Spotlight on the health halo of green tea

27 Jan 2020

Green tea has gained an enormous amount of attention for its high antioxidant content, and new studies continue to back multiple benefits for the beverage and its extracts – despite uncertainty over how these benefits are delivered.

A growing body of research suggests green tea could play a role in protecting against risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, in weight management, and even in preventing the spread of certain cancer cells. One recent study suggested that at the age of 50, regular green tea drinkers would gain 1.41 years free from heart disease and 1.26 years of life expectancy. But no one is certain of the reasons for these purported effects.

Spotlight on the health halo of green tea
Green tea benefits from a strong health halo

Such research has prompted food and beverage makers to include green tea and its extracts in a wide range of products, from drinks, supplements and dairy products, to cakes and confectionery. The market for tea polyphenols in functional beverages alone is growing rapidly, at a CAGR of 8.5%, according to Global Market Insights. It suggests the market for these micronutrients could reach a value of US$340 million by 2024.

Japanese matcha green tea is the latest hot ingredient in the segment, appearing most often in beverages like smoothies and juices, but also in baked goods and pancake mixes, to which it gives a bright green colour. According to Mintel, it has also started appearing in a growing number of natural energy drinks, as consumers increasingly look for natural botanical ingredients, less sweet formulations, and alternatives to synthetic caffeine. Suppliers like SternVitamin, Indena and Sabinsa are among those exploring the potential of green tea extracts in functional drinks, including for the natural energy sector.

However, manufacturers must be cautious in advertising the effects of green tea on product packaging, as overstating its supposed benefits could get them into regulatory hot water.

That said, while consumers might have difficulty naming and embracing the many claimed benefits of green tea, it certainly profits from a health halo. Euromonitor International has found younger consumers in particular are interested in premium tea varieties, meaning it may make sense to focus on its natural, plant-based, relatively exotic origins to appeal to this demographic.

At the other end of the age spectrum, the market researcher has suggested that green tea could be the ideal vehicle for brain health ingredients for older consumers looking to prevent cognitive decline. Swiss researchers have suggested that certain compounds in green tea could help with memory performance, and although it lacks a definite health claim, green tea could benefit from its well-known association with living a long, healthy life.

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