2019 Tea Trends – 3 minute read
The tea industry has had both an eventful and uneventful year, depending on how you look at it. Various sellers say it’s been a slow year, thanks to developments such as declines in foot traffic. Others have a different version of events, especially those who’ve had major success selling new tea variations on popular online platforms.
Now that 2019 is drawing to the beginning of its end, it’s important to look back at the trends that defined the tea industry during the year and see how they affected the general scheme of things. Below are four major 2019 tea trends that shook the tea industry.
Functional 2019 tea trends
One of the biggest 2019 tea trends was directly associated with functional tea. Unlike previous years, companies selling functional tea saw wild sales growth, especially those that made claims related to healing illness and boosting the performance of any sort.
Major tea sellers took advantage of this trend and ruled the aisles in 2019. Bigelow, for example, saw a 6.7% sales growth rate according to World Tea News, which translated to $170 million, from its teabag business across departmental stores, groceries and drug stores.
Another major player, Traditional Medicinals, saw total sales of about $27 million from two of its top-selling teas, Throat Coat Tea and Smooth Move Tea, in 2018 alone. Both saw notable growth in sales (8% and 12% respectively) and both were billed as functional teas.
Functional teas are essentially those sold on a particular purpose, such as reducing anxiety, improving focus, or even boosting athletic performance. Functional teas are always touted as having special ingredients – usually herbal or plant-based – that serve to set them apart from regular teas.
And while some are worth all the hype, other functional teas are not really that different. According to World Tea News, some of the companies that used unique health claims for their ‘functional teas’ were found to have skipped FDA approval for some of their ingredients.
Nevertheless, buyers proved their support for functional teas, echoing their desire for products with real purpose. As of 2018, a few examples of functional teas continue to stand out. Traditional Medicinals, Hain Celestial and Yogi Tea, have, for example, created teas that induce immediate relaxation, clam stress, improve digestion and more.
It appears that customers are now favoring teas with floral blends and flavors if the 2019 tea trend that was floral blends is anything to go by. Sales for floral and herbal tea extracts saw major growth sales, so much that manufacturers started to reorganize themselves to create more floral and herbs extracts on tight schedules.
Major manufacturers are trying to keep ahead of the curve, such as Martin Bauer Group, which has already curated local herb suppliers in 80 countries worldwide and plans to create 5000 herbal and floral blends every year. Another major tea brand, Rishi Tea, has already expanded both its name and offerings to include teas that boast floral and herbal extracts such as eucalyptus, hibiscus and valerian as ingredients.
Floral tea, also known as botanical tea, is that which is derived from herbal extracts or flower extracts. Individual extracts are usually mixed with others to create blends that are then used to make teas.
Hibiscus remains the most popular floral extract used in teas as of 2018. Hibiscus has always been used in both iced and hot teas, plus juices and beverages. As of 2018, hibiscus has seen a 55% increase in use in teas globally since 2014, according to data analyzed by Food Ingredients First. Other herbs and extracts, such as mushroom, quince, eucalyptus, and turmeric, are getting nods from tea manufacturers too.
The growth of artisan tea all through 2019 was both the result of changing desires among customers and sheer luck. While teas are getting cheaper thanks to mass-scale production that’s facilitated by quick, precise technology, customers have been seen opting for non-industry made tea instead, the kind is also known as artisan tea. The trend has been so good to some artisan teas such as Green tea from China whose worldwide sales are reported to have improved as a result.
Artisan tea is created from leaves or extracts directly by hand and sometimes in a very specific way. Artisan tea shies away from today’s obsession with technical details and machines, choosing to go with specialized work styles that result in a specific final product only the hand could have created.
Most artisan teas didn’t generate crazy sales in 2018, but many tea shop owners admitted in interviews with World Tea News that they believed artisan teas were going to be a big thing going forward. For now, artisan projects like the Tea Studio project in South India are attracting major attention.
Smaller artisan tea shops – usually located on or attached to a small tea farm – are also reportedly seeing more business than ever as buyers seek out uniquely hand-made teas for different reasons. The rest is yet to be seen.
Online shopping 2019 tea trends
Online shopping for tea was the other phenomenon that shook the tea industry in 2019. Growth has been impressive, but can mostly be credited to Amazon and its Whole Food merger, plus the fact that many tea sellers are now opting to use both Walmart and Amazon as selling platforms. Together, both platforms receive the most number of online customers in the United States.
Meanwhile, studies show that between 2013 and 2018, both platforms fielded 28% of all online grocery sales. A recent Statista survey found that about 14% of Americans bought their tea online – a small yet steadily growing number, compared to the 80% that still buy their tea from malls and tea shops.
For some tea sellers, the reason for adopting online platforms is that they expose products to millions of customers at once and take some costs off the seller’s mind, such as home delivery, in exchange for a sensible cut of sales. The other driver for online tea shopping is gifting, a growing trend where many people buy tea online as gifts for friends and family.
With online shopping, even smaller, artisanal brands get seen on a bigger stage alongside notable powerhouses, so customers get extra variety. And if they are signed onto platforms offers like Amazon Prime, they’re bound to shop like crazy.