Research Article

Organic Tea: Global Market and Forecast Sales  

Nikhil Ghosh Hajra
Organic Tea and Agri-Horticultural Consulting, Santiban, Parashmoni A/401, 7-Umakanta Sen Lane, Kolkata–700030, India
Author    Correspondence author
Journal of Tea Science Research, 2017, Vol. 7, No. 11   doi: 10.5376/jtsr.2017.07.0011
Received: 08 Nov., 2017    Accepted: 18 Dec., 2017    Published: 29 Dec., 2017
© 2017 BioPublisher Publishing Platform
This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Preferred citation for this article:

Ghosh Hajra N., 2017, Organic tea: global market and forecast sales, Journal of Tea Science Research, 7(11): 58-68 (doi: 10.5376/jtsr.2017.07.0011)

Abstract

The increasing demand from the consumers of Germany, United Kingdom, Japan and USA for organic teas, few conventional tea gardens of India, Sri Lanka and China have converted to organic processes during 1980s and subsequently it has been spread to different tea producing countries. Still the organic tea sector is a very small part of the tea industry, accounting of less than 1.3% by volume but the number of organic tea producers and the volume of organic tea traded in the world market have recorded high growth over the last couple of years. The annual growth rate has since cooled to 6%. It has a niche market where the produce sells at a premium price. The global organic tea market can be segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and rest of the world. Asia-Pacific region has the major market share followed by Europe. The domestic market for organic tea does not yet exist in India and Sri Lanka. But there is strong domestic market for organic green tea in China. China is exporting organic tea to Japan, the Europe and the United States. India leads the world in organic black tea output. Based on the higher demand for healthy beverages, the import and export of organic tea in the developed countries is found to rise at a steady growth rate. Around 75-80% of organic teas were exported to the United States and Germany followed by France, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Japan and Holland. In the US, organic tea is the fastest growing section of the tea industry and North America was at the peak of a growth burst in 2015, reinforcing its importance as the largest global market in terms of region, with Western Europe and Asia Pacific lagged slightly behind. Different global market research firm have predicted that the organic tea will continue to dominate and expected to increase by a CAGR of 5-13% next five years in U.S. In the present paper, the development of organic tea, global market and trade are discussed.

Keywords
Organic tea; Tea market; Black tea; Green tea; Premium price; Tea sale

Background

Tea is the most used beverage in the world. It is considered to have wide beverage market and the tea industry makes a vital contribution to the economy of the producing countries. Tea was grown on almost 3.8 million hectares in 2014 and 5.6 million metric tons of tea was produced worldwide (Anonymous, 2017a). In the recent years owing to the increasing consumer awareness on ill-effects of high chemical oriented farming and production, aggressive promotional strategies of tea consumption and improving per capita spending on organic products are boosting the demand for organic tea across the world. It is estimated that more than 75,000 metric tons of organic teas were registered in 2015 (Table 1), or 1.3% of the world’s tea production volume. Region wise certified organic tea area is presented in Figure 1. In 2015, the largest organic harvested areas were in China (40,000 hectares) and India (more than 14,000 hectares). Together, these two countries accounted for almost 73% of the total organic tea area. Between 2011 and 2015, that area has increased by 9% and by almost 27% between 2014 and 2015 alone (Lernoud et al., 2017).

 

 

Table 1 Cultivated area and production of organic tea in 2015*

Note: *Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Switzerland (FiBL, 2017). Estimates based on national data sources and data from certifiers.

 

 

Figure 1 Certified area of organic tea by region, 2015 (the organic area harvested was estimated by FiBL based on the assumption that 90% of the fully converted area is actually harvested)

 

The organic tea sector is a very small part (1.11%) of the tea industry when compared to the conventional tea. But the number of organic tea producers and the volume of organic tea traded in the world market have recorded high growth over the last couple of years. It is niche market, where the product sells at a premium price. The average declared value for all organic teas, regardless of origin, was $ 10.18 per kilo in 2014 or about $ 4.63 a pound (Bolton, 2015). The countries with major markets in organic tea do not produce tea domestically and therefore the demand for certified organic tea is growing rapidly all over the world. In the present article, organic tea exporting countries, global market and their future growth have been described.

 

1 Major Market for Organic Tea Producing Countries

The global organic tea market can be segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and rest of the world (Table 2). Asia-Pacific region has the major market share followed by Europe. Based on the higher demand for healthy beverages, the import and export of organic tea in the developed countries is found to rise at a steady growth rate (6-7%) (Refer: www.marketresearchfuture.com/reports). The key players profiled in the global organic tea market are Tata Tea Limited (Tetley), Unilever Tea Brands (U.K.), Associated British Foods (U.K.), Ten Fu Group (China), Taylors of Harrogate (U.K.), Bigelow Tea (U.S.), American Tea Room (U.S.), Alkaloid AD Skopje (Good Nature), R. Twining and Company Limited, Organic India, Ceylon Organics Limited, The Stash Tea Company etc. Globally, there are likely to be more natural product retailers selling private-label organic teas. Additionally, many big retailers already have their organic and private label lines (Kim, 2012).

 

 

Table 2 Region-wise segmentation of global organic tea market

 

Presently, China is the world’s largest producers of organic green tea. The domestic market is growing rapidly in China and has a domestic market in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other big cities. China is exporting organic tea to Japan, the Europe and the United States. Tenfu, Ten Xin, Dan Feng, Uncle Lee Geng Xiang etc. are the important tea brand in China. Of which Geng Xiang in Beijing has become one of the important organic tea brand in respect of number of franchised stores and total sale. Almost all organic tea exported is certified according to EU and NOP (National Organic Program of the United States Department of Agriculture) regulations. Some tea gardens have applied for JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standards) certification. The organic teas of China were exported to the United States and Germany followed by France, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Japan and Holland (Qiao et al., 2011). It has been reported that there are around 20 countries importing 10,000 tons of organic tea from China (Lin, 2010).

 

India leads the world in organic black tea output. Organic tea constituted 2% of the total organic food products (263,687 metric tons) exported from India in 2015-2016. The entire production is exported to the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, Japan and Australia. Organic Darjeeling tea of India is now making inroads into new markets like Russia, Japan, China and the UAE. It is also gaining shelf-space with the US and the UK coffee retailers such as Starbucks, Whittards of Chelsea and Peet’s Coffee & Tea Inc. Germany has become a major market for Darjeeling organic tea. Projectwerkstatt GmbH, Berlin is one of the leading Darjeeling tea buyers. During 2010, the sale of organic tea in Germany was € 35.5 million of which 3.6 million was for black tea and 4.2 million for green tea (GfK household panel). The rest was herbal and fruit tea (personal communication with Diana Schaack, Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft mbH, Germany). The market share of organic tea (black and green tea) in Germany in 2009 was 4.1% (Quelle Deutscher Teeverband). Organic Darjeeling tea is sold at € 25-30 kg-1 in retail stores in the European market and at $ 25-30 kg-1 in the United States. The premium first and second flush of Darjeeling tea is sold largely through private deals. The price of organic tea however depends mainly on the quality (Ghosh Hajra, 2018).

 

The Sri Lankan organic tea industry caters for black, green and silver tip teas in bulk and processed teas, value-added teas with flavours and environmentally friendly packages which fetch a minimum of 2-3 fold premium prices in the international markets. UK, Australia, Germany, Japan, Netherlands and the United States are the traditional buyers of Sri Lankan organic tea (Abeysinghe, 2011). Other destinations are Italy, France, Canada, Singapore and Spain (Anonymous, 2016a). The local demand for organic teas is now increasing. Once upon a time, it was a growth sector but now in Sri Lanka, the organic certification process is very costly – a factor that makes organic tea 10-15% more expensive than regular tea.

 

There are numerous other companies supplying organic tea in Japan but only a few deals with JAS-certified organic tea. Two important suppliers are Takano Coffee and Bitsuwaen. Takano Coffee imports pre-packaged organic tea from India and Sri Lanka and Bitsuwaen imports organic tea from Kenya (Anonymous, 2013). Mitsui Ringyo in Japan is the major supplier of certified organic tea (JAS Marked). The company markets organic tea under the Nitto Koucha brand and mostly supplies to the supermarkets. Its major customers are Daiei, SOGO and Ito Yakado. Mitsui Ringyo does not sell organic tea to specialist retailers. The company is the largest supplier of JAS-certified organic green tea in Japan and it imports small volumes of black organic tea from India and Sri Lanka.

 

In South Korea, although the rate of growth of organic tea is not as significant, the sales are not decreased significantly (Figure 2). New products launched by major players in 2013 were confined to RTD (ready-to-drink) tea, where retail prices are relatively reasonable due to a low content of local ingredients. However, the rate of growth of organic beverages is expected to slow down gradually as economic prospects are not bright enough to support a booming market (Anonymous, 2015). Nokchawon is the leading manufacturer of organic green tea, accounting for 37% of sales values in 2013. The company leads overall organic beverage sales since organic green tea accounted for 63% of the total value of organic beverage sales in 2013. Nokchawon specializes in tea products and as growth in organic soft drinks is increasing, the sales share of Nokchawon may be diluted in the near future (Anonymous, 2015). Presently, there is a trend in marketing mono-varietal teas, with the name of the cultivar on the label. Further, new process technologies are currently being developed to produce microbially fermented dark teas, along the ancient Chinese “wetting and piling” method. So far, Western consumers remain keen on the traditional fine green teas. When the vacuum-packed silver foil pouches of just 30 gr or 50 gr of spring picked fine teas reach the West, the tea aficionados are always ready to pay very high prices for those exquisite cups (Dufrene, 2017).

 

 

Figure 2 Year wise sales and forecast sales (2017 and 2018) of organic tea in Republic of Korea (Unit: US $ 1,000)

 

The organic tea market is emerging in Asia at a rapid rate. The trend for organic tea among the young consumers in Hong Kong, Singapore and all over South East Asia has been noticed (Ghosh Hajra, 2011). Raising awareness of the health and environmental benefits from organic tea production, product labelling with quality control certification would create a higher and more competitive price for organic tea products domestically in the long run.

 

Cha Dô, the largest organic and Fairtrade speciality tea blender in Germany, buys exclusively from the Herkulu estate of Tanzania for blending with organic tea of other producing regions (Reenen et al., 2010). Cha Dô supplies teas to the UK and North American markets. Kirchner, Fischer & Co GmbH (K, F & Co.) own the label Mt. Everest Tea Company, which is one of the oldest specialty tea companies in Germany. Specializing in orthodox blends, K, F & Co. has only begun purchasing Luponde teas in 2010. Luponde organic orthodox teas have a direct route to retail in the UK market. Luponde has a shop in the Burlington Arcade in London which sells Luponde tea exclusively (Loconto, 2010). There is also a domestic value chain for organic tea. Chai TTB and Chai Bora, the two leading tea packers in the Tanzanian market, both offer organic brands for the local market. These are sold in the main supermarkets in the large urban centres in the country, in the airport shops and in the tourist areas.

 

In Turkey, Cay Isletmeleri Genel Müdürlügü (Çaykur), a state-owned enterprise, is the most established organic tea producer. All Çaykur products made for export to Europe have carried the European organic Biosiegel label (http://caykur-tea.com/en/tea-nation-turkey/organic-tea.html). Çaykur organic teas are available in the market as Organic Hemsin, Organik Rize Cayi, Organik Zumrut Yesil Cay and Organik Hemsin Cay.

 

2 Organic Tea markets in Major Importing Countries

2.1 Europe

The stronger European markets for organic teas have enjoyed years of consumer education, mandatory certification and offerings from major brands. According to the TechSci Research report Europe was the largest demand-generating region for organic beverages in 2015, it is due to improving lifestyle and growing awareness regarding the health benefits associated with organic products. Leading destinations for organic tea are Germany and the UK. Among EU countries, Germany boasts the highest growth within the organic beverage market. The growth per cent of organic tea during 2010-2014 was 8.7 (Anonymous, 2016b) (Table 3). According to the German Tea Association, Germany is by far the most important importer and consumer of organic tea in Europe and it consumed 1200 ton in 2015 (6% of domestic consumption). It was 1130 ton in 2014 (Refer: http://english/teamarket pdf/2015-06-01-WFT_EN_press-release.pdf). Other important EU markets are France and U.K. In Switzerland and Denmark, the share of organic tea is almost 10%, but those markets are small (Joost Pierrot - CBI consultant, private communication). Germans are extremely price sensitive and prudent spenders. During the most recent recession, overall consumer spending on food and non-alcoholic beverages remained relatively static (Anonymous, 2016b) but in other European countries consumption is far more limited. Bulk organic tea is sold in Germany via organic shops or health food stores and in the UK via conventional retailers. It is also being marketed via special tea shops viz. De Drie Mollen, Simon Levelt and Algra Mocca d'Or in The Netherlands. Black tea still constitutes the largest share of EU tea consumption, but green tea is increasing in popularity. The major organic importers/traders/blenders in UK are Clipper Teas, Whist bray, Hampstead Tea, Dragonfly Teas, Qi Herbal Health and in Germany are Oasis, Lebensbaum, Kloth & Köhnken. Major organic trading houses are more often located in The Netherlands and Germany. The premium tea producer in London is Twinings and they have organic lines specifically for the catering and institutional markets. Private labels are of less importance in the organic tea market than the organic coffee market. For example, both Super de Boer and Albert Heijn in The Netherlands have only one type of organic tea, which is also Fair Trade certified. The share of organic tea in the UK market was 1.9 (only multiple retail sales) and organic tea had a 12.8% share of the food and drink market during 2014-2015 (Anonymous, 2016c). Tea with both organic and Fairtrade certified accounted for 7% of UK’s tea sales in 2009 with the top 3 retailers being Tesco (market share 31%), Asda (17%) and Sainsbury (16%) (Loconto, 2010). Most of the tea-packing occurs in the EU and this leaves little opportunity for value addition in developing countries but, on the other hand, also means that investments in processing facilities are not needed.

 

 

Table 3 Market share – historic/forecast of organic black and green tea in Germany

 

2.2 United States

In the US, organic tea is the fastest growing section of the tea industry and demanding teas from organic and fair trade farms. In 2015, North America was at the peak of a growth burst, reinforcing its importance as the largest global market in terms of region, with Western Europe and Asia Pacific lagged slightly behind (Anonymous, 2017b). Manufacturers are taking efforts to increase their market shares, gain new consumers, and retain old consumer base by interesting new product lines. Imports of USDA certified organic tea continue to climb with brands including Adagio Tea, Republic of Tea, Mighty Leaf, Celestial Seasons, Rishi Organic Tea, Davidson’s Organics, Teavana and Choice Organic Teas (all offering USDA Certified Organic tea) reporting strong sales (Bolton, 2015). Other key vendors in this market space are identified as Ambassador Organics, Equal Exchange, COOP, Newman’s Own, and Numi Organic Tea, Arbor Teas, Art of Tea, Five Mountains, Green Root Tea, Løv Organic, The Path of Tea, and The Republic of Tea singled out for their increasingly dynamic offerings.

 

The USA is unique for its large consumption (50% of the market share in 2016) of iced tea, prepared at home or sold as canned or bottled beverages (Tea Fact Sheet 2016-2017, Tea Association of the U.S.A Inc., http://www.teausa.com/14655/tea-fact-sheet). The USA imports major quantity of conventional black tea from Argentina for the American iced tea market (Argentina Tea Chain Nov 2014. www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/est/meetings/IGGtea21/Presentation- Market Report Argentina) then India (12%), China (9%) and other countries during the period from 2014 – 2016 (Goggi, 2017) (Figure 3). For organic black tea, the UK became the dominant supplier to the USA, replacing India as the leader. In 2015, organic black tea imports from the U.K. totalled 3,642 thousand USD, which accounted for a 36% share in terms of U.S. imports (Figure 4). Morocco, Canada, China, and India were the other key suppliers of organic black tea in 2015, with a 52% combined share of total organic imports (Anonymous, 2017c). China (+24.3% per year) was the fastest growing exporter of organic black tea to the U.S. during 2011 to 2015. Morocco began supplying organic black tea to the U.S. market in 2013, and its exports grew at a rate of +88% per year from 2013 to 2015. As a result, Morocco grew its share in U.S. organic black tea imports by 17% from 2013 to 2015 (Anonymous, 2017d). Import prices for organic black tea grew by 18.5% annually from 2011 to 2015. The highest annual rates were recorded in China (7.9%), followed by the U.K. (2.3%). The average import price on the organic black tea market was 15.13 USD per kg in 2015. Import prices varied considerably by country of origin. The U.K. (24.86 USD/kg) was a high priced country of origin, while India (6.91 USD/kg) and China (11.20 USD/kg) were among the lowest (Anonymous, 2017c).

 

 

Figure 3 Average total black tea imports during 2014-2016 in United States

 

 

Figure 4 Key exporters of organic black tea into U.S., 2015 (% based on share in US imports)

 

Presently, China is the world’s largest supplier of organic green tea to the US and in 2016, China exported 1,500 metric tons to the US accounting for 67% of total organic green tea imports (Table 4). After China the Japan is a distant second, shipping 16.5% of organic green tea imports. In the smaller category of black fermented tea, which includes puer and dark tea, China has seen a significant 50% increase in value over 2015 to $ 1.38 million in 2016 (Bolton, 2017). The Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Foreign Agriculture Service) tracks three green and fermented black teas by value and quantity. They indicated that the value of all organic green tea (three categories) imported was $ 26 million and $ 13.5 million for organic black teas. The data largely ignore specialty Darjeeling black tea which is usually imported by air and bulk import of black tea since very little is certified organic.

 

 

Table 4 Import of organic green tea to U.S in 2016 for consumption*

Note: *Source from US Census Bureau Trade Centre; USD A Global Agriculture Trade System (GATS) centre base maintained by the U.S. Department of Agricultural (Foreign Agriculture Service)

 

The market segmentation in respect of organic and conventional tea in physical and in value terms are presented in Table 5 and Table 6 (Anonymous, 2017c). Market research firm TechSci Research predicts 15% growth in the organic tea market from 2016–2021 (Anonymous, 2017e). Growing health concerns, increasing pesticide and chemical poisoning cases and improving per capita spending on organic products are expected to boost the demand for organic beverages across the globe during (the) forecast period, the report states. It also cites continuous product innovations and aggressive marketing strategies by organic beverage manufacturers and online retailers might be the reasons for the growth.

 

 

Table 5 Market segmentation: organic vs. conventional, in physical terms, 2011-2015 (thousand tons)

 

 

Table 6 Market segmentation: organic vs. conventional, in value terms, 2011- 2015 (thousand tons)

 

The Global Organic Beverages Market report examines five segments of the organic beverages market—organic coffee and tea, organic dairy alternatives, organic soft drinks, organic alcohol beverages, and others—and notes that the organic coffee and tea segment dominated the global organic beverages market in 2015. Furthermore, it predicts that organic tea and coffee will continue to dominate for the next five years. “With consumers becoming more calorie-conscious and growing prevalence of obesity, organic coffee and tea are being considered as healthy drinks as they contain antioxidants and beneficial nutrients,” the report states (Anonymous, 2017f).

 

Based on the product type, another US based global market research firm Transparency Market Research assessed black organic tea segment in comparison with green, white, oolong and other type of organic tea occupy a dominant market position (Anonymous, 2017g). With the increasing demand for varied flavours in organic black tea, many manufacturers have launched various flavoured organic black teas. For example, Arbor Teas produces a variety of flavoured organic black teas such as Organic Apricot Black Tea, Organic Decaf Mixed Berry Black Tea, Organic Earl Grey Black Tea, Organic Holiday Spice Black Tea and Organic Lychee Black Tea. Further, due to the increasing awareness amongst people about the health advantages obtained from green tea, the organic green tea market is expected to grow during the period. Manufacturers have now started offering various organic green tea products. For example, The Republic of Tea produces USDA-certified organic green teas such as Organic Lean Green SuperGreen Tea Bags, Organic Serenity SuperGreen Tea Bags, Organic Immunity SuperGreen Tea Bags, and Organic Brain Boost SuperGreen Tea Bags etc.

 

Transparency Market Research, on the basis of the distribution channel, further assessed organic tea market can be segmented into supermarkets/hypermarkets, convenience stores, online, specialty stores and others. Supermarkets/hypermarkets segment contributes more as distribution channels for organic tea and is expected to grow at a high rate. This is in conformity with the findings of Market Research Future – a market research firm (Anonymous, 2017h).

 

TechSci Research in its another report it was anticipated that the organic tea and coffee market in the United States grow at a CAGR of over 13% during 2017–2022 (Anonymous, 2017i). The report also states that West region accounted for the largest share in the United States organic tea & coffee market due to huge population base, increasing disposable income and highest number of organic farms in the region. However, the demand for organic tea products is also growing at a healthy pace owing to increasing number of immigrants from the South-East Asian countries who prefer to opt for tea.

 

Technavio’s latest market study indicates the organic tea market in the U.S. is expected to reach $ 295 million by 2021, growing at CAGR of more than 5% over the next five years (Refer: https://www.technavio.com/report/organic-tea-market-in-the-us). The growth is attributable to factors relating to consumer behaviour and favourable market conditions like the availability of organic tea varieties in retail and more organic tea manufacturers entering the market. Sales were up in foodservice and retail as more consumers opt for healthier beverages. Technavio also highlighted the growing demand for organic matcha green tea—a trending product that offers several proven health benefits.

 

IndexBox, an U.K. based market research Company in its report indicated the total sales volume of conventional and organic tea in US are expected to increase by a CAGR of 0.9% and 5% respectively over the period from 2017-2025– a large improvement on the growth of organic tea in comparison with the conventional tea during the review period (Table 7) (Anonymous, 2017c). Demand for organic tea is increasing in the United States since the consumers are aware of the health benefits associated with organic tea. They are also willing to pay a premium for such products.

 

 

Table 7 Market forecast: organic vs. conventional teas, 2015-2025

 

3 Conclusions

Rising awareness of the consumers about health benefits associated with organic foods, increasing average household annual spending, expanding distribution channel, greater accessibility through retail outlets, surging environmental concerns, aggressive marketing strategies being adopted by companies and online retailers are expected to influence organic food and beverage sales across the globe. In addition, a number of organic food manufacturers are also complying with international standards and are labelling their products accordingly in order to increase global acceptability of these products.

 

Short-term spikes and troughs have been the story of organic tea, highlighting just how difficult a market it is to operate effectively in. Careful selection and development of target markets and distribution channels focus on the right customers, improvement in customer service skills and conversion of occasional buyers into regular organic buyers through large retail outlets are of the utmost importance for the growth of the organic tea. Proper packaging is crucial to the success of any product, with tea being no exception. Although packaging has no influence on the quality of the product within but it can certainly be grab the attention of the consumer, which can be just as important as the product itself. Based on the packaging type, organic tea products are sold in the form of paper pouches, cans, cartons, tea bags and others. Due to easy storage and greater shelf life, carton packages of organic tea are more preferred over others. Further, greater efforts should also be directed at expanding demand. For example, there is scope for increasing per capita consumption in producing countries as they are low compared to traditional exporting countries. Nevertheless, the tea industry needs to do a much better job of educating the market about the rich story of tea including benefit of drinking organic tea. In U.S. the wine and coffee industries have done a tremendous job in the last 20 years, and in doing so it has created new segments that are high quality and high value that were not there when most of the industry was focused on commodity-level products. However, the awareness on the conservation of nature and ecosystem, concern for the well-being of all living organisms, the growing of organic tea will certainly achieve more popularity and continue to dominate for the next five years or more as predicted by the different global market research organisations.

 

Authors’ contributions

NGH drafted the text after analysis and interpretation of data. Also declares that he has no competing interests.

 

Acknowledgements

The author is grateful to Mr. Jasur Salakhitdinov and Kirill Bezverhi of IndexBox, UK for their support in providing data/information.

 

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