The Promise of Packaging in the American Hot Tea Market

Open Access
Golthi, Ira
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Jennifer Chang Coupland, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jennifer Chang Coupland, Honors Advisor
  • Lisa Elizabeth Bolton, Faculty Reader
  • marketing
  • packaging
  • tea
  • cultural capital
  • consumer brand idenitification
  • consumer involvement
  • coffee
  • pop culture
  • design
  • self expression
  • ethnography
  • qualitative analysis
This thesis aims to explore the hot tea category in the United States, and the relationships between cultural capital, packaging, and consumer self-expression within the category. In the first part of the study, the packaging of sixteen different tea brands were analyzed according to Douglas Holt’s cultural capital framework. From this, six characteristics that can be used to create high cultural capital were identified: a gift-like packaging experience, use of uncommon shapes and materials in packaging, explicit promotion of packaging as an asset, information-based appeals, assumption of the consumer’s knowledge, and promise of a larger experience. The second part of the study explored how consumers used the high cultural capital category of tea to express themselves, particularly through posts on the social media website Reddit. These findings showed that there were several similarities in terms of how users interacted with the category, including justification of over-consumption, possession of various brands and packaging styles, repackaging, showcasing of tea accessories, and modesty. The findings of the study overall yielded insights that can be practically applied to a broad range of product categories and opens up other areas for study in terms of how cultural capital shapes consumption in specific product categories.