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Tea’s time is now!

Tea sales are increasing significantly in all regions of Canada, and the volume of tea sold in the country has more than doubled over the last 20 years.

By Lawrence Herzog

The growth is happening right across the grocery channel and foodservice, where smart restaurant, café and tea operators are capitalizing on the public’s stronger thirst for tea.

An update of industry trends, presented by the Tea Association of Canada, showed just how the segment is simmering hot – and positioned for further growth. “Analysis shows that consumption has increased by one-third over the last 10 years, and maybe more,” says Louise Roberge, president of the Tea Association of Canada.

Statistics Canada reports that between 2006 and 2009, per capita consumption surged from 62.04 litres to 78 litres. Consumption for 2011 was reported by Statistics Canada at 93 litres, but Roberge believes that estimation is high owing to a change in method of calculation. In 1991, average consumption was reported at 36 litres per person.

The total dollar market share of specialty teas sold in Canada surged by seven per cent between 2010 and 2011, and now holds nearly 58 per cent of the country’s total tea value, according to the Tea Association of Canada. The West and Ontario are leading the country in specialty tea sales, and black tea remains solidly dominant in just one region of the country – Atlantic Canada

Hot tea servings in Canadian foodservice topped 379 million in 2012, up from 346 million in 2008, Roberge says. The total sales value nationwide now tops $760 million. Over the last five years, hot tea servings in the foodservice channel have increased 3.5 per cent per year, on average. Iced tea servings in Canada were mostly stable, dropping slightly from 215 million in 2008 to 209 million in 2012.

“Our research shows that 80 per cent of Canadians drink tea at home, but most of them aren’t drinking tea outside of home,” Roberge says. “It’s always on the menu at foodservice establishments, but because the quality and the preparation of tea aren’t good enough, a lot of consumers just won’t order it. The opportunity is there, and operators who are doing a better job with tea see the benefit with increased sales.

“It is a bit more complicated to make a cup of tea than to make a cup of coffee, for sure. It takes a foodservice operator who takes it seriously and realizes the opportunity.”