Getting shoppers to spend more of their money on a particular product is a dilemma faced by all marketing people, particularly in the food industry where consumers have become extra sensitive to prices in the past two years.
But this past year Wissotzky Tea seems to have cracked the code: According to StoreNext data, the tea market has grown 4% in quantitative terms and 6.5% in revenues, meaning that Israelis consumed more tea - and at higher prices.
It isn't that the price of regular tea increased. The change is in the sharp rise in the amount of green tea sold: 63% in shekel terms and 80% in volume. The category now accounts for 20% of the Israel's tea market, with prices ranging from NIS 17 to NIS 27 for a package of 25 teabags. Standard brands cost about NIS 7.
For years Wissotzky has been trying to encourage the tea-drinking public to abandon the old brands and imbibe in more expensive and better-quality brews. The company tried everything: fruit flavors, tea from an African plant nobody had ever heard of before, and even iced tea. But through all the marketing campaigns Israelis remained loyal to plain, simple tea.
Wissotzky naturally has a strong interest in increasing Israel's tea consumption. The market generates an estimated NIS 350 million a year and the company holds a 75% market share.
Wissotzsky's dominance is so pronounced that competitors avoid challenging it head-on. Unilever, for instance, barely advertises its Lipton Tea brand; the expense simply can't be justified.
For several years green tea sales have exhibited impressive growth. In 2009 Wissotzky broadened the category by launching new flavors but didn't position green tea differently than regular tea. For example, it introduced a green tea flavored like Earl Grey.
In 2011 Wissotzky tried again, but this time positioned green tea as a natural beverage contributing to a healthy lifestyle. Although the company's initial promotion campaign somewhat exaggerated its benefits by promising drinkers a more youthful appearance, the message started sinking in.
The current ad campaign, which hit the airwaves at the end of 2012, is more realistic and subdued - the reason behind its success. The slogan - "Wissotzky Green: Looking and feeling good is a matter of small choices" - was accompanied by the launch of a product line which is little more than a repackaging of products like mint and lime.
Along the way, Wissotzky also hinted in its campaign that tea has advantages over coffee. Israel is mainly a coffee-drinking nation: We have a cup in the morning to wake up, another in the afternoon for refreshment, and one in the evening to relax after a long day. Most Israelis turn to tea when they're sick with a cold and feel sluggish. Wissotzky alludes to tea being better than coffee, but does so relatively gently and tastefully.
Wissotzky has succeeded in creating a new product category and changing Israeli habits. Green tea has been positioned as a hot, refreshing beverage for drinking all day long as part of a better lifestyle, which is how the company managed to move consumers over to a pricier product.
Creating a premium brand is the dream of many marketers. Osem accomplished this in the pretzel market by launching flat pretzels at NIS 14 for a 300-gram package compared with NIS 11 for the same size package of pretzel rings.
Wissotzky managed to do it with a minimum of product innovation, relying mainly on repositioning its image among consumers. Unilevel is now trying the same strategy in the margarine market with Mazola for baking and cooking.
Its stunning success has brought Wissotzky a new challenge. The green tea market is expanding so quickly that Super-Pharm drugstore chain recently entered the category with its own private brand. While the green tea category will probably continue its impressive growth, Wissotzky needs to start thinking about its next move.