Assessing the current state and future of coffee

Image courtesy of Anuga

Over the past ten years, we have seen a surge in the quality and variety of coffee brands, formats, blends, brewing methods, equipment, and accessories – all undoubtedly linked to coffee consumers’ increasingly discerning palates. Coffee is no longer just a hot drink, it’s a lifestyle, and the type of coffee we drink reflects far more than just our coffee preferences. It’s become a status symbol.

Whilst in the domestic sphere, the preparation of great coffee has become a ritual that coffee connoisseurs like to take time on and take pleasure in, the quality of the product is just as important on-the-go and in the office environment as it is in our homes.

Corporate coffee drinking communities and employees at all levels are demanding better quality coffee. In the context of businesses, coffee is now an asset, an employee benefit. It has gone far beyond a simple kitchen staple. And with the quality of coffee having been proven to positively impact productivity and staff happiness, the company coffee choice is certainly not a matter to be overlooked.

Across all industries over the last five to ten years there has been increased consumer interest in brands’ sustainability practices, their ethics, the traceability of products, and manufacturer accountability. Consumers are switched on to the story behind the brands they love. It’s no longer a simple question of taste or budget; consumers are now driven by the emotional connection to a brand and their background. Robust CSR inspires confidence in the supply chain and as coffee brands are stepping up to meet demand, the benchmark in the industry is continuously rising.

Crucially though, consumers no longer want to be continually bulldozed with this messaging; they expect the ethical approach to be a given from all coffee brands as well as from the businesses throughout the supply chain.

Where is coffee going?

Branding

Product quality and accountability will continue to evolve and improve in the coffee industry; however, the brand message is critical to consumer uptake. Whether through retail, foodservice, coffee shops, or vending, the way in which brands deliver their messages to the consumer via design and packaging to ensure buy-in and inspire confidence is what will set them apart.

Products, and the delivery of those products, need to meet all the necessary criteria – a competitive price point, good quality, reliability, consistency of service, and robust CSR policies – but the branding must be spot on to achieve success.

Sustainability

The environment is top of everyone’s agenda, and from a consumer’s point of view, a company’s environmental stance is the difference between whether they do or don’t purchase a product.

As tech and infrastructure in the coffee industry continues to develop, so too will the way in which coffee brands meet environmental expectations in terms of the recyclability and/or compostable nature of product and packaging.

Fully compostable is the obvious goal, however it’s still a long way from becoming an everyday reality due to complicated processes and the vast amounts of R&D still required.

The increased awareness and interest in sustainability practises applies, however, to every stage of production. It’s not enough to simply offer ethically sourced and sustainably packaged coffee; consumers want to be sure that the social, economic, and environmental implications of the entire process is sustainable, and this will be a huge driver for increased accountability among roasteries.

Purchasing shifts

A major coffee purchasing trend we are seeing here at Masteroast is smaller, more regular orders from customers looking to better manage freshness and quality, and to also help cashflow. This shift in purchasing has enabled these companies to remain lean and streamlined during a difficult year and looks set to continue.

We are also noticing an increased need for customers to be able to cover a whole range of formats in their orders. In the same way consumers are becoming more sophisticated in their choices, companies are following suit, and with the understanding that coffee is no longer just a basic necessity, are going above and beyond to deliver different coffee options for the varying needs of their own staff, clients or customers; whether that means orders of bulk brew and bean to cup, filter coffee options plus capsules, coffee bags and grounds, or a combination of all of these.

Single serve

From a domestic perspective, single serve options – capsules or coffee bags – continue to prove popular. The two different formats meet differing consumer needs; providing a great domestic execution of an espresso, the capsule is more brand driven, whilst the filter coffee bag option is more convenience driven. Providing a hygienic and convenient coffee option, demand for single serve shows no signs of abating.

Coffee brand route to success

Brands that are doing well and will continue to do so are those that are starting to get the proposition right; those that are achieving a good balance between correct messaging, great quality product, and a superior quality of service.

The more price-competitive brands tend to be the strongest players, however, if a coffee company can follow this up with an attractive, high quality, great tasting product, with strong environmental credentials and ethics to match, they’ll more than meet the necessary criteria for the customer, ensuring continued loyalty and success.

  • Matthew Mills is commercial director at Masteroast, the United Kingdom’s only dedicated coffee roaster, blender and packer of private label coffees. Having started his career at Masteroast, Matthew went on to spend 15 years overseas working with the multinational coffee trading houses. The depth of experience in building supply chains and managing their risk is a key element to his role at Masteroast and the wider strategy of international growth for the group.

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