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Why Rooibos is trending: a special kind of "tea"

It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we eat and drink.

Throughout the world, we have seen a shift in how and why people drink tea. Tea drinkers are seeking goodness: for them, for others, and for the environment.

The pandemic has reinforced the necessity of good health, and healthy beverages with functional benefits are expected to grow substantially because of this shift.

But there’s also an increase in awareness around climate change and sustainability.

There’s no doubt, then, that the Rooibos industry will benefit from this trend.

Pinterest recently announced its food and drinks predictions, among which were that “afternoon tea” will become the new happy hour.

Online searches for healthy tea, tea pairings, and tea parties have been spiking across age groups.

But what differentiates Rooibos from other types of tea is that it is grown only in a small region within South Africa. Consumers, especially young people, are increasingly mindful about where their tea comes from.

Rooibos, an indigenous herb with a single origin, fits perfectly into this trend.

It is the first African food product to receive Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status in the EU, which means it cannot be sold as Rooibos unless it was sold and processed in South Africa.

It is also grown in a country with progressive labour laws and strong environmental management policies. This, in addition to third-party certifications, means that Rooibos consumers can be assured that this herb is farmed with care for people and the environment.

Market research indicates how best tea, and therefore Rooibos, can be marketed to consumers:

· Adaptogenic teas (wellness tea) – An adaptogen is a plant extract that is believed to increase the body’s ability to fight the damaging effects of stress and inflammation, and promotes normal physiological functioning. “Many consumers are adding complex herbal blends to their tea, like chamomile, ginger, turmeric and ginseng to further enhance the health benefits of the teas they drink. To make it easier for time-constrained consumers, many of these adaptogens have now been added to Rooibos products,” remarks Vorster.

· Customisation – Personalisation is huge, especially with customer tastes becoming more discerning. Being able to design your own tea by mixing different flavours for a unique taste and further personalising it by giving it a name, enables individuals to express themselves while satisfying their taste buds.

· Ready to drink teas – RTD teas are gaining in popularity and are seen as healthier alternatives to canned or bottled fizzy drinks. Watch this space as marketers launch a greater variety of cold teas to choose from in the short- to medium term.

· Tea experiences – Tea lovers will seek out restaurants and cafés that have an extensive tea menu rather than the standard one or two options. Many enjoy brewing loose leaf tea and will search for the same immersive experience at an eatery where they can indulge in unique blends and flavours. The emergence of tea pairing menus, as you would pair wine with different dishes, will also become more prominent and will attract new customers looking for a sensory experience.

· Subscriptions – A few years ago the tea subscription business model was mostly niche, but the pandemic jolted consumers out of routine purchase behaviours, propelling online sales and home delivery. “The model involves ordering tea in a variety of forms ranging from RTDs to a curated box of tea bags or loose leaf tea on a monthly or more regular basis directly to your door. Tea subscriptions are becoming more prevalent and it’s also a great way to retain and cultivate customer loyalty, which will become more critical than ever in a very competitive space,” adds Vorster.

· Tea cocktails and mocktails – With the sober-curious trend taking off and fewer people drinking alcohol during a night out, tea-based drinks are becoming a staple in trendy bars and pubs worldwide. “Tea makes for an ideal base ingredient and offers a much greater variety of options when it comes to mixing alcoholic and even non-alcoholic drinks. It also adds a different dimension to many favourite cocktail formats.”

· Gifting – Specialty and novelty teas are also becoming a popular gifting option in 2022. Tea is no longer a simple grocery item. High quality, premium tea has become a thing of sophisticated consumption. Much like aficionados will go to the ends of the earth to search for gourmet quality coffee, tea will follow in the same path. Especially, younger consumers who are eager to try new tea varieties and different brewing techniques. The trend is likely to boost sales of teaware and accessories, such as infusers and strainers, along with gourmet teas and customised blends in fancy packaging – ideal for gifting.

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