I just returned from the World Tea Forum held in New York City last month. As we’ve been reporting, the U.S. Tea Association has changed their annual convention format. About 200 people from 37 countries attended the three-day conference this year, which was jam-packed with experts speaking on topical issues affecting both the commercial and specialty tea trades.
Dr. Bukowski of Harvard University reported on the latest findings on tea consumption improving the immune system including research showing that tea can decrease infectious and neoplastic diseases. Linda Kaplan-Thayer of the Kaplan Thaler Group, a very successful advertising firm, spoke on the unique power of advertising. She stressed that companies should keep their message simple and strive to elevate brands to an icon level. Now may be a perfect time for a generic tea campaign!
John Hyde of Maersk Sealand and Charles Powell of CH Powell Custom Brokers reviewed the proposed guidelines for transporting and storing tea, and spoke about the realistic and unrealistic guidelines that the government and industry are undertaking to assure safe handling. Bill Gorman of the U.K. Tea Council spoke about several successful tea promotions the Council has undertaken, and their activities to thwart a 10% decrease in tea consumption in the U.K. since 1960. Susan Baron of NFO Research stated in her presentation that while green tea has grown over the last five years, iced tea consumption has declined. RTD, she reported, is more popular with children; and the hot tea market declined in the Northern U.S., but rose in the South. Her recommendations for the industry: target young adults and men, position tea as a “not just for breakfast” drink, address taste concerns among non-drinkers (e.g. they don’t like the bitter taste) and strengthen tea’s health message.
A panel addressing the use of pesticides and the work towards global standards was shared by tea producers, packers and importers.
Shashank Goel presented the Specialty Tea Institute report, which outlined the various activities of STI and plans for a tea certification program.
Ginnie Blake West of the Pepsi-Lipton Tea Partnership told the audience that the RTD market has had dramatic growth and stressed how it has diversified into energy drinks, replacement meal drinks, sports drinks, and waters, among others. She feels RTD tea beverages with a health focus have great growth potential, and that the trade should focus on tea’s inherent goodness.
The Tea Board of India presented a short film on their production and qualities of tea. Chris Pinfold of the Tea Sourcing Partnership discussed how his organization monitors social and ethical practices in tea.
A fact-filled curriculum and content-rich program left both attendees and the organizers happy with their first-ever World Tea Forum. Excellent Show!
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