Nowhere is there more activity within the hot beverages market than in speciality teas. New fruit, herbal and green teas are being launched at an astonishing rate and although sales growth is good it's from a very low base.

According to TNS, sales of fruit and herbal teas account for 3.2% of the hot beverages market, worth nearly £43m and up 5.7% year-on-year. And green teas are worth 1%, more than £13m, up 21% year-on-year [52 w/e 18 June].

The biggest players in the market include Jacksons of Piccadilly and Twinings. Indeed, Twinings claims a 95% share of the speciality teas market. Prompted by consumer and shopper research, the company has segmented its range into five segments: fruit bliss, wellbeing blends, classic herbal, benefit blends and selections. The teas are grouped by taste and benefit, clearly defined through colour-coding and logo on-pack.

Meanwhile, Jacksons has recently launched several new teas with new packaging that, according to the company, is so beautiful that consumers won't want to hide the product away in their cupboards. Everyone is familiar with traditional red tea and even green, but Jacksons' latest launch is of White Silvertip tea. Grown in the Fujian province on the south east coast of China, new Pure Chinese White Silvertip tea is said to be one of the world's rarest and most exclusive teas.

The big-name standard teas, Tetley and Typhoo, are also not doing badly with their speciality versions. "Speciality teas is quite a hard market to crack because Twinings is so strong," admits Simon ­Attfield, customer marketing manager at Tetley. "But our green tea is doing well - in fact, green lemon is our bestselling SKU."

He believes Tetley has opened up the market to more consumers. "Speciality tea used to be a very ABC1 market. We recently repackaged and opened up the range to every­one. We did wet sampling in the major multiples and dry sampling on packs of Tetley 160-bags. We're very down to earth about our tea. For instance, we call our rooibos tea redbush, so everyone knows how to say it."

At Typhoo, sales director Keith Packer says the fruit and herb variants are star performers. "Sales are up 17% since the relaunch earlier this year and the 'made with real fruit' message is really getting through. We will add a new flavour every six months to make tea more accessible and trendy."

However, Bruce Ginsberg, MD of Dragonfly Teas, reckons it's the smaller tea companies such as his own that are livening up the tea category most. The company says it is enjoying a big sales surge in the multiples with listings in Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose. n