Perhaps heralding a gradual return of the teapot, the biggest users of loose-leaf tea are now young people.

Green and loose-leaf set trends in tea market

Perhaps heralding a gradual return of the teapot, the biggest users of loose-leaf tea are now young people.

Green and loose-leaf set trends in tea market

But, according to new research from Mintel, overall sales of traditional English breakfast tea are falling as UK consumers’ taste for alternatives such as green, fruit and herbal teas grows.

Although accounting for 70% of the tea market, sales of English breakfast tea bags dropped by 1.5% to £463m between 2010 and 2011. And the number of consumers using standard tea fell from 87% in 2010 to 83% in 2011.

However, other more exotic varieties have shown more positive performances. Between 2009 and 2011, sales of fruit and herbal bags increased by 10%, speciality bags 8% and decaffeinated bags 16%.

But the green bags sector was the real star performer, says Mintel, growing a sensational 83% in the two years, the market almost doubling to £22m. Today, 12% of us drink green tea on a weekly basis.

“Though the segment continues to play only a niche role in the market,” said Alex Beckett, senior food analyst at Mintel, “green tea – like fruit and herbal teas – has benefited from positive associations with healthiness.”

Sales of loose-leaf tea dropped by 11% between 2009 and 2011, accounting for just 2% of overall tea sales. But, surprisingly, the biggest users of loose tea now are those aged between 25 and 34. Twelve per cent of this age group use it as against 10% of people of 65 and over.

“Tea has an increasingly cool image,” Beckett explained. “With many of the nation’s younger consumers having a keener interest in food as well as quality coffee, this group are more likely to be more open to discovering the benefits of loose-leaf, such as the full flavour of the larger leaves.”

Sales of hot chocolate and hot malted drinks both fell in the last year, by 4% and 5% respectively.

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