Britain's £1bn hot beverages market looks set for one of grocery's biggest brand battles of the year.
More than £20m is to be poured into new rounds of backing for the nation's two biggest tea brands PG Tips and Tetley with the former also claiming a lead in the NPD stakes.
Brand owner Unilever Bestfoods is launching PG Tips Freeflow bags with the company bragging that it is "the biggest innovation to hit the tea market" since the arrival of pyramid teabags seven years ago.
The bags, set to be backed by a £12m support package, are made from a "secret" patented natural fibre formulation which is designed to allow the tea to flow more freely through the bag than perforated paper.
Adrian Adams, beverage category manager at Unilever Bestfoods, said: "PG Tips continues to be at the forefront of innovation, exciting consumers and adding sustainable value to the category."
He claimed £12m marketing support was "massive" for the category and added: "It will ensure PG Tips Freeflow bags are front of mind with retailers and customers."
A multimedia campaign to support this month's launch will include new executions of the T-Bird' TV ads.
However, the brand's biggest rival and second best selling tea brand, Tetley, is refusing to lie down and will next week kick off its own £10m campaign which is also aimed at keeping the brand in the front of consumers' minds.
New TV ads build on last year's healthy' brand respositioning following the demise of the Tetley Tea Folk, this time aiming to tickle shoppers' tastebuds with a series of humourous treatments.
These include one which shows an actor preparing to take his position at the rear of a pantomime horse, having just seen his fellow actor consume a hot curry.
Tetley will also be putting up posters nationwide including 48-sheet ads across 2,000 sites.