HERBAL TEA STIRS UP KIDS’ BEVERAGE SEGMENT

he popularity of herbal infusions or tisanes, like Rooibos, has surged in the last few years with more consumers drinking loose leaf, bagged, ready-to-drink and flavoured tisanes.

In 2021 alone, South Africans consumed more than 70 million cups of herbal tea – 5.7% up from 2020, with no signs of decline. Analysts say tisanes are likely to record the second highest growth of all tea categories, with an annual growth rate of 12.7% in the 2022 to 2026 forecast period.

Tisanes are also making inroads into the kids’ beverage market, with its health properties and wide range of flavours satisfying the pickiest of palettes.

What is packed with antioxidants, has no sugar, zero calories, and no caffeine? Herbal infusions! Touted as the healthy, refreshing beverage option for kids in 2023.  

Nicie Vorster, a director of the SA Rooibos Council (SARC) says tisanes aren’t just for grown-ups anymore as instant and ready-to-drink tisanes are paving the way for strong positioning among families, children and teens.

“Herbal tisanes fill a real need for health-conscious parents that are looking for low sugar, antioxidant-rich beverages for kids. The fact that tisanes are both calorie- and caffeine-free adds to their appeal.

“Previously, 100% fruit juice was considered the gold standard for healthy kids’ beverages, but as more parents became aware of the high levels of sugar in the food and drinks their kids consumed, including the high levels of natural sugar in fruit juices, many started to dilute juice with water. While some manufacturers responded with products consisting of a blend of juice and water, it hasn’t quite taken off – partly because of taste and partly because of fewer nutrients, so there’s a big demand and opportunity for healthier kids’ beverages.

“For some kids that are used to a sweeter taste profile, plain herbal tea might not be appealing, but sweetening it with fruit juice of their choice is a great alternative to 100% juices or juice-and-water blends. This way, it cuts out the sugar, but keeps the antioxidants. Teens, who love to experiment, can use tisanes as a base, and add natural sweeteners, fruit, herbs and spices to satisfy their thirst.”

According to an international consumer survey conducted by Global Data, eight in ten parents say their choice in product is influenced by how it will affect their child’s health and well-being.

“There’s nothing a parent wants more than their child to be healthy and happy,” he says. “While the occasional sugary beverage is acceptable, it shouldn’t be the norm, especially given SA’s high obesity rates among adults and children alike.”

The SA National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-1) points to a combined overweight and obesity prevalence of 13.5% in children aged 6-14 years, which is higher than the 10% prevalence among schoolchildren globally. In addition to obesity, frequent consumption of fizzy- and sports drinks, increases children’s risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and tooth decay.

Vorster says guiding children towards more balanced options is important for their overall health. “Manufacturers of Rooibos products have developed exciting new kid-friendly food and beverages – many of which are already available at leading supermarkets around the country.

“We believe the use of functional ingredients (food that offer health benefits beyond their nutritional value) will be the key to kickstarting innovation in the kids’ segment. Herbal infusions also offer health benefits that create product differentiation.”

Scientists consider Rooibos to be a good source of polyphenols that boast a wide range of health benefits, because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Polyphenols represent a superfamily of diverse compounds found in plants – from root to fruit. Rooibos is particularly rich in these compounds.

Drinking Rooibos daily has been proven to boost immunity, reduce the risk of heart disease and cholesterol and it can help fight inflammation, which is the root cause of cancer. Rooibos is also effective at controlling blood glucose, relieving stress and anxiety, soothing allergies and digestion, and is good for the brain.

“Kids will love Rooibos on its own; mixed with fruit juice (two parts juice with one part Rooibos) or they can enjoy any of the numerous flavour combinations, such as Rooibos and berry-, apple-, naartjie-, peach etc or Rooibos blended with other herbal infusions, like chamomile, elderflower and honeybush. The bonus is that Rooibos is naturally sweet, so additional sweetening is rarely needed. For time-pressed parents, there’s even powdered iced tea products made from Rooibos extract, which make for an ideal refreshment at break time or after school.

Vorster says while relatively new, the kids’ tea category has all the elements of success.