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Foodservice and tea sales: 80's growth must be maintained in 90's.

Foodservice and tea sales: 80's growth must be maintained in 90's

Who was it that said: "The only constant in this world is change"? How true?

Your Foodservice Committee has seen ample evidence of that truth in this decade of the 1980s. We have done our small part to make change, positive change, happen. It is a new part we have played and, in the few short years we have played it, we can truthfully say that the tea industry has gained.

The decade did not open on a strong note. Quite the opposite. During the first five years, we saw overall tea consumption in America slip by 6/10th of a percent. We were caught in a down market, and we knew it.

Yet there was change that gave us hope in foodservice. Here we suddenly saw a surge. By 1985, tea consumptions had grown by 31 percent. Here was positive change. Here was opportunity.

It was this opportunity that our association recognized and that your Foodservice Committee acted on. We dedicated ourselves to build on this beginning, to exploit and expand this opening. We entered a new, vigorous stage of committee efforts.

Step by step, year by year, your Foodservice Committee has used the resources available to it for the greatest effect. Each year, we have done more to gain more results.

We poured what we could into the cup.

We began with workable ideas to promote tea and to demonstrate the greater profitability to be gained from the greater appeal of tea. It was a simple approach and true, and we laid the groundwork for positive change.

Our advertising to this industry took a new, more active tone. We called attention to so many strong points: bottomless tea makes sense on your bottom line, afternoon tea fills an otherwise slow period with profitable sales, check averages get a boost from the simple suggestions of iced tea with the meal and hot tea after, customers recognize and appreciate the better value of larger size servings.

"Make more of a good thing," we said and we showed how simple, workable ideas do exactly that.

We poured still more in the cup.

Our own ideas merely primed the pump. The goal was action by the industry. So we created a focal point for action: National Foodservice Tea Month. We encouraged operators to become actively involved with the first foodservice contest - the All-American Tea Promotion.

Profitability. Promotability. And popularity. All three points need to be made. After all, we told foodservice operators, "57 million people expect you to serve a quality cup of tea." With so many Americans drinking tea at home, it makes sense to follow our simple code: buy with care; present with care. We made that message clear and strong.

And, always, we reminded them that tea could add sizzle to their presentation. We whetted their appetite with profitable ideas - Tea Bird and Iced Tia; elegant Fraises des Bois; and frosty T. Collins. The public was turning away from alcoholic beverages. Here were ideas for fun, for appeal, and for profitable sales.

Success builds on success. Tea has enjoyed unique growth in foodservice, service, and this message was forcefully brought to the industry. We called attention to the greater patron appeal and profits from tea and we made it big, strong and competitive.

We poured still more in the cup - yet it was such a large cup to fill!

Consistency is as important to a good advertising program as it is to a good cup of tea. We know the message must be made not once or twice, but again and still again. We know it is a battle, for every day those people sell their brown sticky stuff with wave after wave of advertising messages.

Are we to let them drown us through our own inaction? No! We must maintain our share of mind among consumers. We must retain our share of their interest. We must sustain our efforts to grow our credibility and our category's sales.

Our advertising has grown in these short years, in presentation and in exposure. We began modestly. We had to. And so we concentrated our message in a short period for high impact. Then, as your support grew, our capabilities grew. We have reached out to more readers, more operators, to do more.

Advertising was the wedge to drive home our message. But action was and is the goal. So we called for response with each ad and prepared material to give each respondent the ideas and the means for action. Inspired by the winners of our first tea promotion contest, operators were given merchandising ideas that added new support for serving quality tea.

Adding to our point about the year-round popularity of tea, we gave the industry calendar promotions - 52 ideas from a post-holiday pick-up in January to June Bridal Tea to Winter Wonderland Tea. Here were specials to spark sales for any operation any time of the year.

Each year we did more, speaking to the operators of the first opportunities tea holds. Out first presentation piece gave them recipes that deliver the romance of the tea tradition: attention-getting display ideas, 11 great ways to build loyalty and traffic, a flavor guide to match any menu item. It is a powerful message of the potential in tea, and one we continue to be asked about.

We plan even more. We still need to challenge operators' out-dated thinking by telling them: "If you think tea preparation and presentation isn't important to your operation, you're living in the past.

The new work should tell how operators can learn more from tea when they know more about tea. It must talk of quality standards, of regular maintenance, of the simple steps needed to do more and gain more from the popularity of tea. The need is so great, the cup is so big - and still it is only half filled.

It has been just four years since our new beginning, since your Foodservice Committee changed to a more active, vigorous role. And we have been more than pleased with the results our modest efforts have brought you.

Our advertising must, first and foremost, reach its audience, to be seen, recognized and remembered. It is doing that. In a study conducted this past May, almost 63 percent of foodservice readers recall seeing and reading advertising for tea. By any measure, this is success.

That is only the first measure, because we must elicit more than readership. We need their response. And we are getting it. From our first year of new direction, and 1,300 responses, we have grown year by year, to more than 5,200 requests for more ideas, more information, more assistance.

Still the cup is only half filled.

Readership, response, and action. Our promotion contest demonstrated that this industry could, in fact, promote, merchandise, and feature tea. It could be done in schools and colleges, in hospitals and country inns.

It is being done. That same study that showed how well our advertising was reaching the industry also showed how much the industry was responding.

More than 17 percent of operators reported that they do indeed promote tea. Put that in raw numbers and we are talking about more than 100,000 outlets across the country that are reaching out to the public to promote the sale of tea.

And, with all of this, are consumers responding as we would hope? Are we gaining our fair share of attention? The cup is still only half-filled.

Readership, response, action - and sales. While we suffered a down market in retail consumption from 1980 to 1985, and have seen that slippage continue year by year since, foodservice has grown and grown again. Our most recent tally from Price-Waterhouse shows gains in foodservice tea consumption greater than 37 percent since 1985. The decade is not yet over, but the trend is clear.

The foodservice industry is our fulcrum for change. This Association saw this, first in 1985. Your Foodservice Committee took new and real action first in 1985. And each year has shown how real the potential is, and how great the need for strong, positive action.

Your Foodservice Committee faced a new challenge last year. Our funding had come from voluntary contributions, the Tea Association and the Tea Council. Your committee members had dedicated their time and effort and talent to make the most of the available funding. But that funding source was no longer possible or sufficient to the need. Change was called for and you answered the call.

Your response has opened a new era of greater opportunity for much needed and expanded resources, for action, for results. This past year, we have seen a new beginning, a new, more cooperative effort - a new, more active partnership.

Now that we can, we must work to fill the cup.

It is also time for one more change.

I have been honored to serve as chairman of your Foodservice Committee for a number of years. I have been pleased to witness the changes we have undergone, and in whatever small way I could, add my contribution to the committee. It has been an exciting experience. Serving you as your committee chairman will always be a proud memory.

But your Foodservice Committee now enters a new phase of its efforts and it is time for new perspectives, new vitality, and a new chairman.

We stand on the threshold of new opportunity and a new chairman will bring new experiences and dedication to carry us forward.

As we enter a new stage of our committee's life, I am confident your new chairman will bring the understanding and drive to capture the potential before us.

It is time for new ideas, new activism, a new generation of leadership, a new era of cooperation. To gain full potential of this new era, your Foodservice Committee needs your support and your willingness to do this important job. You, committee members, are all proven, dedicated foodservice professionals. You know the industry and you know what must be done. Give them the freedom to put their expertise to work for you. Give them the authority to act autonomously in your best interest...and we will all succeed.

We have been planning for our new future, our new opportunities born of our expanded resources. There is much excitement and optimism for what we can achieve.

II. Roitman

Your cup is certainly filled, Knox, with our deepest thanks.

But the foodservice cup of tea - how are we doing there?

Good, but not good enough. In fact, we are not doing enough. Period. We need to learn more. We need to advertise more. We need to promote more. We need to do more on more fronts. We need to act where and when we see opportunity. We need the discretion to capture the potential of this foodservice industry. And we need your support and that of the Tea Council to make it all possible.

Because, make no mistake about it, we are in enemy territory. These are the cold drink wars. And the weak, the quiet, those who will not fight, will be drowned in that sticky stuff Knox referred to.

The United States of America is a cold drink country. Eighty-six percent of per capita beverage consumption in 1987 was cold drinks. We like to think of tea as a hot drink first, an iced drink second. The numbers don't bear that out. Americans drank almost twice as much iced tea as they did hot tea.

Should we focus our efforts on that target?

We like to think of our competition as coffee. The facts don't support that. Coffee is almost entirely a morning drink. According to a study by the Bureau of Foodservice Research, restaurant customers order tea three times as often at lunch, twice as often at dinner as they do at breakfast. That's cold drink time.

The Coffee Development Group of Washington, D.C. recognized the weakness of a one-meal-period beverage and their reliance on a hot beverage, and they are actively promoting. They introduced ice coffee and iced cappucino at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. They are selling it on 25 college campuses across the country. And they see it as a billion-dollar business in the U.S. by the year 2000.

Are we doing all that we should or could to promote the American taste for iced tea?

In fact, are we doing all we could to promote the real advantages that tea holds in the American mind? After all, we are well aware of the difficulties coffee is having and of the move away from heavy caffeine consumption. Two of the strongest words in food advertising today are "natural" and "light." And those are two of the words consumers associated with tea in mall intercept interview conducted this year for the Foodservice Committee.

We have talked about change. That word may be too soft to express what is happening in this country. Look at just one statistic: the median age is now 33.

Think of it. The average American was born in 1956. Not only did he or she grow up with television, but also grew up with computers, and the space age as accomplished fact. These people don't buy sneakers. They choose a variety of athletic shoes. And they choose the best. Quality is the criterion for their clothes and their cars and their vacations and yes, their beverages. The liquor industry knows this. While the consumption of most alcoholic beverages has been slipping, the premium and super-premium brands are still growing.

Are we saying the right things to attract this quality-conscious, health-minded, networking 33-year-old?

Shift that age 10 years in both directions, and you have the largest, wealthiest, most active consumer group in history. Are we getting our share of that interest?

The situation is clear.

Coffee in the morning and soft drinks during the day are American habits. Tea is simply not the norm, except in the South. Even among tea drinkers, soft drinks and coffee are the more common and more frequent choice.

Tea is losing out to these other beverages because of inertia, because coffee and soft drinks have captured share of mind, because these coffee/soft drink patterns are entrenched. Consumption of coffee and soft drinks is no longer a conscious decision. It is routine.

And why not? The soft drink category will be spending about $600 million on advertising to those consumers in 1990. Coffee will spend about $200 million. They have fostered and developed the public's consumption habits for years. And they show no signs of cutting back on their aggressive marketing programs.

Yet we have made in-roads against these aggressive foes and opportunities for greater growth are there. First, we can outflank them. The best time for the tea industry to reach and influence consumers is before their consumption habits are entrenched, when they are 18 to 30 years old. These young Americans are in a period of flux, starting a new, more independent lifestyle. And they are open to change.

Marketers already recognize the strength of this group that they are labeling the Next Generation. They know this is the market of the 1990s. And beyond. Capture their attention now and you form their buying habits for decades to come.

They can be captured - through foodservice. It's an important part of the young American lifestyle. Eating away from home has been woven into the fabric of their daily life. If they are attending college, they are eating in campus dining facilities. If they are working, they are eating in employee foodservice operations and in quick-service or mid-scale establishments. Their entertainment plans often involve eating out. Their social life, in good part, revolves around restaurants. Foodservice is a habit, an expectation, a daily fulfillment for the Next Generation.

Then let us target all operators serving young Americans, those from 18 to 45 years of age. This includes quick-service places and mid-scale restaurants, convenience stores and in-store delcatessens. It covers recreation facilities and colleges and employee foodservice operations.

The numbers are large, but so is the potential. We must position tea to these target operators as a beverage that is popular with their young adult customers and well worth promoting. Then we must focus on key operators within our target segments and determine specifically what they need, what will help and encourage them to promote tea.

Our successes to date have proved one point clearly. Tea promotion works. It built almost immediate results for those operators who participated in our Great American Tea Promotion contest. It is a technique already used by 14 percent of food service operators to increase tea sales. Obviously, the customer knows, likes and will order tea, if it is brought to top-of-the-mind awareness.

Our activities, then, fall into six broad categories. We must use available industry media to increase exposure of our message during both the hot and iced tea selling seasons. Our efforts in past years form a foundation, but we must go beyond, do more.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Author:Glass, Knox; Roitman, Robert
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Words:2846
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