Top 10 Trends from the World Tea Expo 2013

By Allison Wall 

The World Tea Expo is the only trade event completely dedicated to the tea category. Hosted each June in Last Vegas, the World Tea Expo brings together over 200 exhibitors, dozens of experts and thousands of attendees. I joined two of our HQO Sales Managers on the show floor to track the trends, meet with customers and share the latest from our organic tea suppliers. Below are the top trends I saw during the three-day show:

New HQO Sales Manager Eric Granata enjoys an iced tea pop at the Word Tea Expo. They were delicious!

New HQO Sales Manager Eric Granata enjoys an iced tea pop at the Word Tea Expo. They were delicious!

1. DeeBee’s Organic Tea Pops – Hands down the most popular booth at the show. The concept is so simple yet absolutely brilliant. Given the success we’ve seen of other frozen treats, we expect these to be in almost every grocery store very soon. Flavors included mint, coconut, mango and iced tea.

2. New Varieties – Honeybush has been used in teas before but this year we saw it marketed on its own. We also saw some increased chatter around Yerba Mate.

3. Fruit – In response to consumer demand, tea companies are finding alternative ways to sweeten tea without the use of sugar or artificial ingredients.  We saw blackberries, grapes and fruit blends being used this year.

4. Ready-to-Drink with a Twist – This category of tea has been going gang busters for several years and continues to be a dominant trend in 2013. This year the ready-to-drink products included new teas like rooibos, being marketed simply as ‘red tea,’ and lightly carbonated teas.

5. More Organic Options on the Horizon – While there are a lot of organic teas on the market, they certainly don’t command the majority of market share. We’re sensing the tide is beginning to shift as there was definitely more discussion and interest in sourcing organic tea.

6. Herbal Teas & Blends – Herbal teas have been on grocery store shelves for decades but we’re seeing some exciting innovations given increased consumer demand for healthier beverages. Blends addressing a health or wellness concern continue to grow in popularity.

Tiesta Tea Tins

Tiesta Tea Tins won best new product at the 2013 Word Tea Expo.

7. Reusable Tea Tins – Packaging innovations continue across all food categories and tea companies continue to push the envelope in many areas of package design.  The most notable trend at World Tea Expo was the number of beautiful reusable tea tins. There were tons of shapes, sizes and designs – many worthy of prominent display in your kitchen. A savvy marketing approach for any brand.

8. Social Responsibility – While sustainability is still an important part of a tea brand’s story, social responsibility messaging was definitely more prominent at this year’s show.  Most notably, Wild Mountain Tea. They did a beautiful job sharing how their tea is grown and harvested ethically in Africa.

9. Green Tea – Green tea is on the fast track for growth given its well-known health benefits.  In fact, its market share is growing the fastest (when compared to black, oolong or white). We saw tons of new blends using green tea: mango green tea, mint green tea and more.

10. Tea is Growing – It was clear from our time at the show that the tea industry is thriving. With the rapid growth of the ready-to-drink beverage segment and specialty tea expected to grow 50% by 2016, it certainly is an exciting time to be in tea! Read more about the opportunities in tea from our newest white paper, HQO Market Insights: Time for Tea.

Allison Trail Running copyAbout the Author – Allison joined the HQO sales team in September 2010 and has become an integral part of our tea team. Born and raised in California, Allison has been involved with the food industry her entire life. In fact, her running debut occurred at the very first Gilroy Garlic Festival 10K! She continues to love running and working in the food industry while she raises her three children in Reno, NV.  When she’s not cheering on her children at one of numerous sporting events, she’s running on the trails and enjoying the beautiful scenery of Reno-Tahoe.

7 responses to “Top 10 Trends from the World Tea Expo 2013

  1. Good blog post. I definitely appreciate this site. Keep writing!

  2. I found it really interesting to read your observations of what trends you saw at this Expo–I still haven’t been, although I’ve been going every year to the smaller World Tea East in Philadelphia (which I just love).

    A comment about your post about social responsibility–you seem to imply that perhaps social responsibility and sustainability are separate. I see social responsibility as part of sustainability. Sustainability isn’t just environmentalism, it’s being able to keep doing what you’re doing indefinitely–and that involves people. That’s why I think it encompasses things like the economic health of the communities in which goods are produced, and the opportunities and quality of life for people there.

    Also, I was thinking about another point–you observed a trend about ready-to-drink teas still going strong…this is one thing that, on some level, saddens me a bit. I think that ready-to-drink teas are more than a bit at odds with sustainability, on both the environmental and human rights end of things. Not only is the bottling and transport process costly in terms of energy and resources, thus leading to bigger environmental impact, but RTD is an industry in which the profits reside primarily in the wealthy Western countries where tea is sold. This is because the “value added” resides with the brewing and bottling, and not with the production itself.

    I would strongly prefer to push things in the direction of loose-leaf tea, and people brewing their own tea, instead of buying bottled teas. It’s one reason RateTea doens’t even list bottled teas–we don’t want to encourage this side of the industry too much. If people switch from bottled sodas to unsweetened bottled teas, maybe that would be a good thing, but I ultimately want to see more people switching to brewing their own loose-leaf tea.

    I know people don’t always have time to brew up tea, but I have a great heat-insulated water bottle that I routinely fill with iced tea I brewed at home. It’s super convenient, more sustainable, and I get the benefit of cheaper, higher-quality tea that is just as ready-to-drink as a product I purchase in the store! I may be fighting against a trend but I think it’s important for us to identify when trends are a good thing and when they may have a downside to them.

    • Alex,

      Thanks so much for reading our blog and sharing your thoughts. We agree whole-heartedly with your point about how sustainability and social responsibility are interconnected. It’s so true that sustainability is holistic – encompassing everything from how products are grown/manufactured to how they impact people. However, often-times most people use the term “sustainability” to refer to the environmental impact while the social responsibility term is used to talk about the people impact. Either way, both are critical in a sustainable business.

      I hear what you’re saying about the ready-to-drink tea segment – there’s lots of extra resources going into excessive packaging, transportation, etc. However, there’s a huge market opportunity out there and if socially responsible companies don’t capitalize on it, someone else will. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to look at more eco-friendly packaging to lessen the environmental impact w/o missing out on this opportunity.

      Thanks again for reading our blog and taking time to comment. Please let me know if there’s specific topics you’d like to see more of.

      Marketing Manager
      High Quality Organics

  3. Good post for tea lovers. Happy to read that over 200 exhibitors, dozens of experts and thousands of attendees were at the expo.

  4. Very interesting article. I have known that this day was coming for a while now.Ever since I heard that Starbucks was buying Teavana (I read all of Austin blogs) As the owner of a small tea shop a lot of our customers will come in and start talking about some tea that they buy at Teavana. When I inform them that Teavana is now owned by Starbucks this is the response that I hear most often ( “I didn’t know that I won’t buy tea there again I’m afraid of GMO “s ) So from my perspective,American people are already suspect of Starbucks quality. Not only that but Chinese Country folk for the most part just do not trust city folk. I know my wife is Chinese. Thankfully for us, all of our Chinese tea is sourced by Seven Cups.So I think that Austin is absolutely right. Starbucks will run into a wall. A Great Wall.Starbucks simply can not beat Seven Cups when it comes to sourcing and quality. Even with deep pockets.

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