Young tea drinkers fueling industry with thirst for variety

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Variety is the spice for younger tea drinkers, it seems.

While builder’s tea - milk, two sugars - may be the stereotypical North East cuppa, it seems that younger consumers are more adventurous in their leaf of choice.

New research has shown that 37% 25-to-34-year-olds in the UK have drunk 5-6 different types of tea at home or in the workplace over the past month.

That compares to just 3% of those aged 55 and over, according to the survey by Mintel, which also shows that the younger age group are the most likely to drink every variety of tea tracked by the study.

While three in four (74%) of those aged 25-34 drink standard black tea, around half drink fruit tea or herbal/spice tea (51%), green tea (52%), speciality black tea (50%) and one in three (34%) drink instant tea.

However, while 70% of people in the UK drink standard black tea, less than two in five drink the less usual types.

Sweet tooth for tea

And while younger Brits are the most likely to have an adventurous taste for tea, they are also the most likely to want to turn to tea to satisfy their sweet tooth. Over half (56%) of tea drinkers aged 25-34 say that flavoured teas are a good alternative to sugary drinks, up from the average of 49%.

Indeed, it seems that young consumers in particular are turning away from the traditional cuppa and are keen to see more of an experimental approach to tea.

12% said they’d be interested in trying teas tailored for drinking as an alternative to wine, rising to 15% of those aged between 35 and 44.

And almost one in five (18%) of those aged between 16 and 44 would be interested in trying tea crystals, while 10% of those aged under 45 would be interested in trying liquid instant tea concentrate.

However, while younger consumers exhibit an enthusiastic approach to tea, overall sales in the UK are in hot water - falling by 5% in 2016 to 77 million kg, with the market estimated to steep by a further 3% in 2017 to 75 million kg.

Stormy times for teacups

Moreover, tea sales look set to come under further strain, with the market forecast to fall by 13% over the next five years to reach 65 million kg in 2022.

While the humble teapot is something of an icon for the British nation, it seems that a coffee pot may be more fitting for the older generation. While older consumers are still the most frequent tea drinkers, 52% of those aged 55+ drink standard black tea once a day or less. Among this group, over half (55%) say they do not drink it more often as they prefer the taste of coffee.

“Tea remains under pressure from a barrage of competition from other drinks,” said Anita Winther, Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel.

“While coffee has successfully injected connoisseur, indulgent and on-trend elements to the category, tea continues to struggle to deliver the same experience.”

Where tea has failed to establish itself as a menu staple for younger adults, it is likely to struggle to gain ground in their drinks repertoires later on.”