Numerous studies have looked at the benefits of tea’s high level of antioxidants, and have linked the beverage with all manner of health issues, from suggesting a lowered risk of breast cancer and stroke, to a possible role in weight control and protection against gum disease. Although Virginia Dare does not claim that its extracts share the same health properties as tea, it admits that it is playing on the public perception of tea’s healthy halo.
The company’s director of marketing Paulette Kerner told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “Nowhere do we ever say that there are any health benefits, but tea, with no fat and no calories, is perceived as a healthful beverage compared to others.”
Wider trend towards tea
Virginia Dare is not alone in tapping increased consumer interest in tea. GSB Flavor Creators also chose to leverage a range of green tea flavors on the beverage’s popularity in January, blended with fruity notes.
And last year, International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) expanded its range of tea flavors, focusing on categories – white, black, green and oolong tea.
In terms of the simple beverage, Packaged Facts predicts that the US market for tea will double over the next five years, boosted by a growing interest in wellness.
It estimates that sales for instant, leaf, liquid concentrate and ready-to-drink tea will reach nearly $15bn by 2012, compared to $7.4bn last year.
It said that tea's "all-natural halo" and its lower caffeine content than coffee or cola is one of the major attractions for consumers.
This has led Virginia Dare to renew its marketing for its tea extracts, which it has been producing for decades. However, the company is still better known for its vanilla extract, said Kerner.
“The history of our extraction process goes back 85 years when we started by extracting vanilla from vanilla beans,” she said.
Virginia Dare provides green, black and oolong tea extracts in liquid or powder form for use by beverage manufacturers, but the company said that the extracts – which are 100 to 5000 times concentrated – can also be blended with other flavors for use in bakery and dairy products.