Tea time again in London as Unilever brews up a drinks revival
A new generation of Britons drink more coffee than tea since the arrival of the mighty Starbucks, and a host of imitators that now crowd high streets. But with Starbucks opening a tea bar in New York last October and talking about a $90 billion (53.5 billion pounds) global market, the tide may be turning.
Unilever, whose Lipton brand is the world's top-selling tea, bought Australia's T2 tea chain - where the menu ranges from a 5.75 pound box of English Breakfast to Japanese Gyokuro teas costing upwards of 25 pounds a tin - in September and hopes to appeal to the same consumers interested in upscale coffee that fuelled the last drinks boom.
Sales of luxury and super-premium teas are growing at an annual clip of 12 to 14 percent, said Kevin Havelock, president of Unilever's refreshment business, which grew 5.9 percent in the first quarter.
"We are seeing more and more interest in more exciting teas," Havelock said at the store. "This provides growth for Unilever in the most exciting growth segment of the tea market."
The store, in fashionable Shoreditch, has 200 types of tea and a rainbow selection of pots and cups, and gives Unilever access to some of London's trendiest young consumers - potentially useful for the marketing of its 400 other brands, which range from Dove soap to Hellmann's mayonnaise.
Unilever is currently looking for ways to boost its profitability after the global economic slowdown crimped sales in many markets, and is selling underperforming or non-core brands. T2's profit margins currently outweigh Unilever's, and Havelock said its growth stands to fatten the group's margins.
T2 is the brainchild of Australian entrepreneur Maryanne Shearer, who opened her first tea boutique in Melbourne in 1996. When Unilever announced the deal - declining to disclose the price it paid - T2 had 40 stores in Australia and sales nearing A$57 million (31.5 million pounds) for the year ended June 30, 2013. Sales are growing at a double-digit rate and performance has "more than met expectations," it said.
"Darjeeling First Flush" is Shearer's favourite tea though she takes pride in T2's unusual flavours including "Licorice Legs", inspired by American actor Jennifer Lopez.
With an array of herbal and scented teas rounding out the more standard offerings, T2 hopes to appeal to a younger generation that grew up drinking cappuccinos and lattes. Though 65 percent of Britons aged 25 to 34 drink tea at least once a day, according to research firm Mintel Group, that is lower than the 72 percent of those above 55 who do.
Unilever, which already operates about 400 retail outlets under each of its Ben & Jerry's and Wall's brands, hopes to open more T2 stores in Britain this year, then look further afield.
"We actually don't believe that there are any highly developed cities in the world that would not be a good environment for T2," Havelock said.
Still, Unilever is likely to proceed with caution. Coffee sales in Britain have far outpaced tea sales for the past five years, according to Euromonitor International, and while the economic environment is improving, consumer confidence is still fragile. Whittard of Chelsea - another tea and coffee retailer - came close to filing for administration in 2008 after its Icelandic owner was hit by the banking crisis and demand from UK consumers ebbed.
In terms of developing the brand, Unilever has no plans to sell T2 tea at grocery stores. Havelock, however, sees opportunities online.
And while yellow-label Lipton is sold in capsules for Keurig Green Mountain's at-home coffee brewers, Havelock said though it was "difficult" to imagine T2 in a capsule, it was "certainly possible".
(Editing by Sophie Walker)
Kevin Havelock was appointed President of Unilever’s Refreshment category, which comprises our ice cream and drinks brands, in September 2011.
President, RefreshmentPrior to this, Kevin was the Executive Vice President, Global Ice Cream category, with overall responsibility for Unilever’s global Ice Cream businesses.
In 2007 Kevin was appointed Executive Vice President for Unilever North America and Caribbean.
Since joining Unilever in 1985, Kevin has held a wealth of senior leadership positions around the world. Among these are the role of Chairman for Unilever UK, Unilever France and Unilever Arabia, and Chairman for Unilever’s Beverages business across Europe.
Kevin holds an MA in Economics and Mathematics from Jesus College, Cambridge University.
He has a partner and two daughters.
聯合利華旗下已有400多家Ben & Jerry's與Wall's品牌冰淇淋專賣店，今年則打算在英國開設更多T2茶飲店。哈維洛克說：「其實我們不認為世界上有哪個高度發展的城市，不能提供T2展店的良好環境。」
全文網址: 聯合利華倫敦開飲茶店 找回英國國飲熱