Hyperspecialization in a Shrinking Market

What was my big takeaway from the 2018 World Tea Expo? It is that the hybrid RTD (ready to drink) category is exploding and single origin drinks (pure coffee or pure tea) is shrinking. Now this doesn't tell the whole picture because these are still massive markets in the US and within the non-hybrid tea category, premium loose leaf tea is growing. 

So what's the best outcome for a small tea shop like Lia Leaf? Consumers are shelling out more and more for convenience but that's not what Lia Leaf can offer, or is anything close to the mission behind Lia Leaf. So what to do...

The quieter but more impactful message I heard was hyperspecialization. Be boldly different. Figure out what it is you believe in that everyone else around you doesn't and then make it a reality so that they believe it and live it. These words were spoken by Tyler Gage of Runa. His talk spoke to me above all the chatter of percentages, demographics, market share, categories, shrinking this, growing this... His company took a product into the already overcrowded energy drink market but did it in a way that turned the existing selling points of the products upside down. And in doing so, they not only captured some of the existing market but created an entirely new market of consumers who were put off by the earlier products. 

This story really spoke to me because I felt their product was coming from a more authentic and aspirational place. They weren't chasing down market share, if that was the case they would have produced a similar product to the existing top sellers and only provide something incrementally different. Sure they probably would have made some money but how hollow of a product and a company it would have been? Instead, they had a product they genuinely wanted America to experience so they put it out there not knowing who would respond.

My mind was running all over the place. I was conflicted with seeing the possibility with the Runa story but the numbers and percentages and trends were playing into my fears. I've only been in this entrepreneurial world for a few months now but my early synopsis is you need to let your intuition decide your path and then use your head to figure out how to make it a reality. I think I've strayed too far from my intention behind starting Lia Leaf. I've let those numbers and percentages and my head determine my path rather than allowing it to figure out a way to implement my mission. 

Amongst all the movement and excitement of this expo I was able to sit and focus and pour in to my notes what was most important. What is the core of Lia Leaf as I see it. And then build it back up into all the details that establish how the business operates. And I think I have it. I think my mind has found a way to implement what my gut has been telling me and why I started Lia Leaf. 

I am not leaving this year's expo with as much tea, and products, and connections as I thought. But I am leaving with a clearer path ahead of me; one that I believe will resonate with many more people than I'm reaching now.    

 

Christine Snyder