Tea-ing Up

Fresh brewed iced tea leaving sugary drinks in its wake.

Lara Jackson, Freelance writer

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It doesn’t have the sugar police hot on its trail. Some call it “a great alternative to coffee.” It may be good for the heart and even fight cancer. Add all of this up, and you don’t have to read any leaves to realize that the future is bright for iced tea.

Cruizers Convenience Marketplace, the retail arm of Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Holmes Oil, first offered Coca-Cola’s freshly brewed Fuze Tea at its locations with Subway restaurants. Due to the success of the fresh dispensed tea, Holmes Oil reconfigured the merchandising of its dispensed-tea program in April. The company eliminated dispensed fountain tea, switching to freshly brewed iced tea and serving it in a stainless-steel urn. Cruizers stores now offer sweetened and unsweetened freshly brewed iced tea, and the beverages are included in bundling programs.

“There are now more beverage choices; tea has become evolutionary. It’s a noncarbonated and refreshing choice that is better for you, so [we] decided to enhance the program,” says John Zikias, COO of Holmes Oil. “By 2014, Holmes Oil will have freshly brewed iced tea in all of its stores.”

Health Halo

According to a July 2013 Mintel report on fresh tea and ready-to-drink (RTD) tea, sales are predicted to rise to $7.3 billion across all retail channels by the end of 2013. Mintel predicts a continued rise in tea consumption through 2018 due to “consumers’ increasing attention … toward the health of the food and drink products they choose. … Future success relies not only on continued innovation, but also the adoption of tea by new consumers who are looking for healthy beverage options.”

The report also indicated that 75% of respondents ages 18 to 24 believe tea is better for you than coffee. Sixty-eight percent of the same age group believes RTD teas are healthier than soft drinks.

“Population growth and healthier consciences have helped to keep the tea and ready-to-drink tea category growing year over year,” the report says.

And the public has indeed become more aware of what they put inside their bodies over the past few years. The health effects of soda have made headlines in the wake of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempted ban of soda and other sugary drinks 16 ounces or larger. In July, the ban was voted unconstitutional, but the debate over sugary drinks continues to rage on.

The Harvard School of Health study “Sugary Drinks or Diet Drinks: What’s the Best Choice?” says, “The evidence is strong that cutting back on sugary drinks—or eliminating them altogether—may help with weight control and will almost surely lower the risk of diabetes. There’s emerging evidence that sugary drinks increase the risk of heart disease.”

These health concerns may be a benefit for tea. According to WebMD’s article “The Types of Teas and Their Health Benefits,” “Studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; encourage weight loss; lower cholesterol; and bring about mental alertness. Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities.”

“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea. I think it’s a great alternative to coffee. … First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea, their flavonoids, are good for the heart and may reduce cancer,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge in the WebMD article.


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