In these trying times, have a cup of tea
Have a scratchy throat? Feeling down? Have a cup of tea — it’s good for you both physically and mentally.
At the recent World Tea Summit, World Tea Conference & Expo’s virtual event, Peter F. Goggi, president of the Tea of Association of the USA, said that the pandemic enhanced tea consumption. “Tea consumption increased dramatically during Covid because of tea’s health and wellness message, but it also because it provided a feeling of comfort for many consumers.” He suggested that the “comforting aspect of tea should be cultivated during these ‘Covid times.’”
In the US, tea continues to grow in both dollars and volume, led by RTD and specialty tea, and driven by the health and wellness and “naturalness” message. While tea sales may have suffered on the foodservice side, retail sales — both brick ‘n mortar (in-store, curbside pickup) and e-commerce sales have increased during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Green tea consumption trails black tea by 6:1 in the US but green tea consumption continues to grow. “Green tea is seen as ‘good for you’ with consumption being encouraged by registered dietitians/nutritionists, the medical community, the fitness community and the specialty tea community,” said Goggi. [The “good for you” aspect was also mentioned by Roy Upton, president, American Herbal Pharmacopeia, in his presentation on herbal strategies. He said that new research has found that gargling with green tea can help reduce viral and bacterial infections.] However, evidencing consumers’ continually evolving palates, Goggi shared that green tea is beginning to be seen as “good tasting.”
Globally, however, the tea industry still faces multiple challenges. During his presentation, Goggi highlighted three: supply and demand, free and unencumbered trade, and sustainability, which may be the biggest concern for the industry.
“Supply continues to outstrip demand,” he said, adding that “we must drive consumption and reduce supply.”
On the trade side, Goggi explained that “we are constantly fighting for free and unencumbered trade,” but there is a lack of international harmonization, as well as differences in standards and tolerances, and tariff problems.
While the tea industry is becoming more sustainable, challenges remain among all three pillars – environmental/ecological, social and economic – but the biggest threat currently, is economic sustainability. “The producers are not making money. Tea prices have not moved since the 1950s, when taking inflation into account,” said Goggi. “This marginalizes workers at origin and allows for unsustainable economic models, impacting the means for people to maintain the social fabric in their towns and villages.”
He pointed out that while large retailers advertise and speak about sustainability, they do little about allowing the price of the product in their stores to rise, disallowing the opportunity for producers to realize a reasonable margin. “The time has come to put pressure on retailers to ensure that every player in the supply chain receives fair value for the work they do,” urged Goggi.
But, he noted, producers also need to understand and engage the consumer and the ‘changing world.” Specialty tea consumption is growing so producers must leverage their terroirs and continue on a path towards premiumization, thus improving the quality and value of tea.
However, “producers generally want to produce a good product and consumers want to receive good value. These are not conflicting goals. A great model to use is that of specialty tea,” Goggi said. “Producers are improving the quality of their tea, promoting uniqueness through their terroir, and the price/margin [ratio] make this a great business. The challenge is how to adapt this model across the entire tea supply chain.”
On a side note, the 2020 World Tea Awards were announced during the World Tea Summit. I’m proud to report that Tea & Coffee Trade Journal won “Best Tea Publication.” This is an honour and I would like to thank all our tea writers for their amazing story contributions and unyielding enthusiasm. We would not have won without your story ideas, well researched and well written stories, and your passion. Thank you all!
- Vanessa L Facenda, editor, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal.
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