Tuesday, 30 August 2011

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Twinings have made tea since 1706. They’ve been a household name since Queen Victoria made them an official Royal Warrant holder in 1837 and unusually a member of the family, Stephen Twining, still works for the company.

 Stephen Twining

One would think that such an established brand would, therefore, be very careful of its heritage. Twinings, however, threw caution to the wind recently when they decided to modernise their signature product, Twinings Earl Grey.

The company is said to have been the first to sell this popular blended tea named after Prime Minister Charles Grey. Since they launched it in 1831, it has remained as one of Twinings’ staples. For some odd reason, though, in 2011, the company have added more lemon to their original offering and renamed it “The Earl Grey.” Calling it their “best ever,” they state: “Even the Earl himself couldn’t have imagined how wonderful his favourite tea could taste.”

Twinings' The Earl Grey

Instead, the development has backfired and gone down very badly with customers. On the company’s website hundreds of complaints have been posted. Many argue the new tea tastes “bitter and cheap.” Others add that it is “like a lemon cleaning product.” The overall opinion is that The Earl Grey is “shockingly horrible” and that Twinings have achieved an own-goal of “Coca-Cola-like proportions” with this rebranding exercise.

Many announce they’ll be defecting to the Earl Grey’s sold by Whittard’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Some even go as far as saying they’d rather drink PG Tips. I’d suggest they are a little more adventurous and sample products offered by smaller companies. My good friend and tea connoisseur Michael Ezra suggests brands like Blends for Friends and Mighty Leaf but both of us particularly recommend JING’s Earl Grey Supreme tea bags.

JING's Earl Grey Supreme

Though significantly more expensive at £25 for 100 bags (which, does, however, make 200 cups), JING’s offering is a tea with a base of Ceylon that is scented with bergamot and decorated with a sprinkling of cornflowers. The result is an exceptional taste that can be enjoyed with or without milk.

Twinings launched The monster back in April but even with all this negativity they still continue to state that The Earl Grey has a “strong preference feedback over the previous blend.”

Perhaps it is time for Twinings to take heed of the case studies of the Post Office becoming Consignia and Norwich Union changing to Aviva and correct their error before its too late. Tea drinkers are plainly particular and not admitting they’ve made a mistake is plainly the biggest mistake of all on the part of this national institution.

The Earl Grey’s Boston Tea Party moment has most certainly arrived.

Join the campaign to “Bring back the original Twinings Earl Grey tea” at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-back-the-original-Twinings-Earl-Grey-tea/120766778003307?sk=wall

To get more information on Blends for Friends go to http://www.blendsforfriends.com

To get more information about Mighty Leaf go to http://www.mightyleafteas.co.uk

To get more information about JING Tea go to http://jingtea.com


Julian Wellings said...

Excellent post Matthew. Some (including The Daily Telegraph) have suggested this is a publicity stunt to drive additional sales. I'd be amazed if it is as that would be a hugely risky strategy.

Sara Wan said...

Have Twinings got a new managing director or chairman perhaps? Whoever came up with the idea of adding "THE" and a bit of lemon flavouring deserves to be fired. Send in Lord Sugar to deal with them at once.

BarMc said...

Interesting stuff - your heading is perfect for this article except 'if it aint selling, don't change it', lol. Thanks for your comment on my tee4two.blog.co.uk

Anonymous said...

Excellent (but cheap): http://www.taylorsofharrogate.co.uk/teaitem.asp?itmid=1704