Ready-to-Drink Iced Tea

Today’s consumers are undoubtedly taking a growing interest in healthy living, and this trend has had a significant impact on the ready-to-drink (RTD) iced tea market. Negative press condemning carbonated soft drinks’ contribution to the obesity epidemic has driven a greater number of people to seek more wholesome beverage alternatives, such as RTD iced tea. For example, US sales in this market grew over 19% in 2005, while the consumption of full-calorie soda dropped by 24% between 2002 and 2005. Manufacturers within the market have furthered their new products’ health credentials by introducing low/no/reduced calorie, sugar and fat options and a greater product naturalness.

The RTD iced tea market is particularly active in Asia and the United States. It has benefited from widespread publicity about the naturally high antioxidant content of tea, with advocates claiming that tea helps to maintain a healthy immune system, reducing the signs of aging and wards off life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Manufacturers have also enriched their iced teas with vitamins, minerals and other beneficial elements, while functional ingredients and claims are also increasingly prevalent.

Consumers’ desire for variety with regard to their beverage choices could be another reason they are moving away from carbonated soft drinks and trying RTD iced tea products. And while most products were natural or unflavored iced teas, there is now an increasingly wide variety of flavored iced teas on the market.

Fruit Flavors

Fruits are the flavor of choice in this market and with so many fruits now readily available across the world, we have seen an ever-increasing number of different fruit flavors coming through in the RTD iced tea sector. According to the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), lemon and peach were by far the most popular fruit flavors, but a wide range of berry flavored products were also launched, including strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, cherry and blackcurrant.

Looking at other fruit, pear, grape, plum and orange flavors were used by a number of manufacturers, alongside several citrus, tropical and exotic fruit flavors.

Over the past year there has been significant coverage on the rise of the “superfood”—those food products that are singled out for their natural health benefits. The move towards superfoods has hit this sector and manufacturers have launched products containing popular superfoods, such as pomegranate, açaí and acerola.

Indeed, earlier this year, Honest Tea Pomegranate White Tea with Açaí was launched, containing three antioxidant-rich ingredients, which are combined with less than three teaspoons of organic cane sugar to create a delicately flavored tea. Meanwhile, in Brazil, Convençao Cha Com Pessego has launched Peach Ice Tea, which contains heart healthy polifenóis. Interestingly, their tea is also available in lemon flavor (another top choice), guarana and the superfood fruit, acerola.

Herbs & Spices

Beyond fruit, the RTD iced tea sector has also turned to herbs and spices—another area where the flavor possibilities and combinations seem almost endless. When it comes to herbs, some of the more widely used choices include jasmine, chrysanthemum, peppermint, mint, ginseng and dandelion. In France, Seagull Trading released Oriental Mint Drink under the Alfadi brand. The product is described as an “out of centuries old tradition” drink, created by the desert nomads to quench thirst. Its main ingredients are black tea, ginger and peppermint. It is refined with fruit sugar and contains no preservatives.

Mintel GNPD shows that the most popular flavor in this category was ginger, with other examples including vanilla, licorice, cinnamon and cardamom.

In the Czech Republic, Rauch released White Tea Ginger under the Rauch Nativa brand. It is said to be made of the best selection of green teas and purifies the body and mind.

Several other spiced products were milk-based and positioned as chilled chai beverages, after the traditional Indian drink.

Other Ingredients

Numerous new products were flavored with honey this quarter—which is increasingly drunk with warm tea instead of the more traditional white sugar—as well as with brown sugar or maple syrup. Interestingly, in a slightly less conventional move, a few vegetable-flavored iced teas were launched, including a corn variety and one with white gourd. Unusual ingredients and flavors also included loquat leaves, cola, black soybean extract, almond and kombu seaweed extract.

Indeed, in Hong Kong, Uni-President Enterprises released Almond Tea under the Uni-President brand. It claims to be rich in flavor and good for health.


Over the past few years, antioxidants have become one of the most successful natural ingredients driving sales in the ready-to-drink non-carbonated beverage market. Antioxidants are known for health-promoting benefits such as the prevention of cancer, aging, heart attacks and strokes. They are naturally found in tea leaves and berries, which are often added to RTD iced tea to enhance their flavor and health-promoting properties.

The Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) tracks new product launches, trends and innovations internationally. For additional information regarding GNPD, visit or call Mintel International at 1-312-932-0600.

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