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As reported in Drinks Business Review, Bigelow Tea will introduce a new “American Breakfast” line of black tea that contains 50% more caffeine than the average tea serving. Is the tea manufacturer purposefully targeting American coffee drinkers? And is this really the best way to grow tea sales in the US?

New Bigelow American Breakfast Teas are specially formulated with natural black tea extract — a concentrated form of brewed black tea — to deliver 60-90mg of caffeine per cup, versus the typical 30-60mg in regular black tea. Yet despite the significantly higher caffeine content, drinkers will not experience the ‘rush and crash’ effect typical of coffee thanks to L-Theanine, the naturally occurring compound found almost exclusively in tea.

By highlighting this blend’s superiority to sustained energy due to the usage of L-Theanine, the answer to the first question is resoundingly affirmative. Tea has long trailed coffee as America’s preferred morning beverage – a tradition that can goes back to separatists dumping British teas into the Boston Harbor. The recent acquisition of Teavana by coffee giant Starbucks led many to speculate about a “tea boom” in the states, but it has yet to occur despite increased spending on coffee.  With this launch, Bigelow is firmly targeting coffee drinkers to consider tea as an alternative.

In the words of third generation president and CEO, Cindi Bigelow, “I invite you to sip a cup of our beautiful American Breakfast Tea; made in America, by an American family, for the American consumer. And as always, we hope our teas delight you.

Gaining a small piece of the US’s US$12 billion retail coffee industry would undoubtedly buoy tea’s US$2.4 billion retail figure. But asking consumers to make the switch, rather than complimenting their morning routines with an occasional earl grey or oolong, seems a bridge too far. Morning rituals are one of the hardest routines to break. Simply fortifying tea with caffeine seems like a good plan, when considering the economic opportunity, but several challenges remain.

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