We do be-leaf it! Yorkshire bags a top tea spot

CUP OF SUCCESS: A quirky marketing campaign has helped the Yorkshire Tea brand soar, with celebrity endorsers including Leedss own Brownlee brothers.
CUP OF SUCCESS: A quirky marketing campaign has helped the Yorkshire Tea brand soar, with celebrity endorsers including Leedss own Brownlee brothers.
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It’s enough to make the Tetley tea folk pack up their flat caps and hit the hard stuff. They have been overtaken as Britain’s number two tea by a Yorkshire original.

The runaway success of the tea blend that bears our county’s name - and has Leeds’s own Brownlee brothers and the Kaiser Chiefs among its celebrity endorsers - has seen it leapfrog the competition.

The latest industry figures, out today, confirm Yorkshire Tea as the nation’s second favourite, with just under 23 per cent of the traditional “black tea” market.

In contrast to Tetley, whose stereotypical Yorkshire cartoon characters disguise the brand’s Indian ownership - it now belongs to the same conglomerate as Tata Steel - Yorkshire Tea is still produced in Harrogate by the family firm that founded it, 40 years ago.

The market leader, PG Tips, is no longer made by Brooke Bond but by the multinational Unilever, while the one-time favourite Ty-Phoo is now also in Indian ownership.

“Ten or 12 years ago, Ty-Phoo was probably double the size of us but we are now significantly bigger,” said Kevin Sinfield, head of brand marketing at Taylors of Harrogate, where Yorkshire Tea is blended.

“PG and Tetley have been the market leaders for years and years, so this is quite a landmark moment.

“They are famous British brands and icons of British advertising as well, and we feel this represents quite a shift change.”

Yorkshire Tea was launched as “a Yorkshire blend for Yorkshire people”, but increased advertising and better distribution in recent years, coupled with the product’s sponsorship of the England cricket team, have given it a national profile.

“We look on the name Yorkshire as an asset. It sums up the business culture,” Mr Sinfield said.

“We don’t see the word as being limited or regional at all. It really helps reinforce who we are, what we stand for and what we believe in.”

When Yorkshire tea made its debut in 1977, after Taylors was bought by another Harrogate institution, Bettys, many drinkers still preferred their tea in quarter-pound packets. Today, around 90 per cent of sales are in tea bags - but the loose leaf variety is making a comeback.

“It’s got a bit more theatre about it,” Mr Sinfield said. “As more premium cafes open, they tend to serve loose leaf.”

However, the overall market for tea is shrinking. “That’s the real success story of Yorkshire Tea - we’ve managed to buck that trend and increase our sales while consumption is declining,” Mr Sinfield said.

PERFECT BLEND

The taste of Yorkshire’s traditional brew has remained unchanged for 40 years.

“We still blend to the same taste profile,” said Kevin Sinfield at Taylors of Harrogate. “That’s down to the skill of the tea blender.

“We’re proud of our heritage but we don’t play to Yorkshire stereotypes. We’ve maybe been guilty of that in the past, but our advertising campaigns now just try to reflect the best elements of Yorkshire personality.”

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