With National Afternoon Tea Week steaming ahead this week (8th-14th August), new research from Mintel indicates that older consumers may be the first to clink their cups and saucers in celebration. Indeed, Mintel research reveals that over one in three (35%) tea drinkers aged between 55 and 64 drink five or more cups of standard black tea a day, compared to just 16% of those aged between 25 and 34.

While a cuppa has been something of a national favourite in the British Isles throughout the centuries, it seems that younger consumers are less enthused about the tea-time favourite. Almost half (48%) of those aged between 25 and 34 say that too much standard black tea can stain your teeth, while 23% of this age group say that the beverage has too much caffeine for them to drink it in the afternoon or evening and one in five (21%) say black tea is not good for hydration. Indeed, it seems young Brits are keen for more extravagant options as two in five (32%) aged 25 to 34 say they prefer more indulgent hot drinks to tea.

What’s more, this age group are the most likely to shun the traditional tea bag for a more exotic tea-time drink. Brits aged 25 to 34 are almost twice as likely to drink speciality teas in comparison to Brits over the age of 55, with half (50%) of those aged 25 to 34 drinking speciality black tea, compared to 26% of consumers over the age of 55. Furthermore, 49% of Brits aged between 25 to 34 drink green tea, compared to less than one quarter (22%) of those aged over 55. They’re also more partial to fruit tea, with almost half (48%) of those aged between 25 to 34 drinking this variety, compared to just 28% of those aged over 55.

As a result, while Mintel research reveals that sales of ordinary tea bags are estimated to have dropped by 14% between 2013 and 2015, sales of green bags grew by 39%, speciality bags by 8% and fruit and herbal bags by 13%. Overall, tea sales in the UK are estimated to drop by 5% in 2016 to reach £614 million.

49% of Brits aged between 25 to 34 drink green tea

Richard Caines, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, said:

“UK retail value sales of tea have been in decline in recent years, with growth in sales of green, fruit, herbal and speciality teas not enough to make up for a fall in sales of standard black tea which dominates the market. Tea brands need to increase the appeal of their products to 16 to 34 year olds who drink standard black tea less frequently. One way of encouraging more tea drinking among younger consumers is with more choice of flavours and indulgent varieties.”

While tea sales may be in hot water, the latest research from Mintel indicates that cake sales show no sign of crumbling. Cake sales grew in 2015 at the fastest rate since 2011, with the market estimated to have grown by 3% to reach £1.22 billion. The rise in sales comes as cake buyers appear to have reason to celebrate. Sales of celebration cakes are estimated to have reached £204 million in 2015, up by 19% from sales of £172 million in 2013. What’s more, sales of large cakes rose by 5% from £267 million in 2013 to an estimated £280 million in 2015.

While four in five (80%) Brits eat cake, it seems that Afternoon Tea Week could be music to the ears of many as half (51%) of cake eaters say they eat it as a mid-afternoon snack. Eating cake is not limited to tea-time however, as 28% of this group say they eat cake after dinner and 25% have cake as a mid-morning snack. Furthermore, it seems a minority of cake enthusiasts are determined to get their fix first thing, with 6% saying they eat cake for breakfast, rising to 14% of those aged between 20 and 24.

Going forward, Brits are keen to see healthier options on the cake stand. Four in five (80%) cake buyers say they’d be interested in buying cakes made with alternatives to refined sugar, for instance made with honey, molasses or agave syrup. Additionally, 73% would be interested in cakes that use calorie-free natural sweeteners and 71% are interested in cakes made with coconut oil instead of butter.

Emma Clifford, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The cake market has not floundered amid the heightened concerns about sugar. However, opportunities are, nonetheless, ripe for operators to explore healthier formulations, with significant unmet demand for such products. In this context, superfood ingredients, including ancient grains, coconut oil and vegetables, can play an important role. These can tap into the current focus on positive nutrition. Alternatives to refined white sugar can also boost perceived health credentials. This offers an alternative to moving to low-sugar formulations, which pose significant challenges for cakes.”

Finally, while tea-rooms have for a long time been the home of afternoon tea, it seems that there could soon be a rebirth of tradition in Britain’s pubs. While 29% of pub diners have visited a pub or bar for a hot drink only (eg tea, coffee) just one in 10 (9%) Brits have visited pubs for afternoon tea/coffee and cakes. However, Mintel pinpoints the afternoon tea trade as a key growth area for UK pubs.

“That few pubs have made a point of developing or marketing an ‘afternoon tea’ offering is no doubt a key factor in low usage of afternoon teas compared with hot drinks only. This nonetheless suggests scope for more pubs to build revenues by encouraging people to have something with their hot drink. Making items like cakes, biscuits or sweet pastries visible at the bar during the quieter afternoon period should offer a very tangible reminder and proof of the quality of their offering.” Richard concludes.

Press review copies of the  Tea and Other Hot Drinks UK 2016 and Cakes and Cake Bars UK 2016 reports and interviews with Senior Food and Drink Analysts Richard Caines and Emma Clifford are available on request from the press office.

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