What has no sugar, no calories, but is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals? Tea! And herbal teas (otherwise known as tisanes) are naturally caffeine-free, thus making them a perfect beverage choice for kids. While the kids’ tea category is still in its infancy, it is poised for strong growth for the following reasons: (1) it stands to benefit from the solid growth in the adult tea market, (2) it meets a real consumer need for a lower sugar, antioxidant-rich beverage for kids, and (3) there are ways to formulate it in order to achieve a taste profile that appeals to kids.
Tea’s popularity has surged over the last few years with more and more adults drinking ready-to-drink tea, bagged tea, kombucha, and the various flavored tea drinks recently entering the market. In 2013, tea category sales totaled $4.1 billion, up 5.9 percent versus the previous year. At $2.4B, the ready-to-drink tea segment was more than half those sales. While tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water, in the USA, it ranks 7th after carbonated soft drinks, bottled water, beer, milk, coffee, and fruit juices. The upside potential is huge.
In the past, 100 percent juice was considered the ‘gold standard’ for a healthy kids’ drink. Per the USDA guidelines, one serving of 100% juice provides kids with the equivalent of a cup of fruit. Many parents find this a convenient and easy way to get their kids to consume more fruit. Health conscious parents mainly offered their young kids milk, water and 100 percent juice. They stayed away from juice drinks that contained HFCS, added sugar or artificial flavors and colors. A few years ago, however, parents started to become more aware of the high levels of sugar in the foods their kids were consuming including the high natural sugar levels in 100 percent juice. Many parents started adding water to 100 percent juice. As this behavior caught on, manufacturers responded with products that were a blend of juice and water. There’s only one problem, watered down juice is just that, watered down. Half the juice means half the nutrients. There’s a real market need and opportunity for a healthier beverage that is both lower in sugar and rich in antioxidants. That’s where tea comes in.
When I lived in Japan, tea was all around me. The more I learned about tea, the more I realized the tremendous health benefits drinking tea brings. That is where I thought of the idea to introduce the habit of drinking tea to young kids, and why I worked to produce Drazil Kids Tea, a brewed herbal tea lightly sweetened with 100 percent fruit juices. “If tea is so healthy for adults to drink, why shouldn’t kids drink it too?”
Most kids in America are accustomed to a sweeter taste profile so plain herbal tea would probably not appeal to the majority of kids. However, herbal teas with a fruity flavor would. Naturally caffeine-free herbal teas lightly sweetened with fruit juices are a great alternative to 100 percent juices and juice/water blends as the herbal tea cuts the natural sugar but keeps the antioxidants. For older teens, age-appropriate flavors, the use of different tea blends such as green and white teas, and mixing tea with other natural sweeteners can further build the kids tea market.
As the consumption data shows, tea drinking in America is growing and all indications are that it will continue to grow. Introducing tea early to kids will encourage them to develop a life-long love for tea and hopefully will make them less likely to reach for more sugary drinks.
While relatively new, the kids’ tea category has all the elements for success. As Americans continue to become more health conscious, it’s only a matter of time for tea to become the second most consumed beverage in the USA.