In Brief

Is Britain’s love affair with tea over?

PG Tips and Lipton could be sold by Unilever because they are falling out of favour with the public

Unilever is weighing-up whether to sell its multi-billion pound global tea business, as “changing consumer preferences” have seen more people switch from black tea to herbal or coffee.

Brands including PG Tips, Lipton and Lyon, which last year pulled in over £2.29 billion in revenue, could be sold by the retail giant as part of a strategic review to streamline its business. Unilever, the company behind other household names such as Marmite, Magnum and Knorr, revealed its pre-tax profits fell by a third to €8.3bn last year.

In a bid to refocus the firm, the BBC reports that Chief Executive Alan Jope “has targeted what he calls ‘brands with purpose’, saying that brands which do not have a clear social or environmental function could be eliminated from Unilever's roster”.

But the Daily Mail says the main reason for offloading Unilver’s tea portfolio is “because the British public are falling out of love with tea”.

Black tea remains Britain’s favourite hot drink but the number of cups of tea brewed fell by 630m to 18.3bn in the year to February 2019, according to research firm Kantar.

In August it was revealed that Twinings had overtaken PG Tips to become Britain’s bestselling brand of tea.

The Guardian says “the traditional cuppa has fallen out of favour in western markets such as the UK and US, particularly among younger people, who are more likely to drink coffee. Those who still drink tea prefer herbal, fruit and decaffeinated brews as part of the trend towards healthy eating and drinking”.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at trading platform Markets.com, told the paper: “Surely the move to ever-greater coffee consumption in the west has been a drag on tea sales as we swap out our cup of Assam for giant mugs of Arabica. It comes not long after the disposal of the spreads business which similarly fell prey to changing consumer trends in developed markets.”

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