BUBBLE tea – originating in Taiwan in the 1980s – has not lost its magic among Asian consumers today and has in recent times caught the interest of young consumers in other parts of the world as well. This icy drink which is standard tea, milk, tapioca balls, and sweetener, quenches the thirst, satisfies the sweet tooth, and the tapioca balls or bobba make it a filling drink.
According to ADM beverage trends, consumers are looking for better-for-you alternatives, emotional comfort in familiar flavours, bright colours in drinks and ways to feel more energetic.
The Asia Pacific region holds the largest market share for bubble tea, a figure that is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7%[i]. This has provided the opportunity for beverage companies, including Ready-To-Drink (RTD) brands, to be able to offer both functional and indulgent products beyond refreshment, while ensuring the delicious taste of drinks.
RTD tea is a USD40 billion market in Asia Pacific. Consumer knowledge and awareness about the health benefits of tea is encouraging consumers to focus on living a healthy lifestyle, which is a key element driving the ready-to-drink tea market forward, according to ADM Outside VoiceSM RTD tea study.
Part of its magic is in the seemingly endless choice of tea, flavours, colours, sugar level and toppings. The growing popularity of bubble is also driven by the flexibility to customise, which has become an identity that the younger generation associate with[ii]. For tea brands, they may target the specific needs of consumer segments, from indulgent thrill-seekers to the premium nostalgic to create the RTD tea drink that fits every lifestyle.
RTD tea is also popular beverage among Southeast Asians who perceive it to be a better-for-you alternative[iii]. The range of novel, specialty, and crafted tea beverages are attracting the region’s middle class. Furthermore, the availability of RTD tea in handy and attractive packaging, and an increase in the number of cafés, online and offline retail stores are also expected to boost this industry.
But consumers are now also looking for more value in beverages, and manufacturers should be ready to meet this growing need. For example, flexitarian consumers seek plant-based drinks.
In this interview with Sarah Lim, Marketing Director, Asia Pacific Beverages, Human Nutrition, ADM, we look at how companies can manufacture refreshing beverages that especially provide the many natural benefits of tea and other plant-based sources.
Sarah Lim, Marketing Director, Asia Pacific Beverages, Human Nutrition, ADM
How are consumers choosing their packaged beverages/drinks? How has this changed over the years?
Consumers connect what they eat to how they feel, mentally and physically, and are looking for empowering, accessible and proactive solutions tailored to their own unique tastes, diets and other wellness goals. With shifting lifestyle needs, today’s consumers are increasingly looking for authentic sensorial experiences while supporting a holistic healthy diet.
According to ADM beverage trends, consumers are looking for better-for-you alternatives, emotional comfort in familiar flavours, bright colours in drinks and ways to feel more energetic. With a more active role in the world of refreshment, packaged beverages such as RTD tea can be further ‘reimagined’ to deliver elevated experiences for consumers across specific consumer segments across the spectrum.
Do you find that consumers in Southeast Asia are seeking more information about beverages? What are they interested in?
Consumers are re-evaluating and refocusing their health and wellness routines across all aspects of their lifestyles. In fact, 82% of Southeast Asian consumers consider RTD tea as more refreshing over other beverages, and 77% of Southeast Asians perceive RTD tea as better-for-you alternatives that can offer health benefits compared to other beverages.
Are consumers wary of over-processed products? In terms of quality and nutrition, could you comment on the beverages that are coming out in the market today?
Consumers are taking a more holistic approach to health and wellness and are increasingly aware of the beverages they consume. They are increasingly looking for authentic sensorial experiences while supporting a holistic healthy diet. Healthy beverages such as low-calorie teas with enticing flavours are driving market growth.
The growing disposable income of the middle class has led to the premiumisation of foods and to the elevated sophistication of consumers. ADM is meeting consumers' shifting lifestyles by reimagining how they consume their everyday products, such as RTD tea by elevating the beverage with value-added ingredients that are experiential and may provide functional benefits.
For market players, it is important for them to be attuned to the needs of their target audience and adapt accordingly. Our expertise and passion to support consumers’ well-being has allowed ADM to be the trusted partner to deliver innovative solutions to bubble tea players. Our comprehensive beverage systems portfolio, from flavours to functional ingredients, deliver both great taste and science-backed functionality, meets the consumer’s changing lifestyle and delivers elevated experiences that are novel and meet consumers' desires for functional ingredients they associate with well-being.
How can ADM support beverage companies that plan to improve their products or develop new products? As an expert in this sector, what would be your advice to them?
ADM has a range of offerings to ensure that tea brands keep up with the trends and meet consumers' expectations, including cross-category indulgence experience for RTD products. For example, brands could provide a dessert-like experience by incorporating popular trending flavours such as yogurt-based tea, plant-based alternatives, and localised delights.
Brands could also consider ADM’s Fibersol® into their product design to cater to health-focused consumers. Fibersol® is a soluble fibre that can provide a daily source of fibre. In addition, clinical studies have shown that Fibersol® helps reduce post-meal glucose peaks and overall response in blood glucose in addition to promoting digestive health.
Please tell us more about the ingredients available. How do these provide added value?
By partnering with ADM and its proprietary design thinking approach to meet consumer’s needs and shifting lifestyles, RTD tea brands can leverage an extensive portfolio of flavours, plant-based proteins, botanicals and microbiome supporting ingredients to give tea beverages the functional edge and excitement that consumers are looking for. ADM offers holistic beverage systems that help brands innovate and position themselves as guilt-free meal accompaniment drinks that consumers will enjoy. Low sugar teas may also be fortified* with functional ingredients from added fibre or vitamins, for consumers to have a proactive approach toward health and wellness.
[i] The global bubble tea market size was USD 2.02 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 3.39 billion by the end of 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 7.2% during the forecast period https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/industry-reports/bubble-tea-market-101564
[ii] Boba 101: Everything you ever wanted to know about bubble tea https://www.today.com/food/boba-101-everything-you-ever-wanted-know-about-bubble-tea-t190898
[iii] ADM Tea Study, 2021