With volumes of black tea in long-term decline, tea suppliers are looking to less mainstream varieties to drive top-line growth.

Green tea, in particular, has seen its popularity grow in a relatively short space of time, prompting leading brands PG Tips, Tetley and Typhoo to add green variants to their range. Sales of green tea have increased 12.2% in value to £14.6m in the past year [Kantar 52w/e 13 June].

But green still accounts for a very small part of the market and "there's a lot further it can grow", says Simon Attfield, customer marketing controller for Tetley brand owner Tata Global Beverages.

Fruit and herbal teas is another strong growth area, with sales up 8.5% to £49.9m. Unilever's Lipton fruit and herbal infusions range outstripped the rest with sales up by more than 300% to £1.7m, backed by a big campaign.

"We've invested heavily in marketing in the past year and we want to continue establishing it," says Adrian Adams, Unilever senior category manager for tea. The Lipton campaign targeted younger consumers, using fashion press, events and posters, and Unilever has just announced a collaboration with the designers FrostFrench, which includes the installation of a tea boutique in FrostFrench's Islington store.

Meanwhile, Dinuk Dissanayake, MD of The London Tea Company, notes a move away from traditional teas such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey to "more unusual blends that offer the consumer something a little different". 

The London Tea Company's three top-selling blends are White Tea, Elderflower and Apricot; Peppermint, Spearmint and Strawberry; and Green Tea, Mango and Ginger. Unusual blends are resonating strongly with young consumers, according to Yorkshire Tea brand manager James Prentice.

"Younger consumers have a broader repertoire of teas and as those drinks become more established, they become part of the tea habit."

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