The Bristol-based company, which exports 65 per cent of its output, has designed flavour granules of a suitable size for the tea bag that ensure the flavour cannot escape through the bag during packing, storing or delivering, avoiding costly wastage.
"If a manufacturer uses conventional spray dried flavourings, when the tea is infused and passes into the water, the carrier system - gum arabic or maltodextrin - goes with it. Our new technology means that the flavour still permeates but the carrier system remains in the bag," Roger Sinton, managing director of TasteTech told FoodNavigator.com.
According to Sinton, the technology lies in the size of the particles in the tea bag, with the granules much coarser than those typically used by manufacturers."These custom-made agglomerates are a far cry from traditional herbal and flavoured tea. The fine powder inside the tea bag has caused headaches for manufacturers for years, due to unnecessary wastage," said Sinton.
European tea makers have seen a shift in sales in recent years as consumers move away from black tea, instead opting for flavoursome or healthy alternatives, such as fruit and herbal teas, consumption of which increased by almost 50 per cent between 1997 and 2002, according to market analysts Datamonitor. Green tea consumption in 2002 was more than 20 times the 1997 figure.
And this has clearly had an impact on tea bag sales, with British consumers buying 114 million kilograms of 'normal' teabags in 2002, a drop from 127 million in 1997.
The growing popularity of flavoured teas is partly down to skilful marketing, claims Datamonitor, as fruit teas, for example, were once looked down on as a drink for new age puritans but have gradually acquired mainstream credibility as a healthier alternative to tea or coffee. But it remains unclear whether health concerns alone have a large impact on hot drinks consumption - after all, sales of decaffeinated coffee are declining in the UK and the US.
"It's more about image," commented Datamonitor consumer analyst John Band."A stereotypical decaf drinker is a recovering caffeine addict, while a stereotypical fruit tea drinker is perceived as 'stable', 'modern' and 'with it'."
Tea leaders moving into this new market include the ABF-owned Twinings brand, which launched new 'Green Tea & Apple' flavoured tea bags in Sweden this month. Available in a pack of 25, they claim to provide "refreshment and hydration and are naturally rich in antioxidants". They are formulated from green tea, 8 per cent natural flavouring and 1 per cent apple pieces.
According to market analysts Mintel, who track new product launches, in June this year Swiss firm Migros brought a new organic, rosehip-flavoured tea bags with hibiscus to market. Teekanne, meanwhile, has launched a Rotbusch Tee Orange Tea brand onto the German market, a pack of 20 bags made in South Africa. Other varieties include redbush, blood orange and lemon.