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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 May 2005, 23:18 GMT 00:18 UK
Youngsters 'shun traditional tea'
A cup of tea
The popularity of other varieties of tea have risen in recent years
Britons are turning their backs on the traditional cuppa in favour of exotic new herbal, fruit and speciality teas, research suggests.

Sales of tea bags and loose tea dropped by 16% and 9% between 2002 and 2004, according to market analysts Mintel.

But herbal and fruit tea sales rose by 30% over the same period, while the sales of "speciality" varieties, such as green tea, increased by over 50%.

Mintel said traditional tea had to lose its "staid" image to remain popular.

Researchers said it was the younger generation who were shunning traditional tea - and the industry needed to think about giving it a trendier image.

Nearly 80% of Britons are tea drinkers, according to the survey of 25,000 consumers, which was conducted between 2002 and 2004.

Traditional tea has maintained a relatively staid image and is now competing with more exotic and healthier herbal tea options
Ellen Shiels
Mintel senior market analyst

Up to 70% of people aged 65 and over drink the beverage at least twice daily, compared with only 38% of 15 to 24-year-olds.

But young people appear to be sipping exotically flavoured teas, many of which do not contain caffeine.

Ellen Shiels, Mintel's senior market analyst, said: "The traditional English cuppa is fighting a real battle against coffee as a hot beverage and against increasing competition from tea alternatives such as soft drinks, bottled water and fruit juice.

"But also within the tea market itself, traditional tea has maintained a relatively staid image and is now competing with more exotic and healthier herbal tea options."

The last five years has seen the total tea market fall by around 12%, from 707m in 1999 to just 623m in 2004.

Ms Shiels argued that manufacturers need to market tea as a fashionable drink, to maintain the British tea drinking tradition.

Market decline

The overall decline of the market, which researchers say is partly due to prices being cut in discounts, has been curbed by consumers turning to speciality, herbal and fruit teas.

However, despite their falling popularity, standard tea bags still make up 63% of the total market compared with herbal and fruit teas which account for 27% of retail sales.

English Breakfast tea remains the most popular tea in the UK.

However, green tea - which is high in antioxidants - is increasingly popular, according to Mintel.

And new "white tea" is expected to make its mark as a fashionable new health drink.

Overall, the tea market has become more segmented, with some varieties being marketed for their health benefits and others for their anti-stress value.

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