Cafés in 2023: 16 essential trends

04 September 2023, 14:00 PM
  • Calling all café owners! Speciality Food’s latest edition of Café Buyer highlights key trends and product categories you need to know about
Cafés in 2023: 16 essential trends

From functional drinks to sustainable snacks, discover essential knowledge that could give your café a boost in the 2023 edition of Café Buyer – out now.

Read about the top product trends here, and then download your free copy of Café Buyer to hear from café owners and industry experts about the ‘fourth wave’ of coffee, how to thrive in a cost-of-living crisis and more.

Cold drinks

Statistics show a growing thirst from consumers in the soft drinks market, particularly as many look to cut back their alcohol consumption, or support their health with functional products that boost energy or boast nutritional claims. Cool off the press, here are key areas in this sector you might like to focus on to stay ahead of the curve.

1. Cold brew

No longer just the realm of coffee. There is now also a growing market of cold brewed teas, infusing matcha and more perfumed leaves to extract their unique flavours and purported antioxidant properties.

Increasingly athletes and amateur sportspeople are turning to cold brew and naturally caffeinated soft drinks as they move away from high-sugar, artificially infused mass market products. Sampling a selection of cold brews in store, especially if your business is close to sports facilities, could prove a good move.

Three products to try:
Rokit Energy Uplift - Cold brew crafted with 100% Arabica coffee from the Brazilian Cerrado region, enriched with guarana and taurine to alleviate fatigue. Made with oat milk, it’s vegan too.
Solo Espresso Shot - A 60ml pure shot of cool, speciality grade Colombian and Brazilian coffee, cold-brewed for 16 hours. The shot delivers 127mg of caffeine, and can be enjoyed neat or diluted with filtered water or milk.
KAYTEA Mango Yuzu - Slowly cold-brewed organic whole white tea leaves, infused with mango and yuzu flavours. Only 17 calories per 100ml.

2. Low sugar and lightly fizzing

More than ever before, consumers appear to be driven towards soft drinks that deliver natural effervescence, and less sugar. Data from Mintel shows there was a 19.5% decline in sugar via on-the-go purchases between July 2018 and July 2022. But, on the whole, sales were up across the category by 9.2%.

Retailers should increasingly (and especially in light of HFSS rules) be seeking out lower sugar options. But paying attention to ‘texture’ in tandem is important too. Mintel found that while flavour continues to be a core innovator in the CSD market, texture should not be overlooked, with more than half of soft drinks consumers believing lower carbonation is better for them.

Three products to try:
Marlish Sparkling Pink Grapefruit - Simply slow-filtered spring water, combined with pink grapefruit extracts and oils. With fine bubbles and at just 7 calories per can, this ticks a lot of boxes.
Tame & Wild Damson & Rosehip - A lightly bubbling, all-natural expression of the English countryside, infused with damsons, blush rosehips and passionflower. Less than 40 calories per bottle
Artisan Drinks Violet Blossom Tonic - A soft bubbler ideal to offer as a unique soft drink option, or as a mixer. Combines violet and apple blossom and elderflower, with a natural violet hue.

3. Functional drinks

‘Functional’ is a huge buzz word in soft drinks – and it’s not going anywhere soon. NPD is ongoing across alternative and low-sugar energy drinks, functional juice shots, tea drinks, protein drinks, vital drinks, ‘near water’, vitamin-enriched, and calorie-reduced drinks

Dipping your toes into this category could prove fruitful.

Two products to try:
Mango Go - Juicy, sparkling mango, enhanced with natural caffeine from green coffee beans, and guarana. Contains no added sugar, and a can counts towards one of your five-a-day.
Gunna Drinks Miss Mojita - A fun twist on lemonade, with real lemons, and a subtle note of African mint. Each can is only 66 calories, and fortified with zinc, and your RDA of Vitamin C.

4. Mocktails

Alcohol-free pre-mixed drinks are increasingly finding their place in the mass market. According to the IWSR, the low and no sector is projected to grow by 22% in the UK between the period from 2019 to 2024.

There are certainly plenty to choose from, and with chiller appeal growing, now could be the time to tap into this trend.

Three products to try:
Angel’s Dare La Bonnie Vita - A lightly sparkling 0% mocktail blending fresh, sweet Scottish raspberries, zesty Sicilian lemon, and a dash of refreshing blood orange.
Savyll Paloma - An alcohol-free take on one of the ‘it’ drinks of 2023. Bittersweet pink grapefruit mingles with tequila essence and lime.
Highball Ginger Dram - An all-natural meeting of malt, ginger and vanilla, combining for a sophisticated and complex serve.

Hot drinks

Excellent coffee is crucial to any café worth its salt. In fact, the success of your operation relies on it. Customers will often go out of their way to visit their favourite spot, based on the quality of its barista service, and ethics. Pulling focus on providing the best of the best when it comes to your hot drinks offering should be a number one priority.

Coffee is consumed by nearly half of global consumers daily, says Kate Kehoe, marketing executive at FMCG Gurus. According to the Hot Drinks Global Report 2022 and Coffee Trends Global Report 2023, 31% of us enjoy a coffee every single week, with speciality coffees (surprisingly) only making up 5% of daily consumption, which Kate says illustrates it is viewed as more of a treat than a daily necessity.

“While many consumers would like to see limited edition flavours in coffee, original coffee flavours are the most appealing. Our consumer insights reveal 76% of global consumers prefer coffee flavours they know and trust. This highlights how the familiarity of original and more traditional coffee offer a sense of comfort and reliability, which aligns with many consumers’ daily rituals.”

Conversely the research also highlighted a key opportunity for brands. “Around 42% of global consumers believe flavour innovation could be improved in the coffee category. In addition, seasonal limited editions have a high appeal.”

5. Quality coffee

Coffee is big business. According to Statista the UK coffee market amounts to $2billion in 2023, with a predicted CAGR of 6.59% by 2028. Ensuring you’re doing all the ‘right things’ could help you capitalise on this growth. Key factors for success include having an efficient workflow at the counter (so customers aren’t waiting for extended periods of time), investing in professional barista equipment and ensuring staff are well-trained, and choosing beans that align with most consumers’ rising concern for the environment and sustainability. Of course, flavour factors highly too!

Three products to try: 
Chimney Fire Coffee House Espresso - A full-bodied coffee blending Fairtrade beans from partner farmers at Carmo Coffees in Brazil, and JUMARP in Peru.
Suma Yirgacheffe Coffee - A unique Ethiopian coffee with a lighter body and texture, bursting with apricot and lemon flavours. Sourced from a union of 35 small co-operatives.
ALT Coffee London The Captain’s Roast - Seasonally sourced beans delivering a lovely quality drink with rich chocolate notes.

6. Time for tea

The RTD tea category continues to gather apace, with some reports showing sales up by almost 50% in the last year. But that doesn’t mean a proper, hot brew is off the menu. In fact, as moderation becomes more mainstream, Mintel says 48% of consumers are drinking tea instead of alcohol, and that 49% of believe it’s a good alternative to a tipple. 

As with coffee, seeking the best leaves is key, while keeping an eye on the sustainability of your stock. How fairly are the tea farms you source from paid? If you use teabags, are they compostable or biodegradable? These questions are expected to become more and more important for consumers, and staying ahead of the curve, communicating the ethics of your products could win you a whole new raft of customers.

Two products to try:
Bird & Blend Great British Cuppa Tea - Available loose or in biodegradable teabags, this balanced blend of whole black tea leaves is refreshing and full-flavoured. Great with or without milk.
Jenier Earl Grey Tea - An elegant, well-crafted blend of Ceylon and Keemun leaves, blended with blue cornflowers and natural bergamot oil. Available loose, in plastic-free pyramid tea bags, or individually-wrapped tea bags.

7. Hot cocoa

You just cannot beat a creamy, frothy hot chocolate. The measure of a really good café is how much attention it pays to its offering beyond premium coffee. Sure, there are some decent powdered chocolate drinks, but they just cannot match the utter decadence of a real hot chocolate, made with proper chocolate and whole milk or cream. 

Three products to try:
Cocoa Canopy Smooth Milk Hot Chocolate - These wonky beads, made with sustainable chocolate, deliver a beautifully smooth, classic hot chocolate serve.
Chococo 100% Ecuador Dark Chocolate Flakes - Pure and simple. Just 100% dark chocolate. Dairy and sugar-free. For customers who like the real deal.
Kokoa Collection Single Origin Hot Chocolate Tanzania - A 58% cocoa hot chocolate made with cocoa from farmers in the Kilombero valley region, produced without pesticides. With hints of toffee, apple and red berries.

8. Alternative hot drinks

Not everyone likes the classic trio of tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Some like to colour outside the lines – perhaps seeking functional alternatives, or a caffeine-light or caffeine-free option. According to Mintel, 26% of adults are interested in trying herbal teas made with UK ingredients.

Three products to try:
Born Wild Raspberry Lemonade Tea - Available loose or in biodegradable bags, this fruity number combines hibiscus, lemongrass, apple, coconut and goji berries. Delicious hot, or served over ice.
Summerdown Peppermint Tea Pyramids - A crisp, aromatic mint tea, made with the farm’s pure Black Mitcham peppermint leaves and the brand’s own distilled essential oil.
Cheerful Buddha Lions Mane Mushroom Superfood Coffee Blend - Made with 100% sustainable Arabica Colombian coffee beans, enhanced with wellbeing-boosting, nutrient-dense lions mane.


Cafés are fast-paced – a lot of plates need to be spinning to create that tangible buzz. Coffee is king, and preparing it to perfection is, rightly, one of the most important things for any business owner. Often this means a little help is needed in other areas, and there are some fantastic quality, delicious artisanal products ready to make life a little bit easier – from gourmet cakes and cookies, to sauces, jams and pickles.

9. Jam and Spreads

No café or foodservice outlet is complete without a selection of spreads – particularly for the breakfast rush, where toast remains a staple. Make sure you stock the classics, from strawberry jam and a high-quality marmalade to, perhaps, a lemon curd. And enhance your offering with something that will set you apart. An indulgent, unique flavour that will keep customers coming back for more. It’s also worth seeking out a low-sugar option, catering for special diets and as an alternative for children.

Three products to try:
Thursday Cottage Lemon Curd - Made in small batches with fresh lemons, real butter and free-range eggs, for a sunshine colour, and tangy, delightful, award-winning flavour.
Fearne & Rosie Strawberry Super Jam - Packed with 70% fruit and coming in at 40% less sugar than regular strawberry jam, but without compromising on taste.
Hawkshead Relish Blackberry and Apple Jam - A rich, dark, fruity spread that’s ideal for switching up your offering as we slide into autumn.

10. Chutneys and pickles

It might be the dream to produce your own range of relishes, but time (and resource) doesn’t always allow this luxury. Let someone else do the hard work for you. There are hundreds of different options to choose from in this category, made by artisans who really know their onions. This year, producers are seeing a lift in sales of traditional pickles and chutneys with a homely, recognisable flavour. Consumers also looking for varieties with added beer, wine or spirits – a welcome addition to any cheese sandwich!

Three products to try: 
Ouse Valley Cheeseboard Chutney - A thick, spreadable chutney absolutely crammed with plums, Bramley apples and courgettes, with a hint of ginger. 
The Bay Tree Real Ale Chutney - A classic, traditional option, but infused with the deep, irresistible flavour of ale.
Stokes Beer Chutney - Cracking with extra mature Cheddar, this is made with a local beer, root vegetables and a delicate blend of spices. 

11. Baked goods

Cakes, cookies, and traybakes are a café essential, providing customers with a little treat moment to enjoy away from home or the office. If space is limited, with no workable kitchen for rustling up your own goodies, you may need to put your trust in local bakers and wholesalers to fulfil this need. There’s increasing interest in free-from bakes, and also in foods sold in sustainable packaging. Tapping into these trends, and sharing your product line with customers on social media, could give your business the boost it needs.

Three products to try: 
Positive Bakes Christmas Pudding Brownies - Vegan and gluten-free brownie bites with a taste of luxurious Christmas pudding. In sustainable, plastic-free packaging.
Horsham Gingerbread Gluten Free Gingerbread Bars - Sticky gingerbread bars, baked to a 200-year-old recipe with Sussex-ground linseed flour and cornflour. Rich with treacle and dark sugar.
Weddell & Turner Carrot Cake - The gluten and dairy-free bakers have made a moist carrot cake stuffed with spices, finished with fluffy buttercream and hand-piped with a royal iced carrot.

12. Café condiments

Every café or foodservice kitchen will need a range of sauces to bring life to their dishes. Investing in quality here, presenting diners with a carefully chosen array of ‘classics’ elevated by artisans, will set you apart. The benefit of being an indie is that you can share the stories behind the condiments with your customers, explaining what you love about each product. Having a selection of these on sale for customers to take home could also prove profitable.

Four products to try: 
The Foraging Fox Smoked Garlic Mayo - A smoky, all-natural mayonnaise made with free-range British eggs, and no added sugar or preservatives.
Bramble Foods Ultimate Brown Sauce - The much-loved British favourite table sauce, given a twist with a touch of bird’s eye chilli.
Tracklements Mini Jars - Individual portions of sauces always feel a bit special. Take your breakfasts up a notch with these glass jars containing the essentials.
A Little Bit Fresh Thyme & Roasted Red Pepper Ketchup - A versatile ketchup with a thyme twist and mild chilli kick that can be added to almost any dish.

Food to go

Interesting, eye-catching snacks for customers to grab as they head out with a drink to go are a café staple. With HFSS regulations in place, and consumers becoming ever more savvy, thinking about sustainability, functionality and improved quality, there has been an innovation boom in the snacking market, with more choice than ever before for the retailer. This year, be ready to combine traditional favourites with the trends that are really taking off.

13. Crunchy alternatives

More and more consumers are seeking out alternatives to big branded crisps, looking for products that deliver bold flavours, and a proper crunch, without being heavily fried, or filled out with artificial ingredients. 

Richard Caines, principal analyst at Mintel, says, “When choosing a snack as a treat, a favourite brand and exciting flavour are most important, but health claims appeal to one in four, emphasising the scale of demand for options delivering healthy indulgence.” 

This category is being shaken up, with a huge array of exciting new products coming to market. Look out for nuts, popcorn, seeds and crunchy corn kernels coated in enticing, gourmet seasonings, pretzel and cracker bites, and alternative crisps formulated with vegetables and pulses. 

Four products to try: 
Pep and Lekker Rosemary Seed Snack Bites - Available in 30g packs, these sugar-free, gluten-free, gut-friendly bites are nutritional high-hitters, filled with pumpkin and hemp seeds and chicory root fibre, and flavoured with heady rosemary. 
Indulge Smokehouse BBQ Crunchy Corn Nibbles - High fibre crunchy corn, and shaped corn bites, gently dusted with a smoky, all-natural seasoning. The 20g packs contain no nuts, and are vegan-friendly and gluten-free. 
Forest Feast Impulse Packs - Perfect for the grab-and-go customer who places value on whole foods. A range of decadent 40g snack packs, from 60% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Sour Cherries, to Slow Roasted Peanuts and Cashews. 
Cambrook Caramelised Sesame Peanuts - Roasted peanuts, caramelised in a delicious glaze with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Available in 45g and 80g packs. 

14. Delicious biscuits

The art of biscuit dunking is said to date back an incredible 400 or more years…there’s no stopping this ever-so-British tradition. High-quality biscuits are a critical offering for any café, and it’s indulgence and nostalgia that consumers are craving. Stock up on varieties such as digestives, oaties, and shortbreads, which will hold their own after a dip in a cuppa. And look for flavours that evoke a sense of home and comfort – spices, fruit and cocoa. 

Three products to try: 
Sawley Kitchen Salted Caramel Shortbread - Sharing packs of six artisan shortbread fingers, with a delicate hit of caramel. Lovingly packaged with a hand-tied swing label. 
Furniss Love Cookies Apple Pie - Delightful snack packs of crunchy oat cookies, filled with chewy apple pieces and warming cinnamon spice. 
Prodigy Chocolate Oaties - A unique, thin, crumbly biscuit base with a touch of salt, covered in smooth, single origin chocolate. Vegan, gluten-free, and with a low natural sugar content. Certified B Corp. 

15. Pure indulgence

Sometimes, only chocolate will do! A key reason for many customers to visit a café, tearoom or coffee shop is for a dopamine boost. And what can deliver that better, alongside a lovely brew, than a gorgeous, treat-sized bar of cocoa joy? 

Three products to try: 
Guppy’s Milk Chocolate Pigs - These 100g sharing packs would sit brilliantly in farm shop cafes. Handmade in York, they’re palm oil-free and gluten-free and crafted with sustainable cocoa. 
Temprd Dark Chocolate Honeycomb  - A 55% dark chunky chocolate bar blended with honeycomb. Made with Rainforest Alliance cocoa, and plastic-free. 
Fatso Nan’s Stash - These quirky bars are now available in 40g portions. Made with the finest single origin cacao, and sold in a 100% recyclable box with a home compostable flow wrap. 

16. Naughty…but nice

Consumers are ever more thinking about their intake of gluten, dairy and sugar. But that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on the sweeter things in life. The development of free-from goodies really has come a long way, and there are some very attractive offerings now in this category. 

Three products to try: 
Luisa’s Hazelate Bar - A velvety, smooth, plant-based alternative to milk chocolate, with the luxurious taste of roasted hazelnuts. Dairy, gluten, soy and additive-free. Sold in 100% compostable and biodegradable packaging. 
Pure Heavenly Dark Sea Salt - Silky, 30g dark chocolate bars with a touch of sea salt. These contain less than 1% sugar and are free from dairy, gluten, soy and palm oil. 
Super Salted Caramel Magibles - A crunchy dairy, gluten and nut-free alternative to the main branded malted chocolate balls…and with 39% less sugar too.

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