As the 11th World Tea Expo kicks off in Las Vegas, with long registration lines, smiles and hugs for old friends, people scurrying to classrooms, and huddled in-depth conversations, it is easy to see that tea is still hot and continuing to heat up! Vegas never fails to roll out its red carpet of triple-digit heat to welcome us. We know we are going to be meeting annually for many more years to come.
This year we are joined by the Healthy Beverage Expo and tea is definitely something hot over there, too. Some companies are even featuring booths in both expos because the cross-over is indeed perfect. You name it and it’s being put in a bottle or a can these days – everything from all-natural, caffeine-free, and low-calorie beverages to coconut water, coffee, concentrates, energy drinks, enhanced and flavored waters, functional RTDs, gluten-free drinks, herbal beverages, juices, kombucha, sport drinks, vitamin waters, and of course, RTD teas! Oh, yes, it’s a liquid buffet over here – good thing because it’s easy for one to get dehydrated here in Nevada.
The World Tea Expo categories are expanding as well. This year we have accessories, analytical testing services, associations and tea boards, baked goods, beauty products, books, bulk herbs and spices, chai, commercial brewing equipment, concentrates, fair trade, flavorings and extracts, giftware, iced teas, importers and exporters, loose teas, organic, single-service packaging, private labeling, publications, ready-to-drink, rooibos, specialty items, tea bag supplies, tea filters, teaware, and water-filtration systems. Lots of new exhibitors and many that return year after year as loyal supporters and huge contributors to the ever-growing world of tea in this country and beyond.
The keynote speaker yesterday, Mr. Phil Lempert, known as the “Supermarket Guru,” informed us that the baby boomers and the millennials own the market these days and that this is where to focus your business by targeting these markets. What was news to me was that he said grocery stores are getting smaller and smaller these days. This leads me to wonder just where folks are eating and where they are shopping, and if the big grocery stores will become a thing of the past? Another shocking tidbit of information to me was that 40% of the food from all sources is being wasted. Makes me shake my head knowing full well what ends up in the trash can right from the refrigerator in most homes.
The best news came late on Day 2 of the event with a gathering of over 60 people for the launch of The United States League of Tea Growers. With tea now grown in 14 states across the mainland and Hawaii, Nigel Melican and Jason McDonald are up to some really great things in Mississippi and see that history is in the making right now. With the true pioneer spirit that founded this country, along with collaboration instead of competition, perhaps this country can grow some fine specialty teas, and we can add a whole new verse to a well-known song because this McDonald has a whole new farm – a TEA farm.
Yes, tea news is HOT in Vegas right now and is going to get hotter!