Tea industry executives from the United States and Canada met this week to jointly confront the challenges and opportunities of the North American market.
The 2nd North American Tea Conference, a three-day meeting of the Tea Association of Canada and the Tea Association of the USA/Tea Council annually that brings together manufacturers, retailers, importers, packers and representatives of producing countries. Topics ranged from prospects for future growth in North America to competing in an ever-challenging environment, with sessions on consumer perceptions of tea; mega trends in the global tea industry and foodservice market conditions in North America.
Joe Simrany, president of America’s tea association and Louise Roberge, president of Canada’s tea association, jointly opened the conference Monday and spent Tuesday conducting annual business for their respective groups. New officers were installed, bylaws amended, budgets approved and committee reports followed a morning roundtable in which representatives of the producing countries discussed production yield, harvest projections, pricing and political circumstances from Africa and Argentina to India and Sri Lanka.
The 145 delegates were not entirely confined to meeting rooms thanks to a boat tour lunch of Boston Harbor hosted by Balaji Agro International India. Hurricane clouds were nowhere to be seen on the blue bay under blue skies. Focused tastings followed with a white tea presented by Sicily K. Kariuki of the Tea Board of Kenya drawing praise.
Good natured guest of honor John Harney dons a Boston Tea Party headdress to celebrate.
Tuesday evening at the Chairman’s Dinner, retail pioneer John Harney of Harney & Sons was awarded special recognition following opening remarks by outgoing chair William A. Bowron Jr. with Red Diamond, Inc.
Joseph Wertheim, then with Stein Hall Importers, attended his first tea association meeting in 1948. The Redding, Conn. resident and oldest working tea man in the organization, was back again Tuesday at 90 years of age. “In 63 years I have missed very few,” said Wertheim, a former chairman who served several terms. “They have always done a marvelous job.”
President Simrany announced board approval to host the 5th Annual International Symposium on Tea & Human Health. The gathering is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2012 in the Thomas Jefferson Auditorium at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.
Vince Sgabellone, account manager for NPD Group in Canada, briefed the Canadian delegation on results of a national survey of consumer tea trends in foodservice. The July poll asked 27 questions of 2,968 tea drinkers ages 13-64. Canadians drank 380 million foodservice servings of tea (mainly hot) last year, a figure up 4 percent over 2009, Sgabellone told the packed room.
Growth in foodservice is on the rise, he said. Growth averaged 3.5 percent in the past three years, making tea No. 5 on the list of most commonly ordered beverages, he said. Tap water is No. 4. “That represents an opportunity for tea firms to show restaurants how to turn a cost into cash,” said Sgabellone. Tea drinkers frequently are disappointed in restaurants that limit variety, shun flavored teas and fail to steep tea at the proper temperature and time. He predicted favorable results if restaurants simply offered the equivalent of what tea drinkers enjoy at home.
A complete report with data set will soon be available, contact the Tea Association of Canada () for details. The next conference is Sept. 11-13, 2012 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.