Tea

Packaging in the tea industry: branding, sustainability and innovation

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Whether it be an increased emphasis on the functional health benefits of tea or the rise of Ready-To-Drink tea for convenience, the modern tea consumer is evolving. This evolution is perhaps most evident in its packaging. No longer does tea packaging focus merely on preserving taste, aroma and quality, these days it is also about sustainability and creating an experience.

To illustrate just how important packaging is, the tea packaging industry was estimated at 6.69 billion dollars in 2023 and is poised to increase even more. One of the ways tea manufacturers are trying to attract customers is by focusing on sustainability. Environmental awareness has been a hot-button topic in society for a while now and tea manufacturers have been adapting to the increasingly eco-friendly tea drinker of today. Tea producers are looking for plastic-free, recyclable or biodegradable materials for their packaging, trying to reduce their ecological footprint as much as possible as governments and individuals are trying to do the same. Some companies have started looking towards plant-based materials like corn-starch or bamboo for their packaging.

This emphasis on sustainability even spills over in the marketing of many teas as companies are happy to embrace an ethically sound characterization of their brand. So, when it comes to the branding of tea, the packaging becomes more than just a container, it is the thing that tells the story, that hooks the customer in and is an essential part of the tea-drinking experience. But this does not mean that the aim is always the same. While some tea manufacturers are appealing to the high-end customer, creating elaborate and intricately designed packaging meant to give an impression of luxury for their specialty teas, others are for instance looking towards minimal, more artisan packaging designs for a more grounded experience.

Whatever the case may be, coinciding with a shift in the consumer, tea packaging has seen a slew of innovations over the years, ranging from the introduction of stand-up pouches that are able to protect its contents’ quality with minimal environmental waste and much more convenience, to the implementation of smart-packaging in the form of QR-codes that provide the customer with all the relevant information about the tea that they are consuming.

However, these innovations also bring with them a few challenges for the tea industry. For instance, using high quality or rare materials and elaborate designs can drive up the price of tea. Then there are societal hurdles in the form of regulatory practices, legislation surrounding sustainable packaging that is still being worked out by governments all over the world. Finally, there is stiff competition from other companies within the industry, with countless companies vying for the attention of the customer. Where packaging will end up is difficult to say, but the one thing we can say is that the packaging of tea has never been more important than it is today.

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