After water, tea is the second most consumed beverage globally. But tea drinking historically has lagged in the U.S., even though it may hold the Asian secret to longevity and good health.
As July 4 approaches, one can't help but reflect that a tax on tea in the Colonies was the impetus for our rebellion from Great Britain in 1776. In Tea Lover's Treasury, author James Norwood Pratt relates this story: En route to sign the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote his wife Abigail that he asked at a tavern, "Is it lawful for a weary traveler to refresh himself with a dish of tea, provided it has been honestly smuggled and has paid no duty?" The landlord's daughter answered sternly: "No sir! We have renounced tea under this roof. But, if you desire it, I will make you some coffee."
American attitudes are changing. An aging U.S. population with disease prevention on its mind, including some 77 million baby boomers, has embraced beverages such as tea as part of a holistic lifestyle. Many believe the antioxidants, botanicals and herbs not only quench their thirst but aid their hearts with anti-inflammatory benefits, improve immunity, aid digestion, provide energy, detox their systems and help them relax.
"Look for the emergence of a new category of tea products: tea-infused waters and tea energy drinks," predicts Joseph Simrany, president of the New York City-based Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc. "In addition, look for tea-infused alcoholic and malt beverage specialties."
Herbs and botanicals
Sales of single-serve ready-to-drink (RTD) teas, energy drinks (containing ginseng, ginkgo biloba and guarana), carbonated soft drinks and juices carrying functional claims drove the market to $23 billion, according to "Functional and Natural Ready-to-Drink Beverages in the U.S.," a report by Packaged Facts (www.packagedfacts.com).
Such beverages provide a convenient delivery system of herbs and botanicals, making them easier to consume than supplements and certainly more enjoyable. But processors face a number of challenges when using botanicals. An efficacious dose of some botanicals can taste bitter, so those off notes must be masked; regulatory questions about health claims must be considered; and sourcing from reliable suppliers is of utmost importance since most botanicals are grown outside the U.S.
It's also notable that a new wave of beauty-enhancing cosmeceutical (or beauty from within) botanical products are focusing attention on looking younger without Botox.
Increasing demand for botanical remedies is both a national and international trend. In fact, the global herbal supplement and remedies market is expected to reach $93 billion by 2015, according to a new report by Global Industry Analysts Inc. (www.strategyr.com).
"One of the most persistent myths promulgated by the media and other parties is that the herb and dietary supplement industries are not regulated," writes Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of American Botanical Council (www.herbalgram.org) Austin, Texas, and editor of HerbalGram.
"While people can argue whether federal and state regulatory agencies adequately or uniformly enforce all existing laws and regulations, an objective view of the situation leads only to the conclusion that the industry is indeed regulated. Consider the many authorities for the regulation of herbs and other dietary supplements and their ingredients -- from Good Manufacturing Practices to limits on products' claims, and much, much more."
While health concerns, especially childhood obesity, are taking some of the effervescence out of carbonated soft drink (CSD) sales, sodas with botanical ingredients are still growing. "Premium sodas made with herbs and spices and sweetened with cane sugar or agave continue to gain market share," according to Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director at Datamonitor (www.datamonitor.com), New York.
One example is Joia, launched last June by Minneapolis-based Boundary Waters Brands (www.joialife.com). The four varieties of Joia each include a fruit, an herb and a spice. They are Lime, Hibiscus & Clove; Pineapple, Coconut & Nutmeg; Grapefruit, Chamomile & Cardamom; and Blackberry, Pomegranate & Ginger.
Sipp Eco Beverage Co. (www.haveasipp.com), Uwchland, Pa., makes five varieties of soda, including Lemon Flower, a mix of lemon, sweet elderberry, tarragon and agave nectar.