Who needs a strategy for picking new teas?

I was a few days ago in Germany in a tea shop/saloon (or lounge as they called it) and I went through their catalog to see what they had in stock and to compare their newest teas and blends with what I had seen in France (for example a rise in Oolong coming from “exotic” countries). Surprisingly enough, I didn’t have that feeling, although I went to “big” names on each national markets.
This made me curious about how these companies select their new products and those that come to market.

There is always the history that someone (the founder, the explorers…) made some discovery and brought them to us, the customer.
It can be true but it is more likely to happen in smaller companies than in bigger ones as people in bigger companies have too many things to do to just get lost somewhere and find a hidden jewel.
An other explanation came to my mind when I started considering each “big” or medium-sized tea company as a brand .

You know brand right? They are the little communication tools that allows one company to be differentiated from another. Usually, you would think of brands through mundane things such as logo, name…; however, they also generate a lasting impression on their customers and potential customers, because they are known, because they have values, because friends talked about it, because of the packaging…
For example, TeeKampagne is specialised in selling Darjeeling at an affordable price and in a sustainable system. Obviously, should this company sell flavoured tea, its customers would be lost and wouldn’t understand what is going on, resulting in decreasing sales.
And this is true for every company, even if most will state that they try to “bring you the best teas from all around the world” or something along that, which means that you will expect them to sell you all kinds of tea.

Once a company has a more or less clear definition of what it is supposed to make and sell, one of its strategies (a plausible one for the generalist company described above) is to enter new market segment with products they were not selling, in order to attract new customers with teas they will like or to increase the loyalty (ie the purchases) of existing customers by bringing them new experiences and new products.

This approach can be summarized through a simple example with a matrix with on one axe the width of the product mix, which means the basic categories and on another, the depth, displaying the different products sold in the different categories. The total number of products sold being the length of the product mix.
I must have lost you all, so I will write down a simple and fictional example.


Black tea

Green tea





Lapsang Souchon


Flavoured with fig

Earl Grey


So here, this company product mix has three different sorts of tea (Oolong, Black and Green), meaning a width of three and for each sort of tea, it sells three different products (a depth of three), which results in a length of the product mix of 9.
From its choices, it is obvious that this company is trying to “bring to your cup the best teas from all around the world” as it covers all the classical teas that most people know about from Darjeeling to Earl Grey while offering something for more demanding clients (Matcha, Oolong) or a few specific teas that might not be seen elsewhere (Oolong flavoured with figs, Lapsang Souchong).
This product line allows this company to experiment with different strategies that can be combined : go for one or more new non-flavoured teas, introduce more flavoured teas, create a new category with the introduction of herbal teas…

Now imagine this for your favourite tea companies and you might begin to understand why they decided to go for such or such products this year. This can go as far as launching a new category of upper quality teas or of more affordable teas.
All options are open as long as it doesn’t blur the message the company wants to sent to the customers. This is why new brands can be launched to focus on a specific new market that is totally alien to the original product line.
But this is another story.


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