The $2.5 billion tea category is anything but black and green. Brews are also made from white and purple and red leaves, among others. Add herbal blends and chai, and the category sprawls. That's why vendors of bag and loose teas are helping retailers reorganize the aisle with new packaging, tightened planograms and a spoonful of SKU rationalization.
“There's a consolidation going on, keeping the message simple,” said Parampal Singh, brand manager of Yogi Tea. “It's more about the brand and less about the tea.”
Earlier this year, Eugene, Ore.-based Yogi introduced new packaging and store sets that condensed the company's choices into four groups, and three color-coordinated categories — one group each for mind and spirit, and two for body.
“When we introduced these four groups, we removed seven teas that were no longer moving that well,” said Singh. “We always rationalize SKUs.”
Celestial Seasonings, the category leader in herbal tea, has undertaken a similar effort that retains the iconic art and quotes found on each box, but adds consistent package graphics and coordinated color bands. The result is a more streamlined and organized planogram, according to David Zwiegert, general manager of the Hain Celestial Group-owned brand.
“Our goal and objective was to come forward with a strong uniformity and look that our consumers could easily identify on the shelf,” he said.
The changes come at an important time. Tea continues to attract consumers as a healthful beverage; and even though the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve definitive health claims for green tea, the overall category still enjoys a strong reputation for nourishing body and spirit. Zwiegert said Celestial Seasonings determined that consumers no longer see tea as a rainy-day, passive beverage.
“Our research showed us they were moving from a very comforting, cozy experience to a theme we heard over and over, of ‘active relaxation,’” he said. “It's a bit of an oxymoron, but it speaks volumes to what our consumers are looking for today.”
That concept got a workout recently when Celestial Seasonings distributed more than 1 million free samples through Curves, the women's health club chain.
“The consumer is living a very active lifestyle and needs to get value and function out of every experience they have, including their tea drinking,” Zwiegert said.
Tea is breaking free of the grocery aisle, and is now a basic ingredient in medicinal beverages; an increasing number of HBC items are also using tea infusions. Such innovations are shaping Yogi Tea's marketing plans.
“We position Yogi Tea as a purposeful, delicious drink,” said Singh. “Tea has become like wine. It goes with their personality. What kind of brand they drink tells something about their personality.”