Chai-ching: Bubble tea is brewing up serious profits in the US

The beverage’s entry into the US market appears to be a boba-fide success.

bubble tea growth

Zachary Crockett

The Dot-Com Bubble. The Housing Bubble. The… Bubble Bubble?

Bubble tea, or boba, has been the hottest tea trend in America over the last decade, and though the tapioca treats have been expanding across the nation at a rapid rate, this is one craze that doesn’t appear to be at risk of popping anytime soon.

Steeped in success

Americans’ interest in bubble tea, originally concocted in Taiwan in the 1980s, has gotten steamy hot in recent years, according to Bloomberg. In 2023, the US market for the drink — uh, food, uh, drink, uh… — is estimated to be worth $640m. A decade from now, estimates rise to $2.2B.

In 2022, with some 30.5m kilograms in the trunk, tapioca-based foods beat out frozen tilapia and sugar confectioneries as the most-valued US food import from Taiwan, rising to ~$50m from less than ~$15m in 2020.

Globally, Taiwan’s tapioca export value passed the $100m mark in 2021, up 23%.

Really milking it

Bubble tea franchises are growing quickly:

  • This year, Queens-based Kung Fu Tea and its 350 locations are hoping to steep in $240m of sales.
  • In recent years, Taipei-based CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice has expanded its North American footprint 77%.
  • In 2019, Taiwan’s Gong Cha was acquired by Boston-based TA Associates for $270m.

Think they threw a tea party to celebrate?

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