The NCA Convention returns with its first ‘in-person’ event in three years

The National Coffee Association (NCA) Annual Convention kicks off tonight in Tampa, Florida. The event, which runs through 11 March, is the first in-person NCA Convention since 2020.

As with previous NCA Convention programming, much of it will be forward looking. But looking back at 2022, it was another strong year for the US coffee market, with retail sales alone reaching USD $18 billion, making the United States the world’s largest coffee market in terms of sales (consumption wise Brazil is higher), per global market research firm, Euromonitor International.

In an NCA webinar in January, a sort of preview to many topics that will be discussed during this year’s convention – US Coffee Outlook – presenter Matthew Barry, food & beverage insights manager at Euromonitor, said that the average American spent $223 on coffee last year, with out-of-home spending around $131 per person per year –the largest spend – no small amount given rising prices and consumers’ tightening budgets.

Barry noted that RTD remains the key growth category in US coffee. Fresh ground coffee pods the next largest category, followed by standard fresh ground coffee, and then fresh coffee beans. Instant coffee, he said, is the only category that is expected to decline in the US.

Coffee, like most grocery items, continues to rise in price — coffee prices are up about 15% since 2021. “Standard/staple grocery items are rising in price faster than inflation,” said Barry. “Inflation rates are starting to slow down but American consumers are not confident.”

And yet, despite the macroeconomic problems that are all weighing down the US economy (federal rates tightening, declining consumer savings, trouble in China and Europe), coffee has been surprisingly resilient so far. Coffee, Barry explained, has been deemed a ‘permissible indulgence’.

“There are two paths to succeed for coffee in tough economic times: essential product and permissible indulgence,” he said. Furthermore, coffee is compatible with all major current diet trends – Keto, intermittent fasting, paleo, Mediterranean, and vegan/plant-based, to name just a few – which bodes well for its continued growth.

Questions around caffeine and energy remain important trends with two competing sub-trends: more caffeine and moderating it. Not so much a trend, but more so a desire to be more sustainable remains strong (according to Euromonitor, 62% of Americans say they actively try to help the environment in their everyday actions), but “consumer willingness to spend is limited,” said Barry.

NCA Convention speakers and sessions will address trends and challenges impacting the US coffee industry primarily (but globally as well). As we are nearing the end of the first quarter of

2023, it will be interesting to how the ‘outlook’ has changed since January, and what it is for the remainder of the year.

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