The Rise of the Matcha Market: A Social Intelligence Success Story

Cup of matcha

Matcha is everywhere.

It’s at your favorite coffee shops and restaurants and even in the ice cream section at the grocery store. But only a few years ago, many American consumers would not have known what it was.
So what is it, and what led to its rise in the US?

What is matcha?

Matcha is a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves that originated in China and developed in Japan. The bright green tea has been used for centuries in everything from traditional ceremonies to modern food items in Japan like smoothies, ice cream, coffee, and even Kit-Kats.
Matcha is known for its earthy, natural sweetness and savory undertones. It’s complex but not off-putting to a new drinker. For a consumer desiring a subtly sweet taste, matcha is an ideal flavor.

Spotting the matcha trend early

Seeing the popularity of matcha in Japan and leveraging predictive cultural intelligence, Starbucks and other brands were able to anticipate the incoming matcha mania in the United States. They recognized the convergence of a few key cultural factors:

Culture factor 1: The growing American interest in healthy beverages

In recent years, the United States has seen a significant increase in interest in flavorful, yet healthy beverages such as smoothies, kombucha, and yerba mate. This trend reflects consumers’ growing desire for drinks that not only taste good but also contribute to their overall health and wellness.

Culture factor 2: The rise of the coffee shop

Coffee shop culture has been steadily growing in the United States, with these establishments becoming social hubs, workspaces, and places of relaxation for many Americans. This trend, coupled with Americans’ love for unique and artisanal beverages, created the perfect environment for matcha to thrive.

Culture factor 3: An obsession with all things Japan

For decades Americans have grown increasingly fascinated with Japanese culture, which has influenced a broad range of sectors, from entertainment to fashion to food. This cultural fascination has expanded American tastes, creating a market for traditional Japanese flavors, such as matcha, sushi, ramen, and onigiri that were once unfamiliar to many.

The power of meeting consumer demand right on time

Armed with accurate data and cultural insight, these brands were prepared for the matcha trend before it even arrived. From Starbucks introducing matcha-infused drinks to the emergence of matcha-flavored ice cream, they had products ready to meet the new demand as soon as it materialized.

The big results

Fast forward to today, and the matcha market in the U.S. is valued at a staggering $4.25 billion and is set to continue its upward trajectory. The brands that had the foresight to join the matcha movement early are now reaping substantial rewards.
The rise of the matcha market serves as a compelling case study of the power of predictive social intelligence in anticipating and capitalizing on consumer trends.