Evolving consumer preferences are forcing tea processors to change with the times with flavoured tea emerging as the most popular especially among the young followed by herbal varieties.
Others gaining favour among buyers are forest fruit flavour, immune tea, vitalitea, and varieties such as caramel, lemon, masala and ginger that can be found in a number of retail outlets in and outside the country.
“The consumer preference has continued to evolve over time and the way our mothers used to take tea is not the same way we are taking it now. We have an emerging young population who are insisting on taking their tea at different levels and we need to keep evolving in line with their needs,” said Mr John Ngatia, production manager Kenya Tea Packers (Ketepa) during a visit.
Ketepa is currently processing a wide array of flavoured teas aimed at mainly attracting the younger population who are not interested in loose tea, whose taste is not appealing to them.
The firm has gone beyond just the traditional black tea and is producing herbs as well, which are natural and blended from different sources.
Kericho Gold - one of the largest privately owned local parkers- has also gone big in value addition with a wide range of flavoured teas.
Mr Peter Kimanga, one of the directors at the firm says the expensive nature of Kenyan tea could be a reason for low consumption. “The 16 percent Value Added Tax has made Kenyan tea expensive in the local market leading to low consumption,” said Mr Kimanga.
Initially Ketepa used to source herbs from local markets but feedback from consumers forced them to enhance the product and therefore started scouting for the commoddity elsewhere to meet client expectations.
“We were able to get some of these herbs outside Kenya and when we were blending the local ones and the ones we import from our blending expertise, we noted there was an element of quality that would come with sourcing from different destinations,” Mr Ngatia said.
Ketepa is sourcing herbs from Comesa as well as other countries such as Tanzania, Nigeria and Turkey.
Mr Ngatia said the strength of herbs depends on ecological zones where they are found and that this is what is required to give certain quality that resonates well with customers.
Ketepa has partnered with major supermarkets and online platforms to deepen its footprints in the USA market as part of growing sales of its value added tea.
They are also in partnership with American multinational technology company- Amazon.com and the Alibaba Group Holding Limited -the Chinese multinational technology company specialising in e-commerce, retail, internet, and technology.
Somalia enjoys 29 percent of Ketepa products followed by the USA at 22 percent, Sudan UAE, Tanzania and Zanzibar each enjoying 10 percent. Other market destinations of the Ketepa value added tea include the United Kingdom, Angola and Japan.