Matcha, the new healthy pick-me-up: powder with potential

Matcha, the new healthy pick-me-up: powder with potential
©Seicha GmbH

Matcha is a green tea powder that was originally used in Japanese tea ceremonies. However, this emerald powder has gradually been finding its way into various products in the food and beverage industry. Now numerous beverage producers are on the look-out for innovative, healthy beverage concepts, but the real question is whether it also has the potential to generate impressive sales figures.

During the production of matcha tea, black nets or bamboo mats shade the tea shrubs well in advance of being harvested, helping promote concentrations of compounds such as theine, chlorophyll and theanine, changing the taste and intensifying the light-green color. Once the tea leaves have been harvested, they are steamed and dried. The tender parts of the tea leaves are then processed into powder in granite mills. This offers a healthy little pick-me-up, which is derived from the combination of theine, the amino acid theanine and tannins. The tea also contains a wide array of important trace elements, vitamins and minerals, and is said to have positive health benefits. Some even claim that drinking matcha regularly could prevent the onset of serious illnesses.

Global growth trend

With all of these benefits, it’s no wonder that the number of new products containing matcha being launched in the food and beverage industry has grown globally by almost 250% over the last five years. According to Caroline Roux, Global Food & Drink Analyst at the market research company Mintel, these impressive developments are not only because of its health aspects, but also its taste and striking green color. Fona International Market Research says that pastries account for 40% of the world’s newly developed matcha products, followed by desserts and ice cream (20%), chocolate (12%), confectionery (5%) and dairy products (4%). Most new products (around 80%) are being launched in the Asia-Pacific region, while the North American and Western European markets represent potential areas of future growth. Yet Grand View Research has the most promising statistic, that the global market, which in 2016 was valued at USD 2.62 billion (approx. EUR 2.35 billion), is expected to experience 7.6% year-on-year growth until 2025.

Beverage industry already capitalizing on matcha

The soft drinks industry is already benefitting from these impressive growth rates. There are even some examples of successful non-alcoholic beverages in the same market as established brands. For example, the Austrian beverage “Milfina Wohlfühlmilch Matcha Guarana Traubenzucker” (“Milfina Wellness Milk with Matcha, Guarana & Dextrose”) combines “wellness milk” containing matcha with an additional energy boost from dextrose. According to Mintel, these carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) with dairy ingredients, which have a creamy texture from the combination of carbon dioxide and milk, are one of the next major trends in the dairy industry. So why not venture into this field with some matcha experiments? The trends toward interesting new textures and intense colors could be married together to form a new super trend.

Quite a few German companies are already producing matcha-based products. Voelkel, the German natural food juicing company, has been launching numerous new products. Back in 2014 it released the organic lemonade “BioZisch Matcha” (“Organic Fizz Matcha”), as well as the more recent “Fairer Eistee mit Matcha demeter” (“Fair Trade Iced Tea with Matcha demeter”) and “Kraftprotz – Quinoa + Matcha” (“Powerhouse – Quinoa + Matcha”) under the umbrella brand “vegan to go.” Austrian fruit juice company Rauch Fruchtsäfte has released its “Carpe Diem Matcha Sparkling Green Tea.” The product’s press release states: “Centered on brewed green tea and refined with nashi pear and ginger, this premium green tea drink works just like the heart of the color spectrum itself: green, harmonizing and stimulating.” Zeekei, the German company based just outside of Munich in Dornach, boasts a broad range of products, for example “MatchaMagic Energy Drink,” which is not only popular in Germany but also in Switzerland and Japan.

International success stories

Many success stories have taken place on the other side of the pond as well, often involving start-ups. And they’re not all that dissimilar to the success stories of the American craft beer scene. Take “Motto” for example: a carbonated drink full of healthy ingredients such as honey and apple cider vinegar, which good friends Tom Olcott and Henry Crosby created in 2010 and launched onto the market in Nantucket and Boston in 2012, claiming it to be the world’s first bottled matcha drink. And “MatchaBar,” a brand started in 2014 by brothers Max & Graham Fortgang with the creation of their first café. Today their company has cafés in New York and Los Angeles and sells “Original Matcha,” “Mint Matcha,” “Hint of Honey” and “Apple Ginger,” along with the energy drinks “Hustle Original” and “Hustle Unsweetened.”. Then there’s Pop & Bottle with its “Matcha Green Tea Almond Latte,” made from water, almonds, dates, Himalayan salt, green tea, spirulina and, of course, the green powder. It all began when friends Blair & Jash moved from London to California and started testing out drink recipes using healthy ingredients in their home kitchen. In addition to its drink, their company now also makes numerous other “superfood lattes,” namely “Cold Brew Coffee,” “Vanilla Bean,” “Cacao,” “Golden Turmeric” and “Mocha.”

German start-up scene is alive and kicking

Several German start-ups have also recently jumped on the non-alcoholic matcha beverage bandwagon. Brothers Benjamin and Felix Böning founded the Hamburg-based company Seicha in 2015, which currently makes lemonades in three varieties: “Matcha Lime,” “Matcha Grapefruit” and “Yuzu-Ginger.” These are available not only in Germany from food retailers and the catering industry, but also in Austria and Switzerland. Doyobi entered the market in 2015 with its “Matchaty” iced tea infused with all organic matcha tea, pear juice, raw cane sugar, lemon juice and vermouth extract. In 2016, Martin Dieckmann invented “Ma-Tea,” a combination of organic matcha, water, agave syrup, lime juice concentrate, green tea extract and lime extract. But Dieckmann’s dreams came true when Sebastian Deutsch and Eray Basar, both Managing Directors of Bochum-based digital agency 9elements, offered to invest a fairly substantial five-figure sum in his drink at the end of 2017, half in the form of agency services provided by their own marketing firm. Dieckmann quit his food laboratory job, founded the company “just green” in Dortmund and has been devoted entirely to “Ma-Tea” ever since. It’s currently available in the Ruhr area and Berlin. A second flavor, “Ma-Tea Beere” (“Ma-Tea Berry”), consisting of water, agave syrup, blackcurrant juice concentrate, matcha, raspberry juice concentrate, green tea extract and natural raspberry distillate, was launched recently.

Just like Dieckmann, Ola Klöckner and Franziska Schetter, friends and founders of Munich-based start-up Liquid Matter, are certain that the matcha beverage market has a bright future. Though perhaps this is because the media corporation ProSiebenSat.1 is investing EUR 1.3 million in their beverage company through its Accelerator program – though not in cash, rather in the form of an advertising budget. They now expect their start-up, founded in 2016, to be profitable by the end of 2019. The root of this success story is that in addition to their drink “Matcha You,” they sell a whole set of promotional items featuring the motto “See the world through matcha eyes,” including gift wrap, notepads and pin sets. The founders think that their drink could be quite successful in large part because they believe that many people simply don’t know about the green powder, and hence there should be a decent-sized market of as-yet untapped customers.

Is the market on the edge of a fresh impetus?

If you believe the potential global growth rates for matcha products mentioned above, the founders of Liquid Matter may be on to something big. Especially when you consider that the category of bottled non-alcoholic beverages remains rather underrepresented at both the national and global levels. On the other hand, this could be a sign that consumers want to see much more information on the positive effects of bottled non-alcoholic matcha drinks. That’s where ProSiebenSat.1 will play a major part in the near future, then perhaps this niche market will really gain some momentum, at least in Germany. How and if that actually happens will perhaps become clear at the next drinktec, taking place from September 13 to 17, 2021.

Friederike Arndt

As a freelance trade journalist, Friederike Arndt is regarded as an expert in the area of beverages. She spent a long time writing for, inter alia, the trade magazines Getränkeindustrie (beverage industry) and Getränkefachgroßhandel (beverage wholesale trade). On the blog, she reports on the latest trends and innovations in the field of non-alcoholic beverages.