STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 5, Number 3

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42 STiR tea & coffee industry international / Issue 3, 2016 (June/July) Quality Tea is More than Leaves Alone By Suzanne J. Brown T Henry P. Thomson, Inc.'s 3.9 cu m capacity rotary batch mixer blends 726 to 1180 kg batches of tea and runs all day, seven days per week ea quality is the result of diligence along the entire supply chain, not by leaves alone. Ultimately, it is consumers who assess the taste, convenience, and perceived health and wellness benefits in determining success. Since customer requirements differ by market channel tea buyers rely on blenders to produce a wide range. Tea blender Manjiv Jayakumar, who manages QTrade Tea & Herbs in Cerritos, Calif., describes three trends that have led to the surge in tea prod- ucts and the expansion of tea processing during the past 10 years. Consumers expect more variety, better taste, and innovation, according to Jayakumar. Concerns over food safety, speed to market, and the specialty tea segment have combined to increase demand for manufacturing in the US, he explains. "Consumers are focused on specific blends purchased from brands such as Teavana and Tazo," said Jayakumar. Marketing and branding tea has be- come a major consideration, he added. Tea blending is now a $1.6 billion industry in North America, according to IBISWorld. The market research firm estimates the industry grew at an annual rate of 6.3% through 2014 slowing to an estimated 3% through 2019 due to changes in volume. Value continues to climb with gross revenue projected at $1.7 billion in 2016 and exports estimated at $610 million, up from $456 mil- lion in 2014, according to the IBISWorld report Tea Production in the USA. Unilever retains its position as market leader with a 52.2% share, but the manufacturing of traditional tea bags, which accounted for the majority of jobs and profit has shrunk to 47.2% of the market. Specialty and gourmet teas ac- count for 18.5% market share and the market share of loose leaf teas has risen to 26.4%. Instant tea, meanwhile, has declined to 7.9% market share. Per capita consumption is flat at one pound but the value of manufactured tea has doubled from $900.9 million in 2005 to $1,837 billion in 2014. The figure is calculated as the manufacturing industry's spend for all goods and services in the US, regardless of origin. It is de- rived by adding imports to industry revenue, and then subtracting exports, according to IBISWorld. Equipment advances Increased demand has increased the size and complexity of tea blending and packing facilities. Lipton significantly increased the capacity of its Suffolk, Va. plant with a $96.2 million expansion beginning in 2013. The number of tea blending facilities has increased from 48 to 90 enterprises currently operating 105 facilities. Employment is estimated at 2,843 positions in 2016 reflecting a slight incline as automated equipment reduces the number of positions required to operate fill and pack lines. Responding to demand for more quality, less breakage, and efficiency, equipment companies have introduced new technologies specifically for targeted segments. Consistency in quality is the primary objective at HP Thomson, according to vice president and managing director John Smith. To minimize variances from sack to sack and breakage concerns, his company relies on a Mun- son 140 cu ft. (3.9 m3) capacity rotary batch mixer. Smith said the mixer uses a gravity-driven process in which internal mixing flights and lifters create a gentle four-way action – tumble, turn, cut and fold – to produce a 100% uniform batch in one to three minutes while imparting minimal energy to the material. Blended tea is conveyed to a packaging station where a storage vessel holds one batch. While that batch is being filled into 900 to 2,300 lb. (40-1,043 kg) bulk bags or 105 lb. (48 kg) sacks, the next batch is being mixed. For the majority of HPT blends, the company utilizes the rotary batch mixer. To blend favored teas the company uses a rib- bon blender. "Flavor agents act as a lubricant along the sides of the ribbon blending vessel, thereby minimizing breakage," said Smith. HPT does not fill tea in tea- bags, but rather sends sacks and bags to another firm that manufactures a variety of teabags to cus- tomer specifications. "Most of the teabags are packed for individual or institutional customers," said Eugene Amici, president of HP Thomson. Teabag manufacturing has evolved along with all processes connected to producing a quality end product. Filter paper, size, shape, and pyramid teabag material used in manufacturing teabags comprise another category of growing diversification. Heat- sealed foil bags, knotted string rather than stapled, double-chamber bags, compostable, and recycla- ble paper, are some of the specifications required by buyers. Technology innovations among tea packagers provide the latest automation and ener-

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