Expo West 2018

Demand for convenience, functional health benefits help bolster tea sales in the US

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

According to the Tea Association of the USA, sales of tea in the US are growing 3-5% annually, which the co-founder and CEO of Pique Tea attributes to rising consumer interest in plant-based diets, convenience and function beyond simple hydration.

“Millennials are the first generation of Americans having equal preference for tea and coffee, so more than ever we are seeing a very strong interest in our category, and the primary reason for that is because of the health benefits,”​ but also the convenience of tea – especially Pique’s ​ instant tea crystal format, Simon Cheng explained to FoodNavigator-USA at Natural Products Expo West in California.

Looking first at convenience, he explained, consumers are drawn to powders of superfoods – including teas – because it is a versatile format that they can “weave into recipes, weave into your morning shake or you know, just kind of make into a drink”​ without special equipment or excessive time.

Pique Tea crystals dissolve in hot or cold water and can either be used alone or as an ingredient for innovative recipes, such as a keto Earl Gray like the company showcased at Expo West which blended its Earl Gray crystals in hot water with coconut oil.

“Our customers are doing all sorts of things with our beverages,”​ including making frozen pops and ice cream, he added.

“The second biggest trend [driving tea sales] is really the functional benefits,”​ such as a constant hum of energy without jitters or a calming effect, he said.

But he added, new research also supports additional functional benefits, such as gut health support.

“Gut health is becoming an extremely important topic to our health and wellness these days, and the reason that teas is very relevant there is because the antioxidants in tea are prebiotics. So, they actually feed the healthy gut bacteria inside your gut and increase their numbers naturally,”​ he said, adding, “With Pique tea, because our cold brew crystallization process, we extract a very high amount – 12 times the antioxidants of other teas – and provide a high level of those polyphenols.”

As demand for tea grows, so too is Pique’s portfolio. The company launched a new line of three herbal elixirs, including Beauty Elixir, Digestion Elixir and a Calming Elixir, all of which are made with traditional herbal tea ingredients, including ginger, rooibos and hibiscus, for example.

Looking forward, Cheng says Pique will continue to apply its cold brew crystallization technology not just to tea but functional super plants to provide a wider variety of health benefits to consumers.

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