Herbal teas target the British cuppa

England fan drinking mug of teaThe traditional British cuppa is under attack from poncey herbal alternatives. Research firm Mintel has found sales of English Breakfast tea have fallen, with fruit and herbal teas, Green tea and decaffeinated tea on the surge.

Your proper builders' tea remains dominant with 70% of the market but sales fell last year by 1.5% from £470m to £463m and it share of the tea market has dropped from 73% in 2009.
What is more, the number of Brits using English Breakfast tea in the past 12 months has fallen from 87% in 2010 to 83% in 2011.

What were they drinking?

Other more exotic varieties of teas have shown more positive performances. Between 2009 and 2011, sales of "Fruit and Herbal bags" (valued at £54m in 2011) increased 10%, while "Speciality bags" (£52m) and "Decaffeinated bags" (£36m) grew by 8% and 16% respectively.

But it was the "Green bags" sector that was the real star performer of the home tea sector. Sales of Green bags grew a sensational 83% between 2009 and 2011, the market almost doubling from £12m in 2009 to £22m in 2011. Today, as many as 12% of Brits drink Green tea on a weekly basis.

Alex Beckett, senior food analyst at Mintel, said: "While Engligh Breakfast tea is fondly regarded, the expansion of coffee chains and the exotic flavours of fruit, herbal and green teas are encouraging consumers to diversify their consumption habits, prompting fewer cups of standard tea to be drunk.

"Though the segment continues to play only a niche role in the market, Green tea, like Fruit and Herbal teas, has benefited from positive associations with healthiness. Green tea extracts are increasingly found in cosmetic beauty products, raising the profile of Green tea among women in particular."

Overall, retail value sales of tea in the UK jumped by 22% to £655m between 2006 and 2011. Annual sales growth had rapidly accelerated to 11.9% in 2009 when the market was valued at £610m. This was largely fuelled by price inflation, which also remained high in 2010 when the total value hit £660m. The tea market then declined in 2011, when value fell 1% to £655m.


Today, tea is drunk by almost nine in ten (87%) Brits. Beckett said: "When faced with adversity, Britons have historically reached for a cup of tea. And the state of the current economic climate should in theory provide bountiful times for tea brands, considering three quarters of users describe it as comforting.

"However, diversity appears to be impacting tea consumption more than adversity these days. With usage rates falling and value sales growth all but reliant on commodity inflation, it could be forgiven for disregarding the long-established motto to 'Keep calm and carry on'."

Return of the tea pot?

Young people not OAPs are now biggest users of loose leaf tea, the research found. The biggest group of users is aged between 25-34 at 12%. Users over 65 only accounted for 10%. Sales of loose leaf tea dropped by 11% between 2009 and 2011, to £16m, accounting for just 2% of overall tea sales.

While usage of loose leaf remained flat over the period, with 9% of tea users choosing this format, sales have declined slightly in recent years, with the higher price of loose tea making it more vulnerable to consumer cut backs in the recession.

The overall tea market is forecast to grow by 8% to £708m between 2011 and 2016, as global wholesale tea prices rebound, forcing manufacturers to pass on the costs.

Bad news for hot chocolate

Sales of hot chocolate declined by 4% between 2010 and 2011, falling from £102m in 2010 to £98m in 2011. And things were only marginally better for hot malted drinks (that's Horlicks to you and me) which saw a decline in sales of 5% over the same period.

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