bubble tea R&D

Plant-Based Delights: Changing Application Methods

Plant-based and vegetable proteins have become an integral part of tea shops’ daily offerings. Over the past year, coconut-based products have been consistently popular. According to the monthly product report from Beverage Lab, coconut-based new products have repeatedly topped the charts.

Suppliers are also actively introducing new plant-based ingredients. In the upcoming autumn and winter seasons, this trend is expected to continue but with changes in application methods. “Last year, we noticed that products featuring coconut were primarily focused on showcasing the raw taste of coconut. However, towards the end of the year, brands started experimenting with elevated versions, highlighting more diverse flavors with coconut milk as a complement, rather than the main flavor,” says a representative.

A similar trend can be observed with oat milk. One brand spokesperson explains, “Oat milk’s cereal attributes make it suitable for creating hearty and flavorful beverages for the autumn and winter. However, in terms of application, we will be more focused on controlling the product’s flavor profile and concentration. Based on our upstream supply chain control, we plan to launch high-concentration oat milk that enhances tea aroma and smoothness for better tea pairing.”

In terms of marketing, brands are also taking a new approach. “Take coconut water, for example; it already has a natural and healthy image due to its electrolyte replenishing properties, polyphenols, and trace elements. In the upcoming autumn and winter, some brands will combine it with health concepts to further enhance its appeal,” explains another spokesperson.

Floral Fragrance: Osmanthus and Rose Blossom in This Year’s Autumn Forecast

Adding floral elements and aromas to beverages has become increasingly popular this year. In spring, cherry blossoms and roses were featured by various brands such as Nai Xue Tea and Yi He Tang. Additionally, camellia oolong tea became a major hit.

In the autumn and winter, floral flavors are still highly regarded, with osmanthus and rose taking the spotlight. “Osmanthus is perfect for the season, and brands will further capitalize on this trend,” reveals a related executive.

Brands like Run Ming offer unique combinations, such as scented teas. These teas incorporate floral flavors to create seasonal tastes that span throughout the year, featuring flowers like camellia, rose, and osmanthus.

Camellia sinensis, which had gained tremendous popularity in the first half of the year, is expected to maintain its appeal. In the autumn and winter, roses have garnered high acceptance rates in first and second-tier cities, while remaining a potential growth market in lower-tier cities. On the other hand, osmanthus is particularly suitable for creating the first cup of tea in the autumn.

Whole Grains: Focused on Pistachios and Black Sesame

In the past couple of years, whole-grain toppings have experienced a surge in popularity during the autumn and winter seasons, with constant growth.

According to the “2022 China Beverage Industry Product Report,” when comparing 2021 to 2020, the usage of whole-grain nut toppings increased by 8%, ranking second, and was primarily applied in the autumn and winter (jelly and pudding toppings saw the most significant increase, at 9.3%, but were primarily used in the summer). Additionally, popular whole-grain toppings such as taro balls, taro paste, and mochi are gradually becoming classics.

New whole-grain toppings are continuously being developed each year. For example, during last winter’s trend, sweet potatoes and glutinous rice were particularly popular. Brands like Nai Xue Tea partnered with Little Red Book to launch the Little Sweet Potato Treasure Tea. Similarly, He Cha chose imported Thai glutinous rice to create the Mi Nuo Nuo topping.

In the autumn and winter seasons, there are two primary approaches to the application of whole-grain toppings. First, brands enhance classic toppings, and secondly, they focus on new toppings, such as pistachios and black sesame.

Regional brands can also concentrate on discovering unique regional whole-grain toppings. For example, Hao Tang Tea focuses on the unique regional specialty, Wen County iron rod yams from Jiaozuo, Henan, to create a perfect match with their new product, Flower and Jasmine Mao Jian.

Fruits: Emphasizing Affordable Options with a Focus on Citrus

After exploring unique and regional fruit applications, this year’s new products are returning to more commonly used and affordable options.

For example, this summer, watermelon, lemon, and coconut were among the top choices for monthly new product usage. Considering the current industry and market conditions, brands are reducing the variety of fruits used and focusing on commonly available, cost-effective fruits that are easy to manage.

In the autumn and winter, citrus fruits are considered promising. According to the head of a related department, “Citrus fruits are a category that winter fruit tea brands are willing to experiment with. They are suitable for both cold and hot beverages, and different brands will create differentiation through various citrus fruit varieties and application methods.”

Regarding fruit innovation, there are three main approaches:

  1. Developing new uses for commonly available fruits, such as substituting yellow peaches for nectarines this summer.
  2. Combining popular fruits with new application methods, like pairing them with oat milk, coconut milk, and others.
  3. Continuously exploring unique and niche fruits while ensuring controlled usage, such as jujubes and apples.

Price Control: Versatility and Substitutes

Cost and pricing are crucial considerations for this autumn and winter’s new products. Brands are focusing on three main strategies to lower costs:

  1. Creating versatile ingredients to increase efficiency: One strategy involves developing multiple uses for a single ingredient to reduce the burden of introducing new items to stores. For instance, a brand introduced pistachio powder and black sesame powder, allowing both ingredients to be used for different purposes. Additionally, in fruit selection, they opted for more popular varieties to create differentiation through blending.
  2. Finding low-cost alternatives: In terms of product strategy, brands are considering alternatives that maintain the same value but offer a lower price. For example, they offer options like pistachio powder, pistachio jelly powder, black sesame powder, and black sesame jelly powder to cater to different customer price preferences.
  3. Customer segmentation for higher efficiency: Supply chain brands are implementing efficiency strategies. For instance, they classify customers according to different levels and then formulate strategies based on their tier. While top-tier brands focus on personalized products, regional brands focus on signature products, and larger brands consider matching their needs.

Overall, this year’s tea beverage launches emphasize stability, practicality, and user-friendliness, rather than just focusing on innovation. Brands are selecting products that cater to the majority of consumers, streamlining raw materials and supply chains to reduce costs and focus on core strategies.

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