Monday, August 13, 2012

Tea Bag Buddy, and on Selling Tea Infusers in a Supermarket

Lately I've been on a supermarket kick, exploring the selection of tea and teaware for sale in various supermarkets. Here is a picture I took in a Stop and Shop supermarket in North Adams, MA:

This product, highlighted in a special hanging display clipped in front of the shelves in the aisle with the tea, is Primula's Tea Bag Buddy. In this post, I am not going to comment at all on this product itself, as it is one that I have little interest in as a loose tea enthusiast. Rather, I'm going to propose an alternative of a product that could be sold in a similar location in supermarkets.

Selling tea infusers and loose-leaf tea in a supermarket?

I find the product placement of the tea bag buddy in the aisle with the tea to be interesting, as it shows that people are already selling tea accessories alongside the tea itself. This is important because it highlights a method that could be used to enable supermarkets to sell loose-leaf tea to an audience of tea bag drinkers, not accustomed to drinking loose tea.

Instead of the tea bag buddy or a similar product, the store could sell tea infusers, in the same location, clipped to a prominent hanging display. If I were running a store, I would choose to carry Finum Permanent Tea Filters. I would price them at cost, with the idea that the item was included only for convenience, not profit, and the product would encourage shoppers to purchase loose-leaf tea.

Then, I would carry a modest selection of loose-leaf tea. I would draw attention to the price-per-cup and number of cups in the loose tea, because people unaccustomed to preparing tea from loose leaf tend not to have a good sense of these things. It would make the product more accessible and appealing. Here is a marketing idea:

I chose Twinings as an example of a tea to show, because I have found Twinings to be the loose tea most frequently available in supermarkets in the U.S., and in many cases, the only loose-leaf tea avaliable.

Of course, Twinings or other tea companies could probably come up with much more attractive-looking specials. Even if the tea companies selling loose tea do not change anything about their packaging to draw attention to the number of cups of tea in the container, or the cost-per-cup, the supermarket or store selling the tea can do this themselves, perhaps in a special display, label, or sign. Most supermarkets already place a price-per-count on the price tag for various products. The label shown here is for Bigelow tea bags, and shows a unit price per 100 count:

Such labels would immediately show the clear lower price per cup of loose-leaf tea. With the extremely generous serving of 2.5 grams per cup (much more than most tea bags), Twinings loose-leaf tea, which usually sells for around $4 for the container shown above, would be much cheaper than all but the most bargain-priced teas. And there are numerous brands selling lower-priced loose-leaf tea as well.

What do you think?

Do you think that a display highlighting a small selection of loose-leaf tea, with a few low-priced, high-quality tea infusers clipped to hang prominently in the aisle in front of them, would get people's attention and draw some new people in to switch to loose-leaf tea? Do you think this sort of setup could be financially viable, or even possibly lucrative, for a supermarket?


  1. Our local "Fresh Market" does just that, it displays tea accessories right next to the teas, with a small selection of loose leaf. I used to buy my paper filter bags there before I switched to the Breville for most black teas. I"m not sure if the store displays the labels you mentioned for loose tea, I'd have to check that.
    Another grocery store here sells Whittard loose leaf tea, again a small selection about 4 I think. However they don't stock this tea in their tea section, they have it displayed alongside it's "foreign" actually mostly European product shelves. It's almost hidden there, and I wish they'd also add it to their general tea aisle.
    As to your question whether displaying such infusers would draw some people to switch to loose, I don't know. I was already a convinced customer when I saw the filters. But do I think they should do that? Yes, definitely. Encouraging people to try loose leaf tea is always a good idea!

    1. Yes! Wegmans seems to be very successful selling a lot of loose-leaf tea, including both its own brand in bulk, and other brands in boxes (including Rishi). But they have a whole tea and coffee area to the store, and it takes up quite a lot of space.

      I think a key factor in whether or not selling loose tea and infusers would induce people to switch to loose-leaf, would be how it is presented. Depending on the store, they could choose to emphasize either value or quality. If it were a company like whole foods, I'd also recommend them emphasizing environmental and human rights impacts.

  2. I think that's a great idea, as obvious as it sounds. In fact, I was just thinking about it the other day, as I was thinking about the idea that you usually don't find loose tea in supermarkets, and I was thinking if they did, they could sell tea infusers next to them.

    1. Yeah, I imagine it is a really common-sense thing that probably other people have thought of. I think even among people who don't drink loose-leaf tea, there's some base-level awareness of and curiosity about loose-leaf tea, and I think most people probably have an intuition that it is a better deal price-wise, and tends to taste better.

  3. It really makes sense to me. Wegman's even prints labels that have brewing suggestions. They could go a step further and offer tea tastings, as they do other products.

  4. Hi Marlene, we did the same thing on our town here in Ohio, we did have some tea tasting and found out that lemon tea and green mancha taste good with lemon, but above it all, I also found out that the best among them is this tulsi tea or those that are made from basil leaves too. I want to know more about other kind of tea that are the best in the world too!

  5. Alex, I think this is a great idea! I much prefer loose leaf tea, and I'm sure lots of people would if it was more readily available.