Matcha an Enduring Trend Industry Experts Say
Matcha, the shade-grown powdered tea at the center of the Japanese tea ceremony, is experiencing a global resurgence. In the U.S., consumer interest in the drink has exploded. This is driven in part by the belief that matcha is a far healthier beverage option than its tea counterparts.
Matcha is recognized as a whole food as the entire tea leaf is ground into a fine powder. When consumed, the tea powder is whisked with warm (sometimes cold) water. The result produces a more robust nutritional profile. Whereas vital nutrients may be trapped in tea leaves when consuming the drink conventionally, with matcha all nutrients are consumed. This includes of course a considerable increase in antioxidant count. While one study had revealed over 100 times the level of EGCG in matcha as compared with other green teas, a recent study by ConsumerLabs.com found the amount to be close to two to three times the EGCG content in other teas. Though there are many variables that could influence such a quantitative outcome, it is easy to contend that matcha does in fact offer more antioxidants than other green teas.
Consumers are catching on and matcha is finding popularity in a number of applications including as a food ingredient. While this has long been practiced in Japan, Americans are increasingly embracing matcha based ice cream, smoothies, yogurt and other products. Noted brands such as Jamba Juice and Haagen-Dazs have created high profile matcha products. While consumers are enjoying matcha in these many guises, they are most notably embracing it in its traditional form.
In addition to powdered matcha, RTD matcha products are gaining popularity as a result of converging consumer interest in health and convenience. As witnessed in the super premium juice category, RTD companies are becoming more savvy in how they process products to neutralize microbial threat. More and more. consumers are demanding minimally processed products to preserve nutritional integrity. High pressure processing (HPP) in the stead of heat pasteurization applies high, isostatic pressure to an already packaged and sealed product. HPP creates only a marginal impact on the nutritional makeup of a product whereas heat pasteurization has been documented to destroy enzymes,vitamins and other nutrients. HPP helped catapult juice brand Suja to becoming one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. and the leader in the super premium juice category. Similarly, RTD matcha brands such as Jade Monk are using HPP for their cold brew matcha products to minimize destruction of nutritional content and ensure optimal product efficacy.
Whatever the application or innovation, industry experts believe the popularity of matcha will be enduring and not a passing fad. Retail sales of matcha grew nearly 55% in the U.S. during 2014 with sales of RTD matcha products growing 253%. It is predicted that sales of matcha products in both the U.S. and Canada are expected to grow 25% annually through 2018.