Keep calm and sip on
Aaaaah, tea. From the brewing process to the fact tea contains L-theanine, a stress-alleviating amino acid, everything about it feels like a decompress. In fact, a 2023 survey from Innova Market Insights found one in two Canadians drink tea “to relax and unwind,” followed by “taste” (43%) and “health benefits” (29%). “The comfort tea provides, the unique flavour profiles and knowing it’s good for your body – it’s a trifecta that has made a cup an enduring daily ritual,” says Lu Ann Williams, global insights director at Innova.
Globally, consumers love the convenience of tea bags. But, Market Research Future’s 2023 Tea Market Overview notes loose-leaf tea has “experienced the quickest growth,” having gained attention for being fresher, of higher quality and with less packaging. Since launching in Canada in 2012, Dubai-based brand Alokozay has been mostly carried in ethnic grocery stores. However, it has recently been listed by mainstream chains, including Loblaws, as these grocers look to meet the needs of a diverse consumer base.
“Canada is a land of immigrants and different cultural practices around tea, whether it’s the British steeping it, Indians boiling it with milk or the Chinese sharing a pot of green tea, and it’s all loose-leaf,” says Jeeba Siddiqi, operations and branch director, Alokozay North and South America regional office. “We have strong sales in loose-leaf tea because it’s made for drinking on social occasions rather than while running around in the morning.”
Steeped in sustainability
Innova reports that 35% of tea products launched in North America in 2022 included an “organic” claim, while 28% were “GMO-free.”
“Tea drinkers today are looking for brands that are grown ethically,” says Williams.
Carried in Whole Foods Market, Loblaws and Goodness Me!, Traditional Medicinals is “focused on partnering with retailers who share our efforts to execute promotions that give back to the communities we source from,” says Rod Sinclair, managing director - Canada at the California-based botanical wellness company.
That includes “funding reliable water sourcing in India.” The Sweet Potato recently listed Clef des Champs, after the Toronto grocer’s body and apothecary manager, Amanda Leblanc, visited the certified-organic farm in Quebec where the brand grows medicinal herbs. “The ethics they operate by are impressive,” says Leblanc, who loves the product names such as Goddess Tea.
Hot when it’s cold
As the mercury drops, the demand for tea heats up! The Sweet Potato sees a seasonal sales surge of 30% to 40%, as consumers crave warm beverages in the cooler months, but also because of cold and flu season.
“People look to support their nervous and immune systems with herbal tea,” says Leblanc.
Regular tea is made from leaves of the tropical plant camellia sinensis. Herbal or tisane teas are infusions of leaves from other plants, herbs, spices, dried fruits, seeds, roots, bark and flowers.
“The Canadian tea market is growing, tracing to the herbal tea segment,” agrees Naihely Hernandez, Tetley brand manager at Tata Consumer Products. “A large portion of the growth comes from teas that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals.”
In 2019, Tetley launched Super Teas: Immune combines lemon and echinacea with zinc, while Antiox blends apple, cinnamon and turmeric with vitamin C. Tetley Super Teas have grown by 75% since launch year, says Hernandez, and this winter will be displayed with Ricola cough drops at Loblaws and Walmart.
This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s November 2023 issue.