Twinings has unveiled what it claims is the ­biggest innovation ­programme ever seen in the UK tea category.

The UK’s third-largest tea brand [IRI] has set out its ambition to “reignite Britain’s passion for tea” and reinvigorate the declining overall market with new products and retail layouts.

It is launching 16 loose leaf blends packed in resealable pouches with clear panels allowing shoppers to see the tea. The range includes apple and Elderflower Green Tea, Popcorn Green Tea and Chai Lattes. Three SKUs contain loose tea and the remainder pyramid mesh bags (rsp: £3.49 to £4.49/12 bags). They roll out to Waitrose ahead of Christmas and are expected to be in full distribution by spring.

The NPD, which will be backed with a £12m marketing spend from next year, comes as sales of everyday tea fall and premium, green and fruit teas grow. Declining overall sales of everyday tea are driving the 6.4% slump in the market [IRI 52 w/e 19 July 2014].

“Standard tea has become stale and commoditised,” said Twinings UK MD Jon Jenkins. “The average tea drinker has been getting older, and young people are looking for more variety and excitement.

“We believe the market is at a tipping point, and if the opportunity for premium tea is realised, it will overtake mainstream within the next five to 10 years, driving the category to growth.”

Jenkins added the out-of-home market was driving interest in loose leaf tea, and that Twinings had a “clear vision” to drive growth of loose leaf in retail. “Shoppers are often on autopilot when they buy tea,” he said. “Our strategy aims to disrupt this with new format and a new retail layout to drive visibility and space for premium teas.”

Twinings is also adding new flavours and packaging to its Origins range and putting bags in individual envelopes.