Traditionally, the marketplace for loose leaf tea drinkers in the United States has been limited.
Although loose leaf tea was extremely popular in colonial times, the consumption of loose leaf tea gradually changed and recently the American market for tea has been generally confined to iced tea and tea in bags.
Loose leaf tea was introduced to America at the same time of introduction to Europe. As early as 1650 Dutch traders were active in the tea trade and Peter Stuyvesant, as an early governor of the New York colony, brought the first tea to New York.
Gradually however, the American tea market changed. America made two unique contributions to the tea world in the form of iced tea and the tea bag and both were invented in the early 1900ís. Presently, 80% of the tea consumed in the United States is iced tea and of the remaining 20% of tea consumption, most is consumed in the form of bagged tea.
There is growing resurgence of demand for loose leaf tea in the United States however, driven by a greater awareness of the health benefits and quality of the loose leaf tea experience. As demand increases, new opportunities arise for the entrepreneur who wishes to market and sell loose leaf tea.
The total number of loose leaf tea products and annual volume and value levels within the U.S. have reached record levels. In fact, 2003 sales levels of loose leaf tea sold in the U.S. reached nearly $1.1 billion, representing an increase of 15% over total retail volume sold in 2002.
Total sales of all types of tea, conventional and specialty products sold in the U.S. topped $5.1 billion in 2003 with virtually all of the volume and value growth being derived from value-added, loose leaf teas.
The 5th Edition of the “Tea is Hot” Report, which is published annually by Sage Group International, Seattle, WA, forecasts tea sales will reach $10 billion by 2010. This conclusion is based largely on the projected demands of American ìbaby boomersî, who are increasingly embracing loose leaf tea as their primary daily beverage. In 1990, annual sales of all specialty and conventional tea in the U.S. totaled less than $1 billion.
For much of the last five years tea-based beverage products made from and packaged as “conventional tea” have been experiencing flat or declining sales in the face of mounting “cannibalization” of the category from “new age” drinks specialty coffee and soda pop, while most loose leaf tea categories are experiencing double-digit growth, primarily in U.S. natural foods supermarkets.
Annual sales growth of 15% or even higher has been common for many loose leaf tea lines between 2000 and 2004, especially those offering certified organic, chai, green and functional tea beverages.
The key factor in this rapid growth and demand however, is quality. Loose leaf tea is all about quality and only those tea companies that maintain consistent product quality will grow along with the market.