The power of coffee

29 November 2019, 14:53 PM
  • Is your range meeting the consumer's thirst for premiumisation? We explore the market forces
The power of coffee

Whether you’re a bean-to-cup anorak or a more skeptical participant in the marketplace, the power of coffee is undeniable. From freddo espresso to flat white, coffee continues to be the world’s most popular drink, with two billion cups of this stewed bean juice consumed globally every day. Figures from the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) predicts growing global demand, as new interest from consumers in Asia and Oceania outstrips [new interest] in the Europe and the Americas. But as demand increases so does supply, with higher harvests causing the second consecutive year of surplus supply, and falling prices.

Cost per cup is an interesting metric of coffee’s success, and bucks the downward trend set by bean values. According to figures from Kantar, a £202 million year-on-year increase in out-of-home coffee spend is down to increased price, not volume, in part down to ‘premiumisation’ taking hold of consumer spending habits. So where’s that extra spend going, and what market forces will shape the future of the category?

Unroasted beans currently make up 91% of all exports, with the USA the biggest destination for those beans that are roasted in their country of origin. Why not roast at source? The oils in green beans are less volatile, making them more stable to store and transport in their uncooked form. Step up micro roasters, who are raising the stakes in the field of speciality coffee. Rare varieties and single origin beans abound, but roasting is also part of the story of the final grind. Whether you want your beans roasted by young offenders (, based at HMP Feltham or redemptionroasters. com, of Aylesbury Prison), an allfemale team (girlswhogrindcoffee. com) or a bunch of New Yorkers (, there’s plenty of UK provenance for added selling points.

The health benefits of turmeric, beetroot and even activated charcoal may be real, but their arrival in the realm of coffee – specifically lattes – has surely been hastened by the public hunger for Instagrammable experiences. From Palm Vaults in Hackney to Cascara in Bath and beyond, rainbow lattes are the virtue-signalling showcase for a bigger story – coffee as health fad. A slew of recent research has rewritten the reputation of coffee, assigning it powers to increase diversity in our immune-critical gut bacteria, decrease our risk of obesity, help us live longer and even fight cancer. Why does it matter? With health and wellbeing a huge macro trend in all consumer categories, a heightened nutritional profile makes coffee attractive to a proactive and growing consumer base. Hot coffee reportedly packs more healthy antioxidants than cold brew, with four cups a day considered conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

As climate change wrecks merry hell on our planet’s most fragile ecosystems, coffee fans may be hit where it hurts – right in the cup. A report by scientists at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, published in January suggested that coffee is particularly vulnerable, with 75 out of 124 wild varietals – including both arabica and robusta – threatened with extinction. That’s 60%, compared with an estimated average extinction of around 22% of other plant species. The significance lies in the danger to commercial crops of the future, with wild species crucial to the development of new varieties that can withstand evolving growing challenges. The very specific conditions needed to grow coffee plants are increasingly threatened, with Madagascar and Tanzania identified as growing regions most at risk. In Ethiopia, protected status has already been applied to regions where wild arabica plants flourish.

Spent coffee grounds have long been given away free to customers, adding value for keen gardeners who get a little something extra with their purchase. Now secondhand coffee has a cash value, with businesses embracing the circular economy extracting oils, flavour, and even exfoliation power from used grounds. Take chef Alex Bond at award-winning Nottingham restaurant Alchemilla, who makes a coffee ground porridge that’s thinly scraped over mats and dehydrated to a crisp tuile for his £90-a-head tasting menu. Or UpCircle, a beauty brand that makes body scrubs and facial serums from repurposed grounds. Now Scottish start-up Revive Eco is collect grounds from café and restaurants to create oil for food and drink and cosmetics industries. Money for old rope? Coffee lovers are happy to fork out.

Your espresso machine will no doubt have come with recommendations to purchase a bolt-on water filter, and in hard water areas it’s only sensible to take precautions against the ravages of limescale. But the premiumisation of beans has inevitably seen attention turn to the way water can be upgraded. Third Wave Water is a mineral pack that ‘optimises’ water ready for brewing, and is currently included in Square Mile Coffee’s taster packs. Does a flavour as robust as coffee really require water with the perfect mineral content? The jury’s out, but coffee nerds will enjoy conducting their own tests.

The workplace culture of the capital’s leading corporations has become increasingly coffee-centric, with ‘coffee chats’ an informal interview process for any careerist. Forget the food service jar of Nescafé though; recent reports suggests speciality coffee is at the frontline in the battle to keep top executives happy, and on-site. Trish Caddy, senior food service analyst at Mintel agrees, saying: “Coffee shops need to be about supporting causes and togetherness”.

If you thought the cup debate started and ended with eco alternatives to plastic, you’d be wrong. Research published this summer found the colour of the cup significantly impacted consumers’ perception of flavour profile, with a Kenyan coffee found to rate more highly for acidity when sipped from a pink cup. Researchers also found some colour acted to heighten the gap between customers’ expectations on taste and their actual experience, impacting their enjoyment of the brew.

To see the full article download the digital edition of Cafe Buyer here.

more like this
close stay up-to-date with our free newsletter | expert intel | tailored industry news | new-to-know trend analysis | sign up | speciality food daily briefing