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U.K. - the Catering Tea Report.

This major research study, the first of its kind, had provided a detailed insight into the caterers attitudes to tea, confirming that our national drink is an enormous business in the catering sector which is being inexcusably neglected.

Some 7.5 billion cups of tea are consumed per annum in the U.K. out of the home, worth an incredible 2 [pounds] billion annually to the caterer. Despite the enormity of this market and its fundamental importance to the image of any catering establishment, it appears that unfortunately the caterer is paying scant attention to the preparation and service of our national drink. Incredibly, many restaurants do not even offer tea to their customers although this research has established that many customers refusing coffee after a meal would like to be offered tea.

The consumers have the highest standard when it comes to the quality of a cup of tea since they are all personal experts at brewing our national drink in the home. Not surprisingly, the consumer is unhappy to accept a bad quality cup of tea but sadly, rather than demand a better standard of the caterer, will on occasions take unsatisfactory refuge in another drink. We would like consumers to make themselves heard on the subject of good quality and indeed the availability of tea when they are eating out since there is no excuse for a bad cup of tea.

The Catering Tea Report prepared for the Tea Council by staff of the University of Surrey is based on an outline research design prepared by the Tea Council. This involved the combination of three independent surveys conducted by Marketpower Ltd., National Opinion Polls and the University of Surrey.

The following summary of results combines the findings of the University of Surrey with a comment on each finding by the Tea Council (shown in italic)

According to Marketpower, estimates for the demand for tea away from home amounted to 13,000 metric tons in 1990.

13,000 metric tons of tea are sufficient to produce 7.4 billion cups of tea, this equates to approximately 163 cups of tea consumed away from the home per year for every person over the age of 15 in the U.K. At an average selling price of 30p per cup (this allows for the range of prices from free to 1.50 [pounds] a pot), caterers generate a staggering 2.2 billion [pounds] from the sale of tea per year. The catering tea market is worth approx. 57.3M [pounds] at wholesale price.

Over the period 1983-1990, when the retail tea market showed a steady decline in sales, resulting in an overall reduction of some 22,000 metric tons, the catering tea market enjoyed a small but significant increase in consumption. An analysis of reports from the Tea Sales Data Panel suggests that the catering tea market in 1990 represented 8.4% of the total market, rising from a figure in 1983 of 7.1%. The trend of these data suggests that the catering market will continue to increase in relative importance.

While instant coffee has a similar catering/retail volume relationship to tea, ground coffee has afar larger catering sale than retail sale. The retail coffee market has also shown a volume decrease over the period 1985-1989 of approx. 3.5%. While accurate figures for the catering coffee market are not available, the catering tea market has shown steady growth over the last seven years. In the total beverage market tea is still the most popular drink with every person over the age of 10 consuming an average of 3.57 cups of tea per day compared to only 1.67 cups of coffee, 1.5 glasses of soft drinks and 1.33 glasses of alcoholic drinks. Tea is also perceived as a healthy drink.

Nearly 90% of the tea used by the catering industry is in the form of tea bags. This is higher than the equivalent figure for the retail market. In 1983, nearly 83% of the catering industry was already using bags, and so the increase m the use of bags is not as great as in the retail sector where only two thirds of households were using bags at that time. Over the period 1983-1990, the use of tea bags increased by some 7% in the catering sector, while the proportionate increase in the retail sector was almost 20%.

In many areas the catering industry has been a trend setter, quick to see the benefits of the tea bag. Caterers have however not been as quick to follow other trends, lagging behind in the trend towards specialty tea. this appears to indicate caterers only pick up trends that have a direct catering benefit and are slower to react to trends linked to customer demand, perhaps this is the fault of the customer!

Nearly half the tea drunk outside the home is served in an institutional environment, either in the health sector or in a canteen. the third largest user of tea is the cafe sector which accounts for almost one fifth of all the tea served. Alarmingly, the health and canteen sectors offer the lowest level of training in tea preparation and service even though those sectors see tea as the most important beverage that they serve.

Training when related to tea should include a basic understanding of how the product is made, the importance of freshly drawn, freshly boiled water, where to store the tea and, if large pots or urns are used, how and when to remove the tea bags. Making tea in a catering environment is not the same as making tea at home!

The institutional sector rates tea as important; if this is the case, why do they not trains staff in how to make tea, whether it be by using large pots, or urns or individual pots. Only then will the image of tea in hospitals start to improve.

The research has indicated that as many as 7.4 billion cups of tea are likely to be served in any one year by the catering industry. This amounts to approximately 20 million cups of tea per day.

The average consumption of tea away from the home is .5 of a cup daily. When compared to the average total daily tea consumption of 3.5 cups and the fact that 27 million people spend 5 days at work away from the home the potential for caterers to sell more tea is obvious. The average weekly consumption for coffee away from the home is 2.58 cups; this represents 22% of the average total weekly consumption taken away from the home, compared to only 12.5% for tea. Clearly the coffee served away from the home is deemed to be more acceptable. This could be due in part to the fact that most coffee consumption in the home is instant coffee whereas most of the coffee served by caterers is real ground coffee. Many people who drink only instant coffee at home will recognize ground coffee, but are unlikely to be able to assess whether it is good or average, or even poor quality.

The heaviest consumer of tea per individual is the travel sector which uses over half a ton of tea per outlet per year. Unfortunately, although it would seem that many people prefer to drink tea while they are on the move, on the whole they are not very satisfied with the product they receive.

Recent activity by The Tea Council with the major companies in the Travel Sector has proved that good quality tea is being used. The reason for the poor perception is probably due to all travel caterers being 'tarred with the same brush' because major operators such as British Rail continue to mainly use in cup drinks and do not always use fresh milk. Tea, however, is an ideal drink for people on the move as it is refreshing, relaxing and reviving.

While a wide range of specialty teas is on offer across all sectors of the industry, this makes up only 2% of the total catering market. The specialty market is dominated by two types - Earl Grey and Darjeeling - which which account for almost 63% of the total.

Caterers are failing to follow the retail trend, approximately 10% of the retail market is now specialty tea. In the coffee sector, however, the roles are reversed with the ground coffee market being larger in catering than in retail. The shortfall is due to caterers in suitable types of outlets not being willing to try new ideas, despite the fact that The Tea Council sponsored promotions which include staff training and point of sale material and have proved demand for specialty tea when it is offered. Notable exceptions to this are motorway service areas, many airports and many tea shops who have identified the demand and are reaping extra profit as a result of customers being willing to try something different when away from home while being unwilling to purchase a whole packet of specialty tea to try at home. A significant proportion of the restaurant market does not offer tea at all.

Significantly, over half of the tea supplied to the catering industry is channeled through cash and carry warehouses and wholesalers. A further 17% of outlets obtain their tea from central suppliers, e.g. the health sector. About one fifth, however, still rely on specialist tea suppliers for their deliveries.

Medium to small tea companies play an important role in supplying tea to caterers. Not only do they supply 20% direct but a significant proportion of the volume supplied by Central Supplies would also be purchased from medium to small companies. The Catering Tea Grading Scheme has provided institutional buyers with a mechanism to specify the quality of tea required. Retail outlets also are a frequently used source of supply by the small caterer e.g. cafes, the major retail brands probably accounting for the bulk of this purchase. Central Supplies, an internal purchasing and distribution operation within large organizations such as the NHS, play a far more important role in the tea supply chain, than say the supply of coffee. About 17% of tea is supplied to Central Supplies compared to approx. 5% for ground coffee.

Over three quarters of tea served by the catering industry is made in some type of pot. Metal pots are by far the most popular type of pot used across the industry as a whole although hotels prefer to use china pots.

Caterers are traditionalists and have stuck to not only using pots, but also using large pots despite the improved consistency of quality of product that can be achieved using smaller 1 or 2 cup pots. While approximately 113 of those caterers using pots use 1 or 2 cup pots, they account for a much smaller share of the volume of tea served. Four pint pots are used by 11% of caterers using pots, and 51% of the tea served by caterers is still served by the cup from a pot or urn, and 16% of tea served is actually made in the cup. Those sectors such as hotels and restaurants that have moved to single person pots are now enjoying a reputation for quality tea, reflecting the importance of both the environment and the type of pot and crockery used.

The perception that "institutional" tea is of poor quality is probably due to the dominance of large tea pots as the means of producing tea. Large pots can produce a good cup of tea. However imagery plays a key part in product quality perception, and tea from large pots is frequently dismissed as low quality even before it has been tasted.

Tea appears as one of the top three beverages in terms of importance to the operation across all sectors of the industry and as the most important drink in the hospital sector. In most cases, however, tea does not seem to receive the level of promotion that it deserves. This is especially unfortunate in today's health-conscious environment when tea is universally seen as a healthy drink.

Why is the U.K.'s most popular drink so underrated by caterers? Other than hospitals, all other caterers rank alcohol, coffee or soft drinks as more important than tea. In 1990, tea accounted for 42.5% of all drinks consumed in the U.K. (with the exception of tap water) and is drunk by 80.3% of the population, this compared to 20% and 57%, respectively for coffee. Restaurants especially are losing out by not even offering tea after meals, of the 43% of customers who do not drink coffee 53% might drink tea if it were offered! When restaurant's do offer tea, it is appreciated by their customers. The cost sectors claim that tea is important to them yet they offer virtually no staff training, 75% of hospitals and 65% of industrial catering units providing no training in tea preparation. This low training level, when combined with the high level of large pot usage, is a major contributory factor to the low opinion of tea in many cost catering establishments. Tea is also unique in that it offers the cost sector an economical beverage with mass appeal with the profits sector as a universally popular drink with excellent profit margins.

The most preferred location for drinking tea is at home. The second most popular is hotels and restaurants. Vending machines are the least liked source of tea. In general terms, customers perceive the tea provided by the catering industry to be inferior to the tea they drink at home. In some cases, this may be associated more with the product surroundings than with the product itself.

Tea prepared and served at home is, as with many things, considered to be the best. Next to tea produced at home, hotels and restaurants are perceived as serving good tea. This shows that, when the tea brewing process is controlled by the customer using a single person pot, the quality perception, whether real or imaginary, is better than tea prepared or served by the cup. Vending machines however, despite development over the last 10 years are still saddled with the poor image of the early machines although tea industry experts confirm the quality of vending tea is now better than its image. The perceived quality of the tea could also be affected by the use of disposable cups and, consequently, they should only be used in situations where there is no alternative, and the best quality and type should be used.

The most frequently cited reasons for poor tea are to do with timing. These include tea not being given time to brew properly, tea being kept too long, and therefore being lukewarm or stewed, or too strong. The most frequently reported negative comments were concerned with the strength and temperature of the tea. Indeed, 60% of the problems identified by consumers were attributed to faults associated with timing. These faults could quite easily be eradicated through proper training.

The effectiveness of the Catering Tea Grading Scheme in ensuring that good quality tea is used is borne out by poor quality tea not being cited as the cause of poor quality tea away from home. under or over brewing are the causes of most poor tea, this could be eliminated by proper training because making tea in a large pot is not like making tea at home, or a move to single person pots.

In some sectors nearly three quarters of caterers reported that they provided no training. Even in the sector where tea receives the greatest approval, large hotels, only one third of employees actually receive training in tea preparation and service. Training, without doubt, is a major issue.

The lack o training for staff is symptomatic of the poor attitude to tea, training shows caterers care about the tea they serve. Not serving tea is a missed opportunity; the public appears reluctant to demand tea if it does not appear on the menu or is not offered at the end of a meal. Why does the public not demand more of its national drink!

One fifth of the reasons given for poor tea were attributed to the type of milk used, and this was most commonly associated with UHT portions. Three quarters of the market prefer their tea to be served with whole or semi skimmed milk.

With the unanimous rejection of UHT milk in tea by the general public, why do caterers still insist on using it? UHT milk was initially served with tea because it was available in individual portion packs. This got around the problems of having bulk fresh milk on the counter; fresh milk is now available in portion packs and poses no greater handling or storage problems than any other fresh product, yet many caterers still provide UHT milk, and the quality of the tea they provide is adversely affected. The attitude seems to be, it is OK in coffee so the tea drinkers will have to put up with it! Some 35% of tea drinkers now use semi skimmed milk or skimmed milk - a trend which the catering industry has not followed. Where fresh milk is served, it is almost whole milk.

The quality of tea served in hotels and restaurants was seen as favorable, but that available to people while engaged in their work (excluding canteens), such as their desk or on the shop floor, was the most liked. This could well be associated with the success of the Tea Council Grading Scheme. The research shows that over 70% of the tea used by the catering industry is of 3-star quality. Purchasing managers are clearly aware of the quality of the tea they are purchasing and are using the grading scheme. This may contribute to the fact that in some sectors, particularly the health sector, the high quality of tea that is purchased may not always be receiving the appropriate high quality of care in preparation, service and promotion.

All aspects related to serving good quality tea should be part of a structured training program, if the tea is not correctly prepared, even using good quality tea will not ensure an acceptable end product.

The rationale of serving good quality tea should be communicated to all staff.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Tea Council report on state of tea industry in United Kingdom comparing catered versus non-catered use
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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