Speciality teas such as Earl Grey, Assam and English Breakfast continue to do well as consumers trade up to more premium options.

The sector is worth £48m and has grown 9.2% [Nielsen MAT w/e 30 June 2007]. Twinings is a star performer in this area with a share of 69.4%. Its tea shop ad campaign featuring Stephen Fry has been successful in encouraging consumers to appreciate different tastes and try something new. The TV campaign was supported by a PR campaign in which Twinings and Oz Clarke, the wine expert, worked together to draw analogies between tea and wine.

Getting consumers to try teas is one way to encourage consumers to buy speciality tea and Twinings' sampling initiative of trial packs at 59p has resulted in 24% of consumers buying Twinings Speciality standard pack sizes for the first time, according to the company.

"The opportunity for tea is huge," says Paul Murphy, general manager UK, North America and Australia, Twinings. "The UK has been stuck for 50 years on one type of tea. In the wine market, we may all drink Liebfraumilch, but there are hundreds of different wines all drunk by different people. Oz Clarke makes that analogy so we're trying to bring that alive."

Twinings is continuing its investment in the category with a £1.2m TV ad campaign from October for Earl Grey and its Lady Grey blend.

Murphy says Earl Grey and English Breakfast are the most popular blends, while Lady Grey is a relatively new addition, which he describes as "a light citrussy tea".

Earl Grey has a 37% share of the market, while English Breakfast has a 25% share. The fastest-growing blend is Assam, which accounts for 16% of the market, but has grown 66% [IRI w/e 14 July 2007].

At Waitrose, these blends are the core favourites. "Speciality is growing with people's interest in good quality tea increasing," says hot beverages buyer Michael Simpson-Jones. "The Olympics in China next year could improve the PR position of more specialist teas."

Taylors of Harrogate has redesigned the packaging of its speciality range "to reflect the broadening appeal of the marketplace", according to sales and marketing director Andrew Jones. "We've increased our range of tagged 20s, recognising that consumers like to experiment."

However, some suppliers say the category still needs to present a less confusing fixture to shoppers.

"Look how many there are - for example, 10 different Earl Greys," says Adrian Adams, Unilever UK's category strategy manager. "Across all sectors you need to look at reducing these ranges. You're not reducing choice, you're just avoiding duplication." n