What’s Brewing? – Urban Tea and MENO, State of Specialty Foods, Chipotle and Tractor Beverages

Image by: Sklyareek / Bigstock.com

“What's Brewing?” is a World Tea News round-up of recent happenings, news and factoids from the global tea industry.

Here’s what’s notable:

Urban Tea and MENO
Urban Tea Inc., a premier retailer of specialty teas and baked goods in Hunan, China, opened MENO, a specialty tea and coffee house in West Village near Washington Square Park in N.Y.C. The grand opening took place on Aug. 1, 2020, marking the arrival of the company's first overseas tea house. The shop offers a variety of specialty teas, coffees, juices, other drinks and light snacks/meals.

Long Yi, chief executive officer of Urban Tea, noted, “We are excited to celebrate the opening of our first overseas tea house MENO, as part of our international expansion plan. In the fast-paced New York City, MENO aims to provide a sanctuary for guests to take a rest, slow down and truly appreciate the simple pleasures found in a cup of tea or coffee."

According to Urban Tea, MENO is designed as a quaint and stylish space, decorated with modern and traditional Asian styles. It’s bathed in white and includes light wood-style seating and small tables. MENO currently has a 15-seat capacity and plans to be open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. Takeout and delivery options will be available via delivery platforms such as GrubHub, UberEats, HungryPanda and ChowBus.

All the items found on the MENO menu are inspired by the tea and coffee products from the company’s "Buoyance Manor" stores in China, customized to fit New Yorkers' palate and aesthetic.

The menu offers “Coffee Meets Juice,” a one-of-a-kind mixture of freshly squeezed juices and coffee, as well as Dark Teas, which are MENO's specialty and one of the “most ancient types of teas from China…rarely found in New York City,” the company says. The teas, which can be served hot or cold, have undergone microbial fermentation for up to eight years.

The shop also offers Fresh Milk Teas, served hot or cold and made with organic whole milk in three varieties (peach-flavored oolong tea, honey-flavored black tea and Jasmine-flavored green tea). Cheese Foam Fruit Teas are served cold and made with fruit slushies and fine green tea, topped with a frothy layer of milk and cream cheese and sprinkled with salt for a sweet and savory sip. Coffees are also spotlighted, using premier blends from Counter Culture Coffee with options such as Espressos, Americanos, Lattes, Cappuccinos, Iced Americanos and Iced Lattes. Additionally, a small curated food menu is available.

State of Specialty Food / RTD Growth
Based on sales data from the past three calendar years, the new Specialty Food Association's (SFA) annual State of the Specialty Food Industry Report reveals a robust specialty food industry hitting $158.4 billion in sales, a 10.7 percent increase since 2017. The full report, available here, includes commentary throughout that reflects the impact and ramifications of COVID-19.

According to SFA, foodservice and online sales continued to grow through 2019, prior to the pandemic, with food inflation playing a role in the three-year industry growth as unit sales did not keep pace with dollar sales. In brick-and-mortar retail, the specialty food and beverage market continued to outpace sales of all food, growing three times faster than the entire food and beverage market during 2017-2019. In 2019, more categories than ever before (12) achieved at least $2 billion in annual sales.

"The impact of COVID-19 on the specialty food industry cannot be underestimated," said Bill Lynch, interim president of the SFA. "Food retail is an essential business channel and while that has been beneficial to sales for our members, many of whom are small businesses, the overall landscape is both optimistic and uncertain. The intel provided in our State of the Industry report is one of the many resources we provide our members for fortifying and growing their businesses."

The annual report noted the top five categories with the highest dollar growth, which includes RTD tea:

  • RefrigeratedPlant-based Meat Alternatives
  • Shelf-stableCreams and Creamers
  • RefrigeratedCreams and Creamers
  • RefrigeratedRTD Tea and Coffee
  • FrozenBreakfast Foods

Chipotle and Tractor Beverage Co.
Chipotle announced it will serve new non-GMO and certified organic tea, lemonades and aguas frescas from farmer-created Tractor Beverage Co. at participating locations. Chipotle said it’s excited to offer beverages that use sustainably grown real ingredients, meeting its Food with Integrity standards.

In addition, two new bottled Tractor Beverages created for Chipotle will be available, including Organic Black Tea and Organic Lemonade. Chipotle’s Organic Black Tea features Sri Lankan black tea mixed with cane sugar and a hint of lemon to create a bold, yet delicate drink.

Organic farmer Travis Potter founded Tractor Beverage Co. in 2015 on the simple idea that great food deserves great drinks. The company's entire portfolio of drinks is non-GMO, completely organic and entirely natural. Tractor Beverage Co. is a non-GMO and certified organic full-line beverage solution available for foodservice.

For more information on Chipotle's new Tractor Beverage Co. offerings, visit Chipotle.com/tractorbeverages. To learn more about Tractor Beverage Company, visit DrinkTractor.com.

Coffee Shop Trajectory
According to the Coffee Shops - Global Market Trajectory & Analytics report from ResearchAndMarkets.com, the global market for coffee shops is projected to reach US $237.6 billion by 2025, driven by their “silent importance” and role in society. The company says coffee shops have become icons of urban neighborhoods, creating vibrant streetscapes and producing high pedestrian activity. “Coffee shops today enjoy high profitability not only due to the robust coffee culture but also due to the effervescent innovation in coffee types offered,” says the research organization. For more information about this report, click here.

- Aaron Kiel, World Tea News