Was 2020 the year to be forgotten or not to be forgotten?

It is still a bit unfathomable, but we have now all been living in a Covid-19 world for a year! So, has it been a year to be forgotten or not to be forgotten? That is the question Shabnam Weber, president of the Tea & Herbal Association of Canada, asked at the opening of her state of the industry report during the World Tea Virtual Summit, ‘Strategies for Success,’ which took place 15-16 March.

It was actually a great year for tea [in North America and Europe] with consumption rising and in home/at home (grocery) sales going “through the roof” as there is an emotional connection to tea, said Weber, so consumers turned to tea for comfort and relaxation, and to feel good [health benefits/immunity boosting].

“Innovation is the prevailing theme that needs to come out of last year,” said Weber. “Businesses need to be innovating because the habits and lifestyle changes made within the last twelve months will not change.” For example, many consumers who were ‘afraid to shop online’ are now shopping online and will not stop. Thus, companies that were not online before Covid got online quickly; those that were, strengthened their operations.

“A key motto that I heard for a lot of companies was ‘progress over perfection,’ Weber shared. “Businesses were forced to make decisions at twice the pace with half the information.” With consumers wanting convenience, [smart] companies responded with fast delivery. Other companies offered at-home experiential packages, and many tea companies held virtual tea tastings for consumers, which Weber, noted, was not done before Covid.

According to Weber, many innovation trends that began in 2020 during Covid, will likely continue in 2021 as well as beyond, such as:

  • Self & societal care — nutritional support (immunity, mental health, sleep) and taking care of the “outside” (skin health).
  • Indulgence — premiumisation, customisation, smaller portion indulgences, permissible indulgences (those that work with diets).
  • Convenience — online shopping and home delivery, creating in-home experience (not going to go away even with places re-opening).

There is much that can be ascertained from last twelve months if we stop and pay attention to them, Weber explained, and advised attendees to “not write off 2020. We cannot forget about it as there are lots of lessons to be learned that can help this industry to grow.”

Summit organiser Questex confirmed that it is proceeding with World Tea Conference & Expo, scheduled for 14-16 July in Denver, Colorado as a live/in person event.

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