The genie is out of the (ready-to-drink) bottle when it comes to a growing number of U.S. consumers willing to try beverages from all over the world. A slowdown in immigration might reduce the speed with which the trend takes place, but in the long run, the U.S. will remain a nation of immigrants and a fertile ground for cross-cultural beverage developments. The beverage segment most on trend for multicultural inspiration is tea, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in the report U.S. Beverage Market Outlook 2018.
“Teas are a beverage category in which the appeal of foreign ingredients plays a role,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “U.S. tea consumers are currently enjoying the varieties, such as matcha, moringa, and sencha, that have long been staples of Japanese and other Asian cultures. In the U.S. these are marketed as individual types and also used as components in tea beverages that [are] additionally flavored with fruits and spices. Each of these teas also are favored for their widely recognized health benefits, which is attractive to today’s consumers who are trending away from sugary soft drinks and juices.”
Here are Packaged Facts’ four international tea trends to watch in the coming years that are projected to drive growth in the U.S. tea market from $8 billion in 2017 to $10 billion by 2022:
Popular in China and Japan, matcha is a highly nutritional form of green tea with high concentrations of potassium, magnesium, vitamins A and C, and fiber, as well as high levels of L-theanine, a valuable amino acid that is said to have a calming effect on consumers it and substantial amounts of caffeine. It offers health benefits in terms of strengthening the immune system as well as providing an energy boost. Matcha has entered the mainstream, as can be seen by the 2017 introduction by Unilever of its first-ever home-brewed matcha teas to its Pure Leaf line of hot and iced tea products.
Following along the same path as matcha except with origins rooted in India is moringa, a tea made from the leaves of the moringa oleifera tree that is rich in antioxidants. Benefits attributed to moringa include increased energy and rapid recovery after exercise, mental and emotional balance, and healthy blood sugar levels. Ready-to-drink moringa teas are few and far between, but there are many companies offering moringa teas for brewing. Among them is Terrasoul Superfoods, which has as its goal making nutrient-dense foods more affordable and accessible to consumers.
Sencha is a variety of green tea that is still relatively new to the U.S. market, although it is considered the most popular tea in Japan where it originates. Sencha, reported to contain more antioxidants than matcha, is available in leaf and powder form, as loose tea, and in tea bags. At present, many of the brands sold in the U.S. are imports from Japan, but there are U.S. companies that offer Sencha as well.
Mizudashi (Cold Pressed Tea Process)
The adoption of the cold-brewed process in the ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee category has begun spreading to the tea category. As with coffee, the cold brewing process results in a beverage that is reported to be smoother and less bitter and is further said to better preserve the health benefits of the tea than preparing it through a hot brewing method. The Japanese tea marketer ITO EN in 2017 launched a lineup of ice-steeped cold brew ready-to-drink teas in the U.S. The company reportedly uses an authentic Japanese cold brew process called Mizudashi.