As Yorkshire Tea launches an unexpected summer ‘banger’ in a bid to reach the youth market, we ask has tea – the much-loved, but fairly unexciting beverage – finally tuned a corner when it comes to extending its appeal, and updating its image?
It’s fun to google ‘young people and tea’. Among the numerous articles that promise to spill the proverbial tea in fact are a number either freaking out at the younger generation’s shunning of the stuff, or else hyped-up wellness pieces that espouse their deep love of it. ‘Are young people drinking more tea than booze?’ from 2023 and ‘Are young Brits falling out of love with the cuppa?’ from 2016 are just two of my favourites that encapsulate the gulf between these two opposing schools of thought.
What’s the answer to both, you ask? Well, the BBC (quoting PG Tips and Lipton owner Unilever) says that unfortunately Gen Z and millennials think the “traditional cuppa” is a bit meh. They prefer herbal teas and coffees instead. Meanwhile News 24 quotes brand new Mintel UK data to show that actually, more people than ever are choosing a cup of tea over booze. So, which do we believe?
Tea vs booze
Well, the Mintel study is more recent, dating back to late 2022, and claims that 48% of British tea lovers say they sometimes drink tea as an alternative to alcohol, and that 49% of all Brits agree that tea is a good alcohol alternative. Furthermore, the largest age group to say so is those aged 26 to 41, with 55% saying they sometimes ditch booze for a cuppa, compared to 44% for those aged 65 and over.
Mintel says cost is the main motivator. Tea is now being seen as a treat, nay, an affordable luxury. Two in five have reduced their alcohol intake to save money. Whereas two-thirds (64%) of those swapping alcohol for tea believe that high-quality teas are an affordable treat.
A comforting constant
Angharad Goode, Mintel Research Analyst, said: “Tea is a comforting constant for British consumers. After facing such an emotionally draining time during the COVID-19 pandemic, and with more uncertain times ahead amidst the growing pressures on household incomes, the image of tea as a little emotional pick-me-up is ever more relevant for brands to tap into.”
“The cost-of-living crisis will increase the appeal of this wellbeing boosting perception as consumers seek out emotional support during stressful times. While cost-saving efforts are on the rise, tea’s positive image and consumers turning to evenings in over out-of-home leisure should go some way to drive demand for tea.”
A new direction
Which leads us to our next point, and the reason we’re discussing tea right now, in the first place. Have you seen it yet? The relatable yoof-speak Yorkshire Tea advert? It’s about how one young lad – who honestly doesn’t look a day over 18 – just can’t be without his tea, especially it seems when he’s flying to Ibiza (budget airline, cabin baggage only, obvs) with the “amigos”. It’s funny how the annual trip to this Balearic island is one aspirational rite of passage for the young folk that seems to have endured. Wicked.
In it, against visuals – and fashion for that matter – that recall the days of acid house, our tea-loving Gen Z-er sings a lengthy number about how he’d rather leave behind everything he actually needs for said holiday, in order to pack 10kg of Yorkshire tea bags. Getting wasted out on the town in Beetha? Nah. “Sambucca: shot? Tequila: shot? Rather have a Yorkshire Tea in a teapot!” And instead of getting plastered, to chants of “down it, down it”, the lads shout “let’s get lightly caffeinated”.
A notable departure
Apart from the obvious conclusion that someone at Yorkshire Tea has definitely seen this Mintel research, it’s a notable departure from the brand’s long established, let’s say more mature campaigns, where Patrick Stewart conducted rousing leaving speeches to middle-aged office workers. The fact that Yorkshire Tea is taking an interest in, and marketing directly to this demographic means that something in the market has fundamentally changed.
Is tea now cool? Is tea coming back into its own for being comforting in times of strife? And in this world of spiralling costs, is it now becoming aspirational for its very affordability? Its relevance to a younger audience as a trusty, familiar and beloved alternative to booze seems to be what Yorkshire Tea is both trying to convey, and is tapping into.
But its status as something no less cool than an alcoholic drink…. is that right? Is that how unfavourably younger people now view alcohol, and how highly they now see tea? That’s likely the deep wish of tea brands, who have been struggling for something new to say, to a new audience for some time. Have they suddenly found it?
The Mintel data of course points to a slightly older age group, but it also points to a fundamental shift in perceptions. It will be interesting to see if other ‘traditional’ tea brands follow suit and similarly launch an out-there campaigns that market the most staid of drinks in most consumer’s repertoire, in an entirely new and unexpected way.
Interested in finding out more about what this might mean for you and your business?
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