Flavored tea products are facing high demand in India amid new regulations to cap the flavor mix

INDIA – Flavored tea segments in India are experiencing stellar growth, mostly among the youth, even as the regulators in the country are trying to cap the flavor mix in tea at 5 percent.

The demand for such functional or herbal teas has increased in the country particularly after the onset of Covid-19, as tea with spices and natural herbs have proved to boost immunity against the virus, according to India’s Tea Board.

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In recent years, the younger audiences are indulging in wellness that came due to the pandemic making the functional and herbal tea gain momentum, and brands are now focusing on holistic wellness which covers an active lifestyle.

Kamakshya Singh, head of business development at Luxmi Tea, said that e-commerce volumes for selling such tea online are rising by 30 percent each year while the estimated share of the herbal or functional tea market would be less than two percent.

The Tea board pointed out that the size of the flavored tea market in terms of volume and price is around 60 million kilograms and Rs 3600 crore (US$386,737) respectively.

However, it is an approximate value taking the flavored tea market to be 10 percent of the entire packet tea consumption, according to the board’s announcement.

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Meanwhile, the Tea board has mandated that a maximum of 5% of single or combined natural flavors can be added with tea leaves sold as ‘flavored tea.

This decision was taken following a recommendation jointly made by the Tea Research Association (TRA) and the south Indian planters’ body after research they conducted.

The regulator will henceforth revoke or not consider the issuance of manufacturers’ registration certificates to the company going beyond the 5% limit.

The regulator further explained that despite its advice to tea manufacturers to minimize flavored substances to retain the original quality, and aroma of leaves, there have been instances products have been found containing less than 51% tea leaves and an excess amount of artificial flavor.

TRA secretary Joydeep Phukan said: “Our scientists at TRA tried out different permutations and combinations on flavor additions to tea and recommended the optimum percentage that can be allowed. The idea is to retain the inherent taste of tea along with the flavor.”

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Although the implementation of this new rule is in effect, the Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011, which gave a nod for tea to be allowed to contain “natural flavors” or” natural flavoring substances” acceptable for human consumption, has no mention of the maximum limit.

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