Unilever is pulling the plug on its PG Plunger loose tea concept after sales failed to reach the company’s expectations.
The product had been a bold move by the food giant to inject some life into the flagging hot beverages market, which last year saw sales in the multiple grocers drop by 1.3% to dip below the £1bn mark.
However, despite receiving praise from buyers, the concept, which urged consumers to use cafetière-style plungers for brewing tea, failed to capture the imagination of consumers.
A £1.5m first year support programme and introductory packs containing a cafetière also failed to stir much interest.
The decision to ditch the concept will come as a hard
blow to Unilever which is desperate to find a way to keep ahead of the game in hot beverages. Despite the continued success of PG Tips Pyramid bags as the nation’s second favourite hot beverages brand behind Nescafé Original,
the brand’s sales suffered a 7.6% drop in the multiple grocers last year, falling to less than £90m [Information Resources 52 w/e October 4 2003].
A spokesman for Unilever said: “The PG Plunger format has not reached expected sales levels since its launch in February last year, and so it is no longer viable to continue production.”
However, he added that the Plunger concept would continue to have a presence in foodservice and that retailers could expect “continued innovation” from the PG brand.
Somerfield category buyer Josie Wright said one of Unilever’s big mistakes was to assume that consumers would use their coffee making cafetières to also brew tea.
She added: “Unilever deserves praise for trying to reinvigorate the loose tea market and it was a good idea. But one problem was that consumers could not, or would not, use their cafetières for making both tea and coffee because of the taste clash.”
Simon Mowbray