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“There’s a real hyper-focus on protein right now. ... People want everything to be a magic bullet. Temporarily it may help, but in the long run it’s all about balance and moderation.”
— Amy McLeod, staff dietitian, Brookshire Brothers
While the health benefits of tea have been touted for centuries, that hasn’t stopped tea makers from improving on the beverage’s reputation by adding new levels of functionality.
A number of companies, including Celestial Seasonings, The Republic of Tea and Salada Tea, have introduced bag teas infused with herbs, vitamins or other nutrients to produce new blends that address specific health or lifestyle issues.
“The majority of the consumers are grasping that tea can be more than a beverage to drink, it’s something that can help their health improve,” said Larry Baer, senior brand manager for Salada.
Salada recently introduced a trio of green tea blends that promote serenity (chamomile and valerian root), bone health (calcium and vitamin C) and immunity (vitamin C and echinacea). Three more formulations are due out soon.
Other recent functional tea blend introductions include Celestial Seasonings’ Metabo Balance, a green tea designed to help support a healthy metabolism, and LaxaTea, a combination of herbs and botanicals designed to relieve occasional constipation. This spring, The Republic of Tea introduced its Be Active tea line. With a base of South African Rooibos, the herbal teas are designed to boost flexibility and endurance, as well as post-workout recovery.
Despite the modern additions, nothing beats the popularity of simple green tea, which remains the tea category leader in mainstream supermarkets. Sales of a subcategory that Nielsen-owned SPINScan Conventional calls “green teas and supplements” rose 7.9% to $49 million in food, drug and mass over the last year. Individual botanicals have also shown strong growth, according to the sales tracker. Among the top-sellers were licorice (up 21%), dandelion (29%), fenugreek (up 21%) and chamomile (11%).
“A big misconception about healthy food is that it’s kind of gross,” noted Tara Coleman, clinical dietitian and consumer spokesperson for Salada. “When it’s true health, it’s a delicious and pleasurable experience.”