Milk? Sugar? Sparkling? Can the UK learn to love sparkling tea?
The way that the public is consuming drinks is changing. With increasing awareness of the impact of sugary drinks and the rise of ‘no and low alcohol’, brands are now looking to develop more natural, low-calorie drinks in order to move with public opinion. In the US, the introduction of hard seltzers and kombucha have proven successful. For the UK too, kombucha has been relatively well received as a healthier alternative to both sugar-laden soft drinks and their artificially sweetened alternatives. With this in mind, sparkling tea is also trying to find its fit within the market.
Sparkling tea is, however, is not a new revolution. Teatulia in the US launched their own ‘Tea Soda’ in Denver back in 2012 and this has proven to be their number one selling product. Hard Seltzers have similarly performed well in the US by providing a healthier alternative to high sugar cocktails and mixers. However, whilst we have seen the growing acceptance of ‘healthy’ soft drinks like Kombucha in the UK, the uptake of sparkling tea as an RTD option on a mainstream scale seems to be well behind that of the US.
For the UK so far, it seems that we are somewhat limited to the higher end of sparkling tea. The ‘Copenhagen Sparkling Tea Company’ is sold in Fortnum and Mason for around £16.95 per bottle, as well as selected restaurants and wine shops. Created by Danish wine sommelier Jacob Kocemba, this low-alcoholic range (ranging from 0% to 5% abv) comes with up to 13 varieties of tea blends in each bottle and is packaged similarly to that of a traditional wine with a more premium feel. For Fortnum and Mason, the new addition was well-liked, with overall tea sales being boosted by the introduction of sparkling tea.
(Image: Fortnum and Mason, ‘Copenhagen Sparkling Tea Company’)
Although the Copenhagen Tea Company provides an insight into UK consumer interest in sparkling tea, at £16.95 a bottle you’re unlikely to be seen in the Meal Deal section in your local Tesco any time soon.
One start-up based in York making waves in the sparkling tea market, however, is Fitch Brew Co, who launched in 2016. The co-founders themselves were inspired by the popularity of sparkling tea and cold brew in the US. After seeing how well cold brew was doing is in the US, they decided to expand into sparkling cold brew tea from their brewery in York. Fitch’s sparkling tea range includes a Rosehip, Hibiscus and Elderflower tea as well as a Chamomile and Ginger variant. At only 17 calories a can, Fitch is offering the growing health-conscious market a great alternative to high sugar drinks.
(Image: insidermedia, ‘Fitch Brew Co’)
But the sparkling tea market isn’t just start-ups and premium brands. Sanpellegrino have recently launched a sparkling tea range which offers an organic, low calorie (at 50 cals per can) and free-from preservatives alternative to other sugary fizzy canned drinks for the more health conscious consumer. With mainstream lemon and peach flavours mirroring their core iced tea range, this may prove to be the start of the mainstream RTD sparkling tea market in the UK.
(Image: Ocado, Sanpellegrino)
Following in the footsteps of the success of hard seltzers in the US, the Budweiser Group is aiming to introduce ‘Wandering Whistler’ into the UK. Launched in May 2019, this ‘hard tea’ is available in Jasmine and Earl Grey varieties. It is free from artificial preservatives and is relatively low in calorie. At 4.5% ABV, Whistler does not quite fit into the low alcohol market but may satisfy those who are looking to cut back on their alcohol intake and provides a good alternative to high sugar alcopops.
For the US market, it seems that sparkling tea has fit in well amongst other healthier, lighter drinks and has been well received. The UK, on the other hand, seems to have not yet embraced sparkling tea in a mainstream way yet – something that could also be said for hard seltzers. However, as more brands enter the market and price points become more reasonable, it is likely that the UK sparkling tea market will continue grow. Though the question still remains of whether the UK, a nation of avid tea drinkers, will ever embrace sparkling tea as a mass market product.
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