Lipton is the world's best-known and biggest-selling branded tea, a household name in more than 110 territories worldwide and one of the major icons in Unilever's global "refreshments" portfolio. Beneath its genteel exterior lies a surprisingly powerful product. It is the group's #2 food and beverage brand (after Knorr) and the undisputed giant in international tea. The main Lipton Yellow Label line or its sister brands within Unilever lead the hot-brew segment in virtually every global market. Regional hot-brew tea brands include PG Tips and Brooke Bond in the UK, Red Label in India, and Bushells in Australia. Unilever acquired the Tazo Tea brand from Starbucks in 2017, as well as Pukka herbal teas. However, the company's biggest single territory is the US where Lipton is also a leader in the fiercely competitive iced tea segment. Ready-to-drink Lipton Ice Tea and sister brands Brisk and Pure Leaf have been managed since 1992 through a global joint venture with PepsiCo. Combined sales for Unilever's tea portfolio are around €3bn, of which Lipton contributes approximately €1.7bn. For several years, the Lipton brand also lent its name to a range of side-dishes and seasonings in the US. These have been absorbed into the Knorr brand family. Despite the size and power of the Lipton brand, sales and profits from Unilever's hot-brew tea operations have been flat for years. As a result, the group has confirmed that it will seek a route to divest almost all of that side of the business. It will retain rights for the iced tea business and its tea operations in India and Indonesia. Founder Thomas Lipton was the son of a humble Scottish shopkeeper who, in the late 19th century, transformed himself into a grocery millionaire before he was 30, establishing tea plantations and food factories worldwide. Hanneke Faber is president of Unilever's global food & refreshment division, which includes the tea business. Jennifer Antczak is global VP for the Lipton brand.
Capsule checked 5th September 2020
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Who are the competitors of Lipton? Unilever's biggest international competitor in tea is Tata Global Beverages, whose brands include Tetley. Some way behind are ABF's Twinings, Apeejay Surrendra Group (Typhoo and Apeejay) and Jacobs Douwe Egberts' Pickwick. Regional rivals include Hain Foods' Celestial Seasonings and Bigelow in the US. In iced tea, the main international competitors are Coca-Cola's various regional brands, Nestle's Nestea and Snapple (Dr Pepper Snapple Group). See Non-Alcoholic Beverages Sector indexes
Historical profile information for Lipton
Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Jul 2020: Unilever confirmed that it will proceed with plans to spin off its global tea business as a separate entity, following a strategic review. Lipton, Brooke Bond, PG Tips and other brands will all be seeking a new owner. That move, expected to complete by the end of 2021, would remove another of the traditional pillars of the Unilever global business. However, like the margarine division divested in 2017, it is also slowing down the group's overall growth. The whole business - with annual sales of around €2bn - will be divested with a few major exceptions. Unilever will retain rights to the Lipton name for ready-to-drink iced tea products, which it produces in a joint venture with PepsiCo. It will also hold on to its tea businesses in India and Indonesia.
Adbrands Weekly Update 9th Nov 2017: Unilever further expanded its already vast tea empire with the purchase from Starbucks of the Tazo packaged tea brand for $384m. Tazo slots in alongside Lipton, PG Tips, Brooke Bond and Unilever's other tea products. The deal represents a significant profit, at paper at least, on Tazo which Starbucks acquired in 1999 for just $8m. The sale follows Starbucks' decision to shutter all retail outlets of its other and much more lucrative tea brand Teavana, which it will retain and will continue to sell through its Starbucks retail estate. Sales of tea are growing at double digit percentages through Starbucks' network, and the company said Teavana generated sales of around $1.6bn over the past year.
Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Sep 2017: Unilever expanded its tea portfolio with the acquisition of UK-based premium organic range Pukka Herbs. No price was disclosed. Pukka is expected to report sales this year of around £30m, up 25% year-on-year. Unilever’s Refreshment President Kevin Havelock said: "Pukka has strong values and a clear purpose that aligns fully with our own sustainable growth model. There's a clear strategic, philosophical and cultural fit for us."
Adbrands Social Media 9th Nov 2015: Unilever is taking on Nestle's Special T tea-maker - a sister product to Nespresso marketed in France - with its own device TO by Lipton, manufactured by Krups. Here's the striking launch film, developed by DDB's Tribal Worldwide network, in partnership with Cirque du Soleil. Looks great, but makes me worry about all those acrobats swilling about in my cuppa. Hope they washed first.
Adbrands Weekly Update 27th Feb 2014: Ads Of The Week "Be More Tea". Well-chosen music can make a good ad great, and a great ad perfect. Actually, our first ad doesn't even need the additional lift it gets from Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'". For this brilliant campaign for Lipton Tea, Adam&Eve DDB envisaged a world populated (almost) entirely by Animal from the Muppets. Now that's my kind of city! (In fact, it would be even better without Kermit and Miss Piggy). Clearly the charm of the Muppets will last forever, certainly if they continue to add value to other people's marketing in this way, while also promoting their own movie. Oy vey gevalt indeed!
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