As time brings change to every aspect of our lives, we also see major cultural shifts and generational trends. With this, certain industries need to change, adapt or grow with the times to maintain a consumer base – especially to attract a new customer base.
Indeed, the tea industry isn’t different when it comes to attracting a new generation of consumers (i.e. tea drinkers) who are entering the market for the very first time.
So, what should the tea industry do to attract this next generation of tea drinkers? Here are seven important tips to point you in the right direction.
1. Utilize Pop Culture – Tea is heavily rooted in tradition. However, as each new generation comes into its own in society, times change. Pop culture has a huge influence on how society is shaped and formed, and to attract a new generation of tea drinks, utilizing pop culture to appeal to a new audience is a mark that is often missed. While there should always be room to appreciate where tea comes from, there should be a balance between respecting the art of tea and being reflective of the current times. Tea companies like white2tea, which primarily sell sheng and shou pu’er tea, have package designs that feature lyrics from rappers, including Drake and Frank Ocean. With this, White2Tea has attracted a new base of younger tea drinkers who were originally attracted to their packaging design, that wouldn’t have otherwise.
2. Align with Social Issues That Matter to a Younger Generation – With each new generation comes a new social issue that’s specific to or of interest to a specific generation. Social causes for older generations may have included freeing Tibet, Vietnam or the fall of The Berlin Wall, among many others. For Millennials and Generation Z, one of the biggest social issues is Black Lives Matter. A lot of incredible social change has progressed with the Black Lives Movement, and one very important cause that ricocheted from Black Lives Matter is fair trade and transparency. Many tea companies have posted photos of the heads of their companies with the farmers they source from, but that doesn’t seem to end there with the newer generations. Newer tea drinkers want more than a photo-op – they need even more proof that they’re drinking tea from someone who is treated fairly.
Make High Quality Teas More Accessible Locally
3. Go Local – For late Baby Boomers and early Millennials, a go-to and easily accessible place for tasty tea was the now closed Teavana stores. However, for many people who are late-Millennials and Generation Z, Teavana was already a thing of the past. For many people in the western market, easy accessibility to great tea shops is something that doesn't really exist anymore (yes, there are many brick-and-mortar tea shops around the country, but not easily accessible to all). With the exception of DAVIDsTEA outlets across Canada, there’s not a major, recognizable go-to retail outlet for casual tea drinkers to go to. This is where accessibility comes in. Many coffee shops and cafes are offering a wider variety of loose-leaf teas, with easy and accessible menu options. For café and shop owners of all kinds, offering a variety of teas while keeping it simple will make tea more accessible for all. These businesses that aren’t offering tea should seriously consider it. It can help the local business and the growth of tea overall. Perhaps tea suppliers can connect with these businesses (many are already going this route, but more could be done) to educate them about the wonders of tea and to encourage that these businesses either serve tea or have tea products available.
4. Don’t Be Slow to Adopt What’s Trending with Tea – Across social media, the attention diverted to Starbucks Japan and Starbucks Korea have exploded in web popularity among Millennials and Generation Z within the western market. With this, floral drinks (which typically involve jasmine) and fruity tea lattes have quickly caught the attention of new tea drinkers. For the U.S. tea market, we can use Starbucks Japan and Starbucks Korea as examples of how a company can change quickly with the market and apart to trends to gain attention. Many cafes and tea companies in the west are slow to change, and they often release products 10 years after they initially boomed with popularity in the market. Drinks that were popular in mom-and-pop shops a decade ago have finally made their way to larger tea corporations now. If the industry wants to change with the times, they have to change now. As an example, many in the tea industry are slow to warm up to boba or bubble tea, as well as the opportunity that provides to educate young consumers about high-quality tea.
5. Consider Price – Affordability makes a huge difference with accessibility for a certain demographic that can afford luxury items or not. When attracting a newer generation of tea drinkers, companies have to be mindful of where the economy is at. For previous generations, owning a home with a $60,000-a-year income was attainable. Today, that $60,000-a-year income is considered the poverty line for nearly every major city in North America. Many Millennials and Generation Z can't even afford a home with a six-figure income in most major (and expensive) U.S. cities. As income inequality becomes a larger issue within the west, making good tea affordable is imperative to attracting a new base. Affordability doesn't necessarily equate to sacrificing quality in tea. However, pricing out the newer generations of tea drinkers with $15 to $20 for an ounce of quality tea will sacrifice the tea drinker itself to the entire market. Something to consider if you’re looking at ways to reach a new, younger audience base.
6. Don’t Overlook TikTok (That Cannot Be Overstated) – TikTok has quickly risen to the top of the social media hierarchy – which is primarily driven by Millennials and Generation Z. TikTok has spread like wildfire and shifted how so many industries operate today. With this, the presence of tea and tea drinkers is very limited on TikTok. In fact, there are a small number of tea shops and bloggers who are openly creating content for TikTok, but there is still a huge untapped market of individuals who enjoy tea and who can be reached through TikTok. The tea industry can no longer ignore it. Related: Read this World Tea News article about increasing tea sales via TikTok.
7. Look at Short-Form Videos for a Wider Reach – As TikTok has been prevalent in the realm of social media, other social media platforms are quickly changing to accommodate users who are leaving their platforms to join TikTok. Instagram and YouTube have both been pushing reels on their platforms and are quickly changing their algorithms to push short-form videos to the forefront. While TikTok is taking the lead for short-form videos, it shouldn’t mean that trends and short-form videos should take a backseat as well. The wider the reach you have, the better!
The Tea Industry Will Be Relying on the Next Generation
Overall, there’s a new generation of consumers waiting to discover the amazing word of tea and all the exciting businesses in the global tea industry. Certainly, as the tea industry continues to expand into the future, we’ll all be relying on newer generations of tea drinkers to take the torch and keep the world of tea alive for long after we’re gone. Of course, as tea is one of the oldest industries in human civilization, it’s still brand new to many people today.
In the end, it’s imperative that the tea industry change with the times, listen with both ears, and continue to grow. For the new generations of tea leaders, it is important to set them up for success to carry on the legacy of tea for many more years to come.
Cody Wade, also known by his blog name, The Oolong Drunk, has been a tea blogger and tea educator for more than seven years. Wade’s passion for tea started with oolongs, but he has grown to appreciate every umbrella of the tea industry. He’s also given lectures at the Houston Tea Festival, Mid-West Tea Festival and the World Tea Conference + Expo, and he’s forward with his passion with tea education and bringing people together to make the community stronger.
Plan to Attend or Participate in the
World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29, 2023
To learn about other key developments, trends, issues, hot topics and products within the global tea community, plan to attend the World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29, 2023 in Las Vegas, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit WorldTeaExpo.com.
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