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‘Tea in bottles, cans key to win over US markets’

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Mr Joseph P. Simrany, President, Tea Association of the US
Mr Joseph P. Simrany, President, Tea Association of the US

P.S. Sundar

Coonoor, Jan. 26 The secret for Indian tea industry to gain stronger foothold in the US market is to increase its supplies in the form of packets and bottles, says US industry leader.

“Some 20 per cent of the tea sales in the US are in cans, bottles and packets. The consumption of bottled tea is growing faster than bottled water. India can win only if its teas can cater to this segment,” said Mr Joseph P. Simrany, President, Tea Association of the US.

He told Business Line that nearly half the teas imported by the US came from Argentina. China and Indonesia also supplied more teas than India.

“The reason is that Indian teas don’t suit the iced tea segment which accounts for some 85 per cent of the US consumption profile. Indian teas cloud when chilled and smoke when refrigerated. It affects the taste. But, specialty teas can cater to quality markets.

Specialty teas are posting some 10 per cent growth annually in the US. India and Nilgiris, in particular, has scope in this,” said Mr Simrany, who is also President of Specialty Tea Institute.

Health highlight

“We are promoting tea, highlighting its positive health benefits. We tell our consumers that they should prefer bottled tea to water because, apart from serving the hydration needs, tea has flavour and health benefits which soft beverages don’t have. Also, bottled tea is cheaper than water.

“This has left noticeable impact for the green tea whose market share has risen from 3 per cent to 18 per cent in the last 15 years. We are doing similar generic promotion for black tea now and are enlisting the support of scientists as well, but we are careful not to treat tea as medicine,” said Mr Simrany who is also President of the Tea Council of the US.

Council members

Although Argentina is the largest supplier to the US, it has not yet become a member of the US Tea Council. “We are still talking to them. Right now, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Malawi are the major members contributing around $70,000 a year to the Council. The contribution varies depending on their share in the imports,” he said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 27, 2008)
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