Daisy Li
Daisy is an Associate Director with the Mintel Food & Drink team, speciliasing in the China market. She monitors and reports on the latest innovation and trends impacting the Chinese food and drink market.

Tea is a large part of traditional Chinese and other Asian cultures, and is commonly consumed by many across the Asian region. Mintel research reveals that four in five Chinese consumers drink tea and tea-infused soft drinks at least once a week.

China’s ready-to-drink (RTD) tea drink market has seen intense competition in recent years, with a rising tide of tea-flavoured launches moving beyond beverages and into food, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).

Along with the growth of consumption power in China, people are seeking healthy lifestyles, and as such are choosing healthier and cleaner label food and drink products. This could further drive the growth of tea-flavoured products, as tea is oftentimes considered a natural and healthy ingredient.

Tea brings permissibility to indulgent food and drink

The flavour of tea, with its natural bitterness and refreshment, can temper sweetness. In China, Mintel GNPD reveals that bakery is the biggest food and drink category for new tea-flavoured products, while chocolate confectionery and dairy are enjoying fast growth in tea-flavoured innovation.

Chinese consumers are concerned about high calories and sugar content with Mintel research revealing that two-fifths of urban Chinese consumers consider low sugar to be a key better-for-you (BFY) snacking concept and are interested in low calorie chocolate products, respectively.

As the emerging tea flavour aligns with consumers current health goals, it allows for permissibility in indulgent categories such as desserts and ice cream and chocolate confectionery—in all, posing an opportunity for more indulgent, tea-flavoured food and drink innovations to enter the China market.

Lepur San San San Bei Matcha Greek Yogurt, China
The product is fermented using over triple the amount of raw cow’s milk, and contains matcha powder. It is said to have 32% less calories than milk and a control level of sweetness.

Lotte Sasha Uji Shaved Ice Flavour Chocolates, Japan
This chocolate features a lattice of bitter chocolate, white chocolate and Uji matcha green tea shaved ice flavoured chocolate, and is said to be crispy and refreshing when chilled before eating.

Tea plus fruit drinks are on the rise

Fruit teas (tea plus fruit drinks) have become very popular on the menus of modern Chinese tea houses. These drinks combine refreshing taste and healthy ingredients with a pleasant visual appearance, resonating well with the 45% of urban Chinese consumers who are interested in product innovation that utilises fruit tea with exotic fruit flavours.

Mintel GNPD further shows that over a quarter of all RTD tea products launched in China between August 2018 to July 2019 are fruit-flavoured. Companies and brands can move beyond the usual RTDs and incorporate tea flavours in other food and drink categories.

Dole Fruit & Tea Blending Earl Grey & Grapefruit Flavoured Konjac Jelly, South Korea
The product claims to provide the recommended daily value of vitamin C and satiety.

UHA Grapefruit & Hibiscus Tea, Peach & Butterfly Pea Tea and Lemon & Black Tea Candies, Japan
This candy product is a mixture of three types of fruit and tea flavours. These sweets are said to be coloured using flowers.

Exploring beyond the green

Mintel GNPD shows that green tea (including matcha) is currently dominating all tea-flavoured products launched in the five years to July 2019. However, there are other tea variants, such as Pu’er, black and jasmine tea, that are also popular among Chinese consumers, as Mintel research indicates. This represents an opportunity for companies and brands to look to these for flavour inspiration.

Wall’s Cornetto Peach and Oolong Flavoured Ice Cream, China
This tea-flavoured ice cream is said to be tasty and crisp, appealing to consumers with its new and unique flavour.

Marushichitea Nanaya Craft Japanese Black Tea Chocolate Tablet, Japan
This product from Japan blends tea into chocolate to create a ‘healthy taste’.