Innovation is to the fore in the fruit and herbal tea sector with sales up 4.4% year-on-year as new varieties are introduced [TNS w/e 17 June 2007].

The challenge in this sector has always been the taste. "Most fruit teas disappoint, with weak flavours and no aroma," says Sainsbury's David Whiffen. "Consumers often drop out because they don't enjoy the experience."

To counteract this, suppliers have been improving manufacturing techniques and introducing new products.

In June, Typhoo launched the Fruit Creations brand of fruit and herbal teas. "Typhoo uses Juicea technology that ensures the teas retain their flavour while in the packet and during brewing," says Sue Jones-Smithson, channel marketing manager for Typhoo.

The range offers eight flavours including orange and ginseng, green Rooibos and honey and super fruits infusion.

Tetley has also enhanced its Fruit Infusions range to meet consumer demand for better flavours.

Its research indicated that taste was more important for consumers than aroma and refreshment.

"We have redefined the blends to be super-fruity," says Tetley's Simon Attfield.

In the past year, Tetley Fruit and Herbals have performed well with an increase of 18% in volume [Nielsen Scantrack MAT w/e 9 June 2007].

Rooibos (Redbush) tea is emerging as a new sector and has increased 43.9% in volume and 41.2% in value.

Tetley launched its Redbush 40s in January and the brand is now worth more than £250,000.

Tetley included a sample of Redbush with its 160-bag packs of Tetley to encourage trial, which seems to have paid off.

One of the newest launches in this sector is Kromland Farm Organic Rooibos Tea from Only Natural Products, which claims to be the UK's first single-estate South African Rooibos tea.

The fruit and herbal tea sector has a wide selection of different teas but, as Andrew Jones from Taylors of Harrogate says: "Our customers have told us they have a range of fruit and herbal teas for different occasions - say seven or eight in their cupboard."

The sector is closely associated with health, with many manufacturers launching new lines directly linked to health benefits.

Only Natural Products has introduced teas such as Dr Stuart's Throat Relief, Liver Detox and Wild Nettle.

Meanwhile, Birt & Tang has launched Insula and CardioPlus, and Twinings has extended its Blended For You range with Morning Detox and Recover. n