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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Is change in your DNA?

Or do you prefer to put your feet up with a cuppa?

Cast your mind back 20 years; it was all millennium bugs and optimism. We panicked and prepared, but nothing happened. Our reliance on tech, however, has continued to embed itself into almost every aspect of our daily lives. Many of us inhabit smart homes, are welded to our smart phones and have transformed where and how we work. So much of our day happens on the go and our ability to manage occurs at café tables, in the car, out walking or even in the bathroom. Since 2000 the pace of change has been rapid. Yet some old habits die hard; we all accompany our tech with the ubiquitous cuppa don’t we? Er, no, apparently that’s so last century.

I can’t imagine that anyone in the UK would have predicted the death of the conventional cuppa.

However, it’s actually happening as I write. PG Tips is one of those household brands that regularly appeared in millions of shopping trolleys. It joined tomato ketchup, salad cream, baked beans and fish fingers as one of the staples we alway bought in the UK. But all good things come to an end it seems, and PG Tips, right now, is up for sale having shown a steep retail decline. It’s too traditional for the hipsters; they prefer health giving, flavoured, sexier promises that a couple of builders' tea could never fulfil; turmeric chai tea yogi it ain’t!

Therefore PG tips owners are considering putting the lid on their tea business.

It appears that herbal tea and coffee have done for it. Last week Unilever decided that a for sale notice needed to be hammered into the chimps’ garden. Apparently tea drinkers are a dying breed. The chief executive of Unilever stated that those who enjoy black tea are ageing and also drink less than they used to consume. I guess those who also enjoy builders' tea are not necessarily the type who would consider a cup of mint tea as a replacement. I guess peppermint with half a pint of full fat milk and three sugars would turn anyone’s stomach!

Even though silver surfers are the ones with the disposable income they are not shelling out enough to make PG Tips an attractive portfolio proposition for Unilever.

Their efforts need to be focused on ‘experience- seekers’ who are looking for that ‘Something extra’ on their lips that may well enhance their lives. You only have to look down the tea aisle in a supermarket to notice that tea drinking habits have shifted beyond recognition. You can now buy tea flavoured with everything from herbs and fruit to spices. It can boost your energy or relax you, detox or lower blood pressure. Wellness products are in high demand but builders tea does not feature.

This tolls the bell for a tradition that has been part of the British landscape for more than two centuries.

Tea breaks were a significant part of industrial life and became part of our psyche, war spirit and culture. Remember 100,000,000 cups are drunk every day. But this is changing. With the arrival of the takeaway coffee, tea’s clock had started its countdown. The British Coffee Association states that 95 million coffees are now consumed every day and this has definitely taken the heat out of tea culture.

You may well shrug thinking that change is the only constant but I do think this is a significant shift in behaviour.

After all, our tea drinking heritage stretches back to the 17th century when tea was first imported from China and started to appear in London coffee houses. It was made trendy by Charles II’s Portuguese wife, and suddenly the glitterati ditched gin and ale to sup tea from china cups.

The other game changer was the arrival of the teabag that made tea such an easy choice for a quick brew.

In fact only 4% of people in Britain make tea with leaves, whatever tea boutiques might have you believe. In fact the U.K.’s tea market has seen an eye watering reduction of more than 9% in retail sales in only 10 years with 2% happening in the last 12 months. This is a significant trend and traditional tea drinkers had better watch out. Perhaps it will be us who have to seek out our favourite tipple in backstreet Specialist blenders and suppliers in future. After all we are still worth a staggering £360 million pounds worth of sales but these figures are dropping like a stone and they haven’t reached the bottom yet.

However, don’t feel sorry for the tea purveyors.

Although we may well have cut our consumption by 5% in the last two years interestingly tea, per kilogram, is now 3% more expensive than it was back in 2018. This is because we now are being convinced that premium herbal, cold infusions, detox, plant-based milk friendly are now the way forward. Apparently it’s all about experience and quality. I guess, therefore, we have an interesting moral in this tale: A food and beverage retailer should never take customer loyalty for granted.

Consumers are fickle and they want bang for their buck

Therefore, companies that maintain their market share will inevitably incorporate change into their DNA. This means staff will need to be innovative; there really is no place for saying: 'we have always done it this way'. Inevitably staff acquisition is also going to be a significant challenge in the food and drink industry. It needs to shed its traditional image and rebrand to underscore the economic importance and also set itself up as an innovative trend setter capable of agility and creativity. Finding the right people has always been important to business but now I believe it’s critical. In a nut shell, that’s why I work so hard to match the right people to the right opportunity. It’s a tough assignment that requires knowledge and experience to find the exact match and goes far beyond a quick and dirty algorithm search. If you would like to know more about how I can help you find the best people to drive your business forward please do give me a call. I would be happy to have a no obligation call about your recruitment needs so you can discover just what a professional recruitment adviser can to find the perfect candidate for your specific requirements.


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