China's traditional herbal tea beverage packaged in fashionable cans and bottles is likely to eclipse Coca Cola in the Chinese market this year.
The market position of herbal tea was consolidated by news of its inclusion on China's first national Intangible Heritage list in June.
Zhang Junxiu, director of the Guangdong Provincial Food and Drug Industry association said that with rising market demand, production of herbal tea is expected to surpass Coca Cola products for the first time this year.
Zhang said that Guangdong Province in south China will produce 3.5 million tons of herbal tea this year, as compared with Coca Cola's output of 3.17 million tons last year.
Herbal tea, which relies on Chinese traditional pharmacological principles to reduce internal heat, has become increasingly popular with its market image of being a healthy choice for cooling summer heat while quenching thirst.
Herbal tea originates from Guangdong Province and Hong Kong and Macao. These areas made a joint application to have the production process of herbal tea included on the state's Intangible Heritage list.
Traditionally, various varieties of herbal tea capable of reducing heat or improving digestion were sold in the street in big kettles made of cotton.
Inclusion in China's Intangible Heritage List has put 18 herbal tea beverage brands made by 21 firms in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao under the protection of local specialty laws and regulations. There are thousands of small herbal tea companies in Guangdong.
Wanglaoji, the biggest herbal tea brand, saw revenues soar from 800 million yuan (100 million U.S. dollars) in 2004 to 3 billion yuan (375 million U.S. dollars) in 2005. The producer Guangdong Jiaduobao Beverage and Food Co. is expanding its production network in Beijing and Guangzhou as well as in Hainan, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces.
Big herbal tea companies in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao are promoting herbal tea beverage in slick packaging on the global market.