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Sugary brands like Arizona and Lipton iced teas lead this category with nearly one billion off-trade litres sold at retail in 2012.
RTD tea is the world’s fastest growing soft drink category.
With a global off-trade volume CAGR of 8.2% from 2002-12, it has outperformed carbonates (1.7%), juices (4.0%), and even bottled water (7.2%).
Meanwhile, full-flavoured RTD tea products like Lipton Iced Tea, Lipton Brisk, Arizona, and Snapple have all seen value declines for 2013.
This seems to demonstrate a shift in US consumer attitudes toward RTD teas – one where low calorie teas and teas with healthier, natural ingredients are growing in popularity.
Chief amongst these is Coca-Cola’s Honest Tea and Pepsi/Lipton’s Pure Leaf, which both promise to be brewed from real tea leaves for a fresh brewed taste.
The products are available in unsweetened varieties with zero calories, or in flavours such as Honest Tea’s “Sweet Tea”, “Peach White Tea”, and “Honey Green Tea” (all of which are USDA certified as organic and GMO-free) or Pure Leaf’s “Sweet Tea”, “Lemon”, or “Raspberry”, all with about 70 to 180 calories per bottle.While growth remains positive, brands high in sugar are starting to bear the brunt of an obesity conscious consumer base, especially in the United States.In its place, tea that tastes more like tea – fresh brewed, unsweetened, subtle flavours – have emerged to meet growing demand for natural ingredients and lower calorie beverages with a less sweet, authentic taste.Pure Leaf also has diet versions that use sucralose and Ace-K artificial sweeteners to keep the product at zero calories.Preliminary 2013 data regarding sales of Honest Tea and Pure Leaf is promising, with each brand showing strong growth from the previous year.And finally, Coca-Cola launched “Habu” herbal tea in Thailand – a blend of roselle, licorice, luo han guo and cogon grass said to “combine modern taste with traditional herbal properties.” At the same time, established brands like Zero Degree Green Tea in Vietnam and Sosro in Indonesia continue to evaluate their diet products to meet consumer demand for health, with Sosro focusing on a jasmine tea marketed with less sugar.Manufacturers in the US are seeing similar success with less sweet products that focus on the subtleties of tea.In fact, as demonstrated by the chart below, RTD tea has outpaced overall soft drinks industry growth every year for the last ten years.However, demand for high sugar bottled teas is slowing.To reverse this forecast, RTD tea manufacturers should examine the evolution of the category in Asia Pacific – a market where the flavour differences between hot tea and RTD tea continues to blur.In 2012, RTD tea in Asia has grown into a 22.9 billion litre, US.7 billion retail juggernaut.