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Foodservice tea sales continue to increase.

No matter what's going on with the rest of the economy, tea sales away from home have been terrific this year...once again!

In the last four years competitive beverage sales away from home have not been impressive. We've competed well against coffee, soft drinks, milk and alcoholic beverages. In the last four years foodservice tea sales have risen 47%

The environment in the foodservice market changed very little during the last year.

The main trends were:

1. Continued growth in health-consciousness among consumers.

2. Rising costs in both the distributors and restaurant operations.

3. Increased competition among operators

4. A promotional and advertising on value and service

5. A shrinking customer base in some segments such as hotel occupancy and college and university feeding.

As we looke at our committees' activities we were encouraged by our successess in 1991, we saw the need to cement the gains of the previous years and to reinforce to the operators that promoting tea is in their best interest.

So our objective in 1992, as in 1991, was to increase top-of-mind awareness among foodservice operators that refreshing, fresh-brewed iced tea and relaxing hot tea are quality beverage choices among today's consumers.

Our strategies for achieving this objective was to communicate to operators that merchandising iced tea will increase sales volume and profits.

Our primary communication effort in the implementation of this strategy was our advertising program. The targets were the broad spectrum of foodservice operators...primarily the commercial market--restaurants, the hospitality segment, and the family and fast-food chains.

But we also targeted the non-commercial segment, the colleges and universities, the hospitals and health services, the business and industrial catering.

We ran schedules in leading trade publications, averaging 15 insertions in 1992 for a total of 2,270,000 impressions for the year. We reached each operator an average of a little eight times during our peak season.

We utilized the same and campaign which had proven to be so effective in 1991.

We emphasized the refreshment of tea and its appeal to today's health conscious natural minded consumer.

We also stressed that, hot or cold, tea is the lowest in food costs. That hit the cost control button for today's hard-pressed foodservice operators who are worried about having to shave their profit margins to keep pace with the times.

Having told them why they should try to increase tea volume, we gave them an example of how to do it. We created easy-to-implement, promotional materials like table tents, featured them in our ads, and provided them free to all operators. This was meant to be a starting point for them to then find new ways to promote tea.

In addition to our advertising we took part in industry activites which gave us access to key segments. I mentioned that chain operators were one of our important targets. So we showed up in force at the chain operators exchange conversion. The 1992 convention played host to about 400 chain operators. Together, they represent some 30% of total consumer sales in foodservice. That amounts to over 478.5 billion in sales.

Tea was the only product identified and endorsed throughout the three day convention--this ensuring that every person at the convention left with a focused message from the committee that said.. "When tea is merchandised, tea builds sales and profits!"

We were also represented at the national association for colleges and universities. Nacufs is the big event of the year for directors from some 350 of the top schools of America. They represent 50% of all the college and university foodservice purchases. That's more than $1.5 billion in sales. Our message at this convention was also done in a way to ensure penetration.

This year we hit hot tea's unique selling points harder, such as health benefits, profits, flavor, popularity.

The strategy we used was to create a younger image for hot tea. We first established information that was unknown to foodservice operators until our research turned up the fact that 42% of people in the 18-44 year age bracket are likely to order hot tea in a restaurant. However, we conditioned the popular appeal of hot tea among young consumers with the fact that the operators must serve hot tea the way patrons like it--hot.

We then provided operators with training materials in the form of easy-to-use, bilingual preparation cards with simple clear directions on how to serve hot tea--hot!

We also provided menu stickers and waitstaff buttons so operators could tell patrons about how they serve their hot tea. To operators, the message was quality tea sells.

We expanded on the importance of proper tea service by reaching out to the equipment community as well. Specifically, the committee developed two reports with the objective of improving service and preparation methods and creating awareness of the proper use of tea brewing equipment.

The technical committee developed an equipment cleanliness brochure to explain to operators how to clean tea brewing and dispensing equipment to provide the best tea product.

A water filtration brochure alerted operators to the problems associated with bad water and explained the filter characteristics necessary to prevent problems.

Both of these pieces are now delivered with each piece of equipment placed in any restaurant.

That was the 1992 programs, and now I would like to show you the results in terms we all understand. Here's the Price Waterhouse information on our sales for 1992. We grew our tea business in the away from home market this year by a 9.0%. This 9.0% is on top of an 8.0% increase last year.

Where are we headed in 1993?

I am optimistic and believe we will pull together to get the funds, and therefore, will go forward implementing our plans. In 1993, our objectives are very simple...but, also very bold and different from 1992. It is based upon the successes of the past four years. We are standing on a platform of a golden opportunity. We can now reach out in a dramatic way to completely transform tea's image as a commodity product to that of a value added product. We stand now on the foundation of a tatally new tea market.

Our objective in 1993 is to motivate foodservice operators to change from advertising and promoting iced tea as a generic, or commodity type of product, to a program where they advertise and promote tea as something special.

We are building on our promotional activities of the last four years, namely that operators can increase their sales of tea if promoted properly. We will now give the operators powerful tactics to help them take the next step and that's to treat tea as a special beverage. If advertised and promoted as an added-value beverage, it will help set each operator apart from his competitors and it will help each of us because we will secure the future of tea as a quality beverage to today's and tomorrow's added value conscious consumer.

The target is the entire foodservice market. Once again, our primary is the commercial market, but we also see the non-commercial segment as very critical to achieving our objective.

We will be running advertising schedules in leading trade publications. We anticipate that our message will reach each operator nine times during 1993.

We will be communicating to the industry that there are five areas to focus:

1. Use a quality blend of tea

2. Prepare and serve tea according to the Tea Council's recommendations. Like serve hot tea hot, clean the equipment and address bad water issues.

3. We will also communicate to the industry with examples of how to promote iced tea through images and/or descriptions that carry a higher perceived value to the consumer.

Perceived is the operative word. We will be showing operators how they can enhance the perception of the value of tea in the eyes of their customers. We will show them how to create their own signature tea menu item. Such an item will allow them to add perceived value, make higher profits and express their individuality. It will help each of them stand out from their competition.

4. We will also show that examples of how to merchandise and romance iced tea to provide a higher consumer image.

We will encourage them to run special tea themed events, to dress up special tea items on the menu including such value-added items as herbs teas, or hot spiced teas.

5. We will encourage the operator to advertise iced tea as a special beverage that is best for today's lifestyle.

As you can imagine, when the foodservice committee first began to discuss the change in our 1993 objective and the strategies, we unfortunately spend most of our time in those early meetings about which manufacturers would benefit most. But as a committee we overcame our difference and now stand together. When we talk about tea as added value we committed to this change. See many things. I think it can best be said this way.

Tea is a special beverage. It is the only beverage that can be served both hot and cold. It is the only beverage that has not been linked to a health problem. It is the beverage that has the highest profit to the operator and ourselves. It is only beverage that is all natual and has no calories, other than water, Tea is all of those things that we just saw and probably dozens more that we haven't taken the time to think about.

And finally, tea is the most abused, and neglected beverage consumed away from home.

I ask not to allow the foodservice operators abuse tea, but to encourage them to treat tea in the special way that is deserves. If we all share the vision then each of us will be rewarded through the economics of our own business.
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Article Details
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Author:Kundrat, Rick
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:Decaffeinated - not decapitated.
Next Article:1991 world tea production report.

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