Rooibos Flavor Insight

October 4, 2019
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The taste of tea is timeless, and rooibos (pronounced “roy-bows”) is one of the oldest. The taste is garnering new and larger audiences of late. Its versatility might be to thank for that popularity. It can be served hot or cold and its sweet and mild flavor makes it ideal for pairing with other flavors. Furthermore, rooibos is said to offer specific health benefits attractive to some consumers. Is the healthy halo of rooibos right for your product development? Let’s take a closer look at the uses of rooibos on menus, social media mentions and global new products.

Rooibos: What's the Buzz?

Rooibos as a Functional Beverage

Rooibos is a broom-like plant with leaves that resemble needles. A member of the legume family, its leaves are the edible part of the plant. Once the plant is harvested, the leaves are oxidized (also referred to as fermented) to create tea leaves. Oxidized tea leaves have a reddish-brown hue that gives the tea leaves an enhanced flavor (compared to unoxidized green leaves that have a malty and slightly grassy flavor.) Both processes maintain the natural high levels of vitamin C along with powerful antioxidants and many essential minerals. Some claim rooibos aids in weight loss, improves the appearance of skin, alleviates pain, soothes allergies and streamlines digestion.

Rooibos & Geographic Indicator Status

Rooibos means “red bush” in Afrikaans. In 2014, South Africa achieved geographic indicator status in an economic partnership agreement with the EU. Says the Guardian: Traditionally, rooibos grows in the Cederberg mountains 150 miles north of Cape Town. South Africa began exporting the tea in 1904.

Rooibos Overview

Rooibos Social Listening Summary

Check out FONA’s social listening analysis on rooibos, covering the previous six months. Rooibos enjoys 80% positive perception.
1 mention per minute.
Key Consumer Voice: 78% Female
Popular Hashtags: #brew #latte #iced #tea #coffee

Key Consumer Interests
1) Food & Drink
2) Non-Alcoholic Beverages
3) Desserts & Baking

Top Posts: 
Twitter: @teacentralnet “seared tuna with tangerine, rooibos and watermelon”
Twitter: @rooibosrocks “rooibos panna cotta with poached grapefruit”

Consumer Perception:
When asked about their perception, consumers polled view rooibos flavored products as both natural and unique.

22 rooibos recipes on genius kitchen
On Genius Kitchen, formerly, 22 recipes appear when you search rooibos. Recipes include fresh iced tea, forest fruit tea, African red bush tea, vanilla rooibos tea lattes, smoothies, juices, summer coolers and more.

A Buzz-Free Brew
Providing a tasty beverage without the caffeine buzz, rooibos also offers a number of surprising health benefits. This is mostly because of the fact that rooibos is, botanically speaking, not a “tea” plant at all but a legume, making it more closely related to plants like beans, peas and lentils, all of which are known for their healthy makeup. Unlike regular teas, which are made from plants in the Camellia genus, rooibos offers a nutrient profile that is extremely high in antioxidants but is also caffeine-free and low in tannins.

ROOIBOS On the Menu Q1 2016-Q4 2018

99 rooibos mentions on the menu

Fine, upscale, and gourmet dining is the top segment, with beverage and dessert as the top two menu sections with the most rooibos flavored items. Non-alcoholic beverages account for 75% of all rooibos-flavored menu items.


  • Cold Rooibos is offered at Ippudo restaurant located in New York. This restaurant serves rooibos tea cold as a replacement for earl grey with all its entrees. This restaurant serves ramen dishes with an upscale twist.

  • Iced Rooibos is served at The Cederberg teahouse in Seattle. This menu item is combined with apple juice and includes two concentrated shots of rooibos tea.

  • Rooibos Butternut Pizzettas are tiny roasted squash rounds. This version is made with melted butter and rooibos tea leaves on top. They are then finished with a tea and salt mixture. These are served at The Breakaway restaurant in the Bay Area.

  • Vanilla Rooibos Tea Cookies are a variation of Earl Grey tea cookies which include vanilla as the other main flavor component. These include ground rooibos leaves and have a more in-depth taste than Earl Grey tea cookies. These are served at the Gaiwan Tea House in Indiana.

ROOIBOS Global New Product Introductions: 2016-2018

861 rooibos flavored new product introductions

EUROPE is the top global region for rooibos new product introductions.
TEA is the top product sub-category globally.
HERBS/HERBAL is the top flavor paired with rooibos

Product Examples

  • Hyke Gin: This product is made with a grape spirit blended with a grain spirit and other botanicals including myrrh, rooibos, and coriander. This product is said to be inspired by the grapes in Africa and South America, which gives this gin its distinct flavor. | UK

  • African Rose Kombucha: This product from the Brew Kombucha company is described as dry and fizzy to be intensely refreshing. This product includes a naturally fermented rooibos tea blend, African rose geranium and is an excellent source of B12 vitamins and probiotics. | South Africa

  • Caffeine Free Earl Grey Milk Tea Jelly: Natural Lawson Has added this product to their line. This contains non-caffeinated rooibos tea as a base for its Earl Grey. It retails in a single-unit pack. | Japan

ROOIBOS North America New Product Introductions: 2016-2018

76 rooibos flavored new product introductions

NORTH AMERICA accounts for 8.8% of all rooibos flavored new product introductions.
TEA is the top sub-category in North America for rooibos flavored new products.
HERBS/HERBAL is the top flavor paired with rooibos.

Product Examples

  • Raspberry and Rooibos Kombucha: This product is made with ingredients that promote absorption of micronutrients and improve digestion and is described as sparkling and energizing. | USA

  • Chai & Gelato: Vixen Kitchen has created a dairy alternative plant based ice cream that is sweetened with maple syrup, Blue Lotus Chai and red rooibos tea. This is marketed and certified as a vegan and paleo product. | USA: Malibu Lime is described as “a bold and juicy taste with a fresh lime finish.” 44% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would purchase this product, significantly outperforming its subcategory. USA.

  • Toasted Coconut Rooibos Herbal Tea and Fruit Bars: Deebee’s Organic TeaPops Toasted Coconut Rooibos Herbal Tea and Fruit Bars are created as a healthy and nutritious treat for kids. These contain no caffeine and are made with fair trade teas. | USA

The Takeaways

An article from Mintel cites that herbal infusions can boost health credentials for RTDs, specifically, 84% of global consumers believe herbal infusions such as teas are good for specific functional benefits. However, the share of functional claims in beverages has declined steadily since 2014. With rooibos’ history as a medicinal ingredient and strong association with health benefits, the usage of rooibos in beverages would allow developers to make functional claims and attract consumers attention. Can your brand tap into this segment of the market that has been put on the back burner?

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Let FONA’s market insight and research experts get to work for you. Translate these trends into bold new ideas for your brand. Increase market share and get to your “what’s next.” Our technical flavor and product development experts are also at your service to help meet the labeling and flavor profile needs for your products to capitalize on this consumer trend. Let’s mesh the complexities of flavor with your brand development, technical requirements and regulatory needs to deliver a complete taste solution.

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Sources in full report