Greening the brew

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(Published in Aurora Magazine, March-April, 2009)

By Jahanzaib Haque

Tea has never been an indigenous product of Pakistan, but it is so deeply rooted in our culture that most of us would declare it the country’s national drink without a second thought.

This tenacious hot brew attained permanent shelf life in the hearts and minds of the nation ever since it was introduced by the British during the colonial era, and now as the West’s increasing preoccupation with health and health-related products permeates our media, the spotlight has fallen on black tea’s counterpart.

Green tea is the new black for those living up to the global health kick, and local market giants, Tapal and Lipton have both opted to capitalise on this trend.

As a product, green tea has had a long history and presence in Pakistan, though at a scale which has largely been overshadowed by black tea. While black tea consumption stood at an astounding 170,000 tonnes last year, the consumption of green tea was a mere 500 tonnes.

This tiny market is segmented into those who prefer loose, unbranded green tea (popular year-round in Balochistan, NWFP and further north) and those who prefer the more upmarket branded green tea, with sales restricted to the larger urban centres and towns across the country. This branded segment of the market constituted only 200 to 225 tonnes last year, with a majority of sales taking place in winter, as green tea’s consumption is currently tied directly to seasonal shifts.

Tapal was the first to enter this small-scale market in 2000, and is currently the market leader with a 65% share in the branded green tea market. Having been the first to launch green tea in teabags, the company also explored multiple flavours to form its current line of elaichi, lemon and jasmine flavoured green tea, available under the new, ‘Shades of Green’ banner.

Following a similar strategy, Unilever has consolidated its green tea line under its Lipton ‘Clear Green’ brand, which includes its original pure flavour alongside three newly launched flavours – Jasmine, Lemon and Mint.

Tapal launched its 360-degree campaign on January 11th with the release of print ads, TVCs, radio spots, outdoor promotion, BTL activities, text messaging and PR efforts. In contrast, Lipton opted to launch its campaign in distinct phases, beginning the retail process in the first week of January, and then releasing its mainstream TVC commercial and print ads a few days after Tapal.

While Lipton’s campaign is also a big budget 360-degree effort, ranging from bus shelter branding to branded health programmes, Tapal’s campaign did gain first mover advantage due to the launch of their TVC and print ads at an earlier date. The scale of both campaigns suggests large profits are at stake, but with green tea consumption forming barely a fraction of the overall market, the question of why bother targeting such a small market with such fervour arises.

For Tapal, the current campaign is seen as a vital key to tapping the ‘hidden potential’ of this category.

According to Sami Wahid, Brand Manager, Tapal Green Tea, the company has seen a 43% growth in green tea sales this year, surpassing all expected sales targets. He says Tapal is yet to see profits from the product due mainly to the small size of the market, but he believes green tea consumption can easily swell to 2,500 tonnes or more annually.

The Lipton team is also aware of this fact, and they see future growth in terms of a brand new market with a separate identity from black tea. As Aamir Malik, Creative Director, Blitz DDB explains:

“Green tea is not going to cannibalise regular tea’s market, as it is not a substitute. Green tea is essentially taken with heavy, rich meals, while regular tea is usually drunk separately. It’s generally consumed for its therapeutic value.”

For both companies, the campaigns are thus aimed to not only promote green tea with a unique identity, but also to simultaneously spread awareness and educate potential consumers in order to build the market.

To this end, Lipton’s green tea campaign has focused exclusively on highlighting the health benefits of green tea, i.e. its purification powers. This focus is derived from the company’s global, ‘Lipton tea can do that’ campaign, which presents a ‘drink better, live better’ philosophy aimed at strengthening Lipton’s position as a healthy beverage.

Umair Saeed, Associate Account Director for Lipton at Blitz DDB, says that messages tying green tea’s benefits to activities such as weddings and working out are geared to play up to the ‘healthy hedonists’ which Lipton has identified and targeted in its psychographic segmentation of the market. This uniquely discordant term defines those who desire a healthy lifestyle through products and services which are both enjoyable and require minimal effort.

The Blitz team believes Pakistan’s ‘healthy hedonists’ are particularly focused on the issue of digestion, hence the emphasis on food consumption and tea drinking. Saeed also believes tying green tea’s health benefits to a daily lifestyle will aid in changing the general perception that green tea is a product only to be consumed in the cold winter months.

Tapal has also opted to reinforce this emerging green tea culture by playing upon health benefits, but unlike Lipton, the emphasis of the campaign has been on creating an emotional connect between the consumer and the product.

Zehra Zaidi, Creative Director, Adcom (Tapal’s advertising agency) says the emotional appeal was necessary to ensure that green tea did not come off as an, ‘unfriendly’ medicinal product.

“The minute you start talking about health, people become very defensive. They start thinking, of course I don’t need that. I have been surviving so long without it.”

In developing the campaign on the emotional platform, the team at Adcom also chose to break away from Tapal’s signature red colour, replacing it with soft hues of green to deliver a consistent message tied to the product, relaxation and good health.

Trying to build the green tea market in the midst of a recession is yet another major hurdle for both Lipton and Tapal, especially as the branded green tea category faces the drawback of being a comparatively pricey product.

At the retail level, a limited survey of shops across Karachi indicates that both Tapal and Lipton currently stand out from the crowd of foreign green tea brands and flavoured tea in terms of packaging, price and most significantly, placement. Both brands are prominently displayed occupying positions next to the more popular products which either company produces, lending them support, credence and visibility on the shelves.

Additionally, both Tapal and Lipton’s SKUs range at comparatively modest, competitive prices, breaking down to two to three rupees per teabag, while foreign brands such as Tetley and Twinings range seven rupees and up per teabag. According to the retailers at these shops, Tapal has struck big with its value-addition sample pack, in which all three flavours are available for the consumer to try out.

Both Tapal and Lipton are prepared to sustain and evolve their campaigns during the year. Given that Tapal has been in the green tea market for many years, its ‘Shades of Green’ brand has the advantage of holding top of mind with consumers, reinforcing the fact that Tapal is the market leader.

However, Lipton’s reputation as a renowned, multinational brand is likely to hold some sway in the eyes of the upper-middle class and upper class bracket which is being targeted – a challenge Tapal accepts as a reality, but one which it believes it can overcome by correctly identifying itself with Pakistani tea culture; something the company has been quite successful at in the past.

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