What’s the perfect milk tea? Chinese sensorial preferences identified in FrieslandCampina Kievit research
02 Apr 2019 --- Serving a market the size of China with one type of milk tea is not viable with consumer preferences varying per region. While in the Chengdu region, consumers show a preference for an intense milk taste, milk teas with medium intensity sweetness are currently mostly what is sold in the market, according to new FrieslandCampina Kievit research.
The dairy ingredients supplier has published the results of a study analyzing the “perfect milk teas,” as well as current offerings in the milk tea segment across Greater China. The study, part of an effort to provide customers with sensory data on the Chinese beverage market, examines milk tea and identifies individual elements that make up the perfect, consumer-preferred milk tea in different regions. With these findings, FrieslandCampina Kievit is offering customers access to data on key elements to combine, at the appropriate intensities, to create the “perfect milk tea” for their consumers. When looking at how consumers experience their ideal taste for milk teas, they can recognize differences in milk teas but have a harder time identifying which specific elements are dissimilar.
“Chinese consumers are currently looking for premiumization,” Yvonne Kaupmann from FrieslandCampina Kievit tells FoodIngredientsFirst. This development has been manifesting in the Chinese tea market for a decade. It shows the different forms in, for example, the foodservice and out of home channels, with new variations arising, like a delicious and fun milk cap on milk tea. “In the foodservice space, we also see that experiences are becoming more and more important. Consumers would like a sensory experience from the product that is multisensory, so to the eye, but also the ear, nose and feel play a role when consuming food and drinks. They also like to have an experience, such as topping off their drinks according to their personal preferences and lifestyles. Eating and drinking is becoming more and more of an expression of who you are and what you stand for, it is part of your lifestyle,” she explains. The experiences and lifestyle are shared on the internet in increasing frequency, food and drinks need to be “Instagrammable” these days, adds Kaupmann.
The company conducted extensive research in five key regions of greater China: Chengdu, Guangzhou, Taiwan, Wuhan and Shanghai. More than 100 products from multiple leading brands were examined in a variety of sensory focus groups that consisted of consumers on the one hand and in-house and external milk tea experts on the other.
Leading the hot drinks market, specifically when it comes to tea, the importance of the Chinese market cannot be overstated, says FrieslandCampina Kievit. The driver of that market’s continued growth is the rise of consumer disposable income and this demand is unlikely to slow down, with China’s projected market size for the coming few years estimated at well over US$10 billion, according to the company.
FrieslandCampina Kievit’s research points to several findings which may help customers create the “perfect milk tea.”
To understand the preferred milk teas per region, the study broke down elements of the most popular milk teas and compared them to products that are currently offered in the market.
Milkiness: In the Chengdu region, consumers show a preference for an intense milk taste. However, the current offerings in the market typically consist of a medium milk intensity. This gap presents a clear opportunity for customers to tap into.
Tea taste: Across greater China, black tea is the standard tea base for milk teas. The study shows that other types of tea see polarizing reactions when using green tea for example. Knowing where it is liked and disliked gives customers the apparent benefit of enabling new milk tea development or adapting current milk tea offerings to match differing consumer tastes.
Sweetness levels: From the research, it does appear that consumers in Chengdu prefer a sweeter taste that ranges from very intense to medium intensity. Yet, milk teas with medium intensity sweetness are currently mostly what is sold in the market.
Other elements such as the right mouthfeel also make a difference, the researchers point out.
“In conclusion, there is a lot of opportunity to play around with the milkiness, sweetness and tea levels to better tap into consumers’ needs. With the research insights and the right ingredients, milk tea manufacturers can create market winning milk tea products that fit with consumer preferences,” Kaupmann notes.
“Having our own research is important to Kievit, whether it is a landscaping, sensory or listening studies. With insights that nobody else can bring to the table, we aim to keep our customers ahead of the market competition,” she adds.
FrieslandCampina Kievit’s portfolio for greater China includes unique ingredients that tap into these consumer preferences. Examples include the Kievit classic creamer, which Chinese customers have used for nearly fifteen years. Another is the Vana-Lata FM870, which addresses the clean label trend and Vana-Blanca M480, which includes a unique caramel flavor.
By Elizabeth Green
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