea concentrate made from brewed tea leaves with fresh filtered water. Most recently the company upgraded the system to allow mixing with carbonated water for a sparkling tea beverage.

“Consumers’ growing awareness of general health and wellness has been an important factor in contributing to tea’s popularity,” Mr. Goggi said. “Many consumers understand the functional health benefits of tea and are reaching for tea as a healthier alternative to sugar-laden beverages. The convergence of the health benefits with the convenience, availability and versatility of tea has helped create a new consumer experience, all while keeping the product offerings fresh and unique. These trends are positively effecting the industry as they serve to make tea more readily available, convenient and interesting to millions of potential consumers.”

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