Coffee is now the UK’s favourite hot beverage 

Put down your tea cup and grab a mug — in 2023, coffee overtook tea as the UK’s hot beverage! Coffee consumption has been continuing to grow in the United Kingdom, but according to a 2023 Statista Global Consumer Survey, coffee is now the UK’s leading ‘hot drink of choice’. More than 50% of UK coffee consumers still drink instant coffee, so it is impressive – yet admittedly shocking – to see coffee claim the top spot in a nation forever associated with black-tea drinking. 

Even though the cost of living continues to squeeze household budgets, this does not seem to be impacting consumers’ coffee buying habits, with the out of home (OOH) coffee market attracting an additional 1.56 million consumers from 2022 to 2023 (Kantar Out of Home | Total Coffee | Measure | 52 w/e 1 October 2023). 

UK-based private label coffee roaster, Lincoln & York, has offered five coffee predictions for the country, which include a growth in cascara drinking, expanded use of coffee extracts, increased coffee education, a strengthened focus on sustainability and purchasing ‘feel good’ coffee. 

Brewing growth in cascara 

“Recently declassified as a novel food, cascara is now more widely available as a ready to drink product and is set for expansion in 2024,” said Chris Tough, coffee buyer, Lincoln & York, who penned the predictions. “With its potential to strengthen the coffee trade economy, helping coffee farmers reduce waste and add income, this byproduct which was once thrown away is now set to take centre stage.” 

Cascara is the skin and pulp of the coffee cherry and offers notable potential to decrease the coffee industry’s carbon footprint whilst also providing new options for consumers and incremental revenue for coffee farmers. 

In terms of flavour, cascara’s unique taste lies somewhere between coffee and tea. “Whilst not as strong or rich as coffee, it’s full of fruity, slightly floral, and earthy notes whilst being packed with antioxidants and significantly less caffeine than coffee,” noted Tough, adding, “with its sustainability and health benefits, plus a novel taste profile, cascara will be one to watch in the year ahead.” 

New opportunities for coffee extracts 

Offering a combination of efficiency and speed of service, Tough said that “2024 could be the year that more widespread use of coffee extracts and coffee concentrates come to the fore.” 

He believes that whilst there are many iterations of coffee concentrates and different methods of extraction, all produce a concentrated coffee essence that can be used in cold coffees to avoid brewing and chilling an espresso for every serve. 

Cold coffees remain ‘hot’ in the UK with the iced coffee market currently valued at £178.9 million, up 37% (Lincoln & York analysis, NIQ Scantrack – MAT WE 26.08.2023), hence, more suppliers across out of home and retail are looking for quicker ways to create high quality iced coffees and RTD products, including dairy-free alternatives. Tough explained that the use of coffee extracts not only speeds up service and guarantees consistency of flavour: it also enables businesses to grow and scale at speed, meaning its potential goes way beyond just cold coffee. “This offers huge opportunities throughout the industry, and 2024 could be the year we see coffee extracts and cold coffee really take off.” 

Improving coffee education 

Coffee bean sales in the UK rose+14.3% in 2023, and this trend is set to continue in 2024 with support from the grocery sector in educating consumers around coffee buying and drinking. 

Although 52% of UK coffee drinkers continue to opt for instant coffee, Tough said there is growth in other options as consumers upgrade their at-home coffee in search of a fresher, fuller flavour (NIQ data 52 w/e 23 Sep 2023). 

To support and encourage this shift, Tough suggests retailers take inspiration from the wine aisles when it comes to their coffee assortments. “This could mean increased displays and merchandising in store to educate consumers about origins, roasts and flavour profiles, helping shoppers tailor their coffee purchases to their own tastes, as well as experiment with new flavours present in coffee.” 

He added that just as people have a preferred wine, “we predict that this will empower consumers to develop a deeper understanding of coffee that goes beyond whether they simply like the flavour or not.” 

A renewed focus on sustainability 

Lincoln & York expects consumers will become even more conscious of the carbon footprint of their coffee in 2024, with 63% of consumers actively looking for sustainably sourced coffee options (Lincoln & York research undertaken by Opinium Research. Sample size 2,000 UK adults. Fieldwork dates 27th – 29th September 2022). 

Sustainable sourcing has never been more important, and new EU legislation taking effect at the end of this year is designed to tackle this problem. Beginning in December, coffee produced from land which has been subject to deforestation in the last three years will not be accepted onto the European market, forcing coffee companies to prioritise the sustainable sourcing of their produce. 

A future of feel good coffee 

Lincoln & York believes that whether it’s added health benefits through functional coffees or a philanthropic pick me up by supporting cause-led brands, consumers will continue to look for coffee that offers more than a great taste and a caffeine kick in 2024. 

Functional coffees, created by blending coffee with ingredients such as botanicals and proteins for added health and wellbeing benefits, achieved significant growth in 2023. “With options such as antioxidant-rich turmeric lattes and CBD coffees also attracting consumer attention, it will be interesting to see if this growth continues or if we’re experiencing a classic case of fashion over function,” said Tough. 

However, he noted that for a different kind of feel good, “‘coffee with a cause’ brands will continue to thrive, with more cause-led brands expected to emerge in 2024.” As well as contributing towards worthy causes, such as supporting veterans struggling with life outside of service or providing homeless people with barista training and job opportunities, planting trees, supporting female coffee farmers, tying your brand with a charitable focus is a smart and worthwhile way to gain customer loyalty — particularly with the ever-important and ever-growing, younger consumer base. 

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