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Flavored teas-the next growth segment?

Given time, will flavored teas contribute heavily to the overall sales volume of specialty teas much as flavored coffees do to specialty coffees? I think they will.

In the 70's, when flavored teas were first becoming available, the choices were primarily apricot, black currant, peach and raspberry. The flavor range was limited and most of the tea arrived from Europe already flavored. At that time, only a few "tea people" gave tis market segment any chance of success. Bill MacMelville of Formost Friedman in New York was one of these people.

"I started in the tea business in 1938. I became aware of flavored teas, saw the potential for growth and knew the negative reaction it would experience from tea experts who said flavored teas would never amount to anything. I thought differently. The European flavored tea market was growing; there was no reason that it wouldn't do the same here. Flavored tea especially appeals to younger drinkers because it's new and they want to create their own history."

This sounds to me like history repeating itself. In the 80's, flavored coffees began to appear with increasing regularity and specialty coffee experts said they'd never last. Who would want a flavored coffee? It turns out that many people are willing to buy flavored coffees and as a segment, it has not only grown, it has flourished.

Mike Spillane, owner of The G.S. Haly Co., tea import brokers/wholesalers in Redwood City, CA, told me that "Although I sell more straight teas than flavored, flavored teas do have a niche. Discounting Earl Grey, 25%-30% of my sales are in flavored."

Spillane's big sellers in flavored teas are apricot, peach and black currant but "in the past year or two, tropical teas have surged right to the top. I don't know if it is a fad or what but passion fruit, mango and papaya have sold better than the other flavored black teas."

Of the tropical tea flavors, passion fruit is a bigger sellr than any of the oter teas in this category, according to Elaine Lederman, manager of customer service & sales for G. Melchers & Co., a flavor manufacturer of gourmet liquid flavorings for coffee and tea located in San Francisco, CA.

Lederman also thinks that it is only a matter of time before you begin to see teas flavored similarly to coffee. "Just as consumers were educated over time to try fruit flavored coffees such as raspberry or orange, it will take time for them to become used to the idea of a vanilla or Irish cream tea.

Flavored teas are not to be confused with scented spiced, or herbal teas. Flavored teas usually begin with a black tea that is then sprayed with a liquid flavor essence. Scented teas, such as Jasmine are scented with flowers. Spiced teas have powdered cinnamon or cloves, and/or orange and lemon peel. Herbal teas are really an "herbal beverage" as they are blended from herbs and do not even contain tea. They are perceived as a "tea" because they are prepared by infusion (steeped in water to extract the soluble ingredients).

Another indication of the growth of flavored and herbal teas, besides increased consumer sales, is their entrance into foodservice. The goliath of all herbal tea companies, Celestial Seasonings, is packing its Iced Delight herbal tea in bulk for foodservice. Equipment manufacturers are also responding to teas potential growth in food service. Bunn has a tea brewer that makes it easy to serve freshly brewed tea in large amounts and even recommends loose tea because of its better infusion.

What's the next step for specialty coffee and tea retailers? If you flavor your coffees, consider flavoring your tea. Mike Spillane offers a few guidelines:

1. Use a good tea as a base. Better tea has a longer shelf life--if you use a poor quality tea, when the flavor of the oil begins to dissipate, the taste of the tea is nothing. With better teas, the flavor stays. (Most flavored teas have a shelf life of 4 - 6 months.)

2. Decorate the tea. When making flavored teas, add color and decoration. A straight flavored black tea is not as attractive as a flavored black tea with flower petals.

3. Display the tea. If you decorate the tea, display it in a glass jar so customers can see how attractive it is.

4. Use an appropriate base tea for the flavor. Adjust the taste of the base tea to the taste of the flavoring that is to be applied. A mild fl vor needs a milder tea as a base.

5. Take your time when flavoring. Don't rush the job. Measure out the flavoring and tea, then spray 100% of the flavoring on 50% of the tea. Let it sit a day or two, blend in the other 50% of the tea and let it sit another day or two. The dry tea will mop up the excess moisture of the wet tea.

6. Merchandise your product. Tea has a very good profit margin. Use some of this money to promote the product and educate the consumer. You'll be rewarded with repeat business.

Strive for taste and quality. A good piece of advice to keep in mind is something I learned when speaking with Barry Cooper, vice president of Research & Development for Celestial Seasonings. Everyone knows that they are the leader in herbal teas, but they also sell black tea. Celestial Seasonings' black tea line is the only organically grown tea marketed in the United States on a national basis and certified organic by an international inspection agency.

Cooper uses the "wow" factor to rate his black teas. I asked for an explanation and he told me that "you get one opportunity to capture them (the consumer). They have to taste your product and go 'wow, that's really something'. Our tea has to be the finest quality that is possible to find. We're not interested in being a look alike, we're interested in being the best available."

I think that flavored teas will continue to grow as a segment and so do many industry specialists. The growth is dependent on a quality product that passes the "wow" test and is merchandised properly to educated consumers. This growth will not come overnight but it will come.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Sturdivant, Shea
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Previous Article:Tea gets ready to make (yet another) comeback.
Next Article:Britain in the mood for tea.

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