It's tea time for America

Articles
January 11, 2011

It's tea time for America

Studies keep appearing that say tea drinkers benefit from their healthy consumption habit - and these only make America's longstanding love of the beverage steamier. Consumers have already drank up $2.4 billion worth of teas from U.S. supermarkets (excluding supercenters) in the 52 weeks ended October 30, 2010, up 4.9% from a year earlier, reports Nielsen. That's a significant gain for a category of its size. Chances are that consumption will continue to grow as more research comes out that promises less risk of heart disease. An American Heart Association journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, recently published a study from the Netherlands of 40,000 healthy people that lasted 13 years and concluded that drinkers of three to six cups of tea daily gained a heart-protective effect. As a result, they had a 45% smaller chance of dying from heart disease than did drinkers of one cup or less per day. Also, tea drinking didn't appear to raise the risk of dying from any other cause. Flavonoids may be the heroic ingredients in tea, although researchers don't absolutely confirm this. Still, as people aim to eat healthier and lean on scientific studies for direction, they're keeping teas on their shopping lists more often - as they've done for most of the past four years, which is as far as available data for prepackaged, UPC-coded products only, goes back.

Studies keep appearing that say tea drinkers benefit from their healthy consumption habit - and these only make America's longstanding love of the beverage steamier. Consumers have already drank up $2.4 billion worth of teas from U.S. supermarkets (excluding supercenters) in the 52 weeks ended October 30, 2010, up 4.9% from a year earlier, reports Nielsen. That's a significant gain for a category of its size. 

Chances are that consumption will continue to grow as more research comes out that promises less risk of heart disease. An American Heart Association journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, recently published a study from the Netherlands of 40,000 healthy people that lasted 13 years and concluded that drinkers of three to six cups of tea daily gained a heart-protective effect. As a result, they had a 45% smaller chance of dying from heart disease than did drinkers of one cup or less per day. Also, tea drinking didn't appear to raise the risk of dying from any other cause. 

Flavonoids may be the heroic ingredients in tea, although researchers don't absolutely confirm this. Still, as people aim to eat healthier and lean on scientific studies for direction, they're keeping teas on their shopping lists more often - as they've done for most of the past four years, which is as far as available data for prepackaged, UPC-coded products only, goes back. 

For example, the 4.9% dollar sales rise in the latest 12 months occurred on a 2.0% equivalized unit volume increase. In the year before, the 2.2% dollar sales rise was achieved on a 0.7% EUV gain. While the year before that (12 months ended November 1, 2008) showed a nominal 0.4% dollar sales bump-up on a 1.3% EUV decline, that followed a year in which dollar sales soared by 14.0%, albeit on just a 1.0% EUV climb, the Nielsen data showed. 

Through these past few years, tea sales have remained a largely branded affair, although private label has managed to raise its share of EUV sales from 16.6% in 2006 to 18.4% in 2010. 

Liquid tea is by far the largest and fastest-growing segment in terms of absolute dollar sales gains, according to Nielsen. It has sprinted ahead from $1.01 billion in 2006 to $1.44 billion in the latest 2010 period, most recently on an 8.6% annual advance in dollar sales on a 9.5% EUV gain. 

Tea bags comprise the next largest segment at $516.2 million, which is barely above the 2006 level of $514.3 million. 

However, that slack has been overshadowed by the popularity of herbal tea bags, which have grown four straight years, from $155.7 million in 2006 to $177.8 million in the latest 2010 period, said Nielsen. Indeed, herbal bags bearing antioxidant claims are earning their place in planograms, on the strength of two straight years of 35%+ dollar sales growth to $3.0 million, showed Nielsen LabelTrends data. 

Teas that bear organic claims represent a more significant segment that's growing fast. Their dollar sales have practically doubled from $42.3 million in 2006 to $83.1 million in the most recent 2010 period, on a nearly proportionate EUV rise during that same stretch, LabelTrends data noted.