Coffee is still beloved in the Nordic states

Both coffee and tea markets in the Nordic region are ready for growth this year as consumption for these preferred hot beverages remains strong. By Eugene Gerten. All images courtesy of the author.

The coffee market in the Nordic region, which is comprised of Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Denmark, is steadily growing due to the traditional love local customers have for coffee. And as Covid restrictions in the region are easing, representatives of some leading local producers and independent analysts report that out-of-home consumption is growing again.

While the pandemic and its consequences have not resulted in a significant drop of coffee consumption in the Nordic region – of which each country is among the top-10 coffee-consuming nations in the world – it led to the change of structure of demand.

Such a trend, for example, is currently observed in Denmark, which is confirmed by some leading market research firm analysts.

“No negative effects have been noted, but a shift in demand has occurred. We’ve seen office spaces close, sending many home to work. This meant a decline in demand from B2B customers and an increase in B2C demand. The consumption was moved home from work,” said Christian Juul Andersen, chairperson of SCA Denmark, the Danish Coffee Association, in an exclusive interview. “Specialty coffee is becoming more sought after, as customers are becoming increasingly aware of all links in the supply chain are being treated fair, as well as a general heightened focus on higher quality. We at the SCA expect a shift from a high intake of inferior coffee to a higher quality coffee and a small decrease in consumption.”

In the meantime, in neighbouring Norway, the Covid outbreak has even led to growth of coffee consumption among local customers. Bjørn Grydeland, an official spokesperson of the Norwegian Coffee Association, said, “We have had a total growth in coffee consumption. The decline in the professional market (out-of-home) because of the pandemic has been more than compensated by the growth in the home market.”

According to Grydeland, coffee habits of Norwegians, however, do not change that quickly. “I cannot point to a particular segment that stands out. All kinds of coffee for the home market increased, both instant, capsules and roasted fresh coffee,” he explained. “When society returns to normal conditions, I think we will also return to the way we consumed coffee before March 2020. It is difficult to say whether this exceptional year will lead to lasting changes. Black filter coffee has for decades been our favourite. There is one trend that seems to last; sale of whole beans has been increasing continuously for several years. That will probably continue.”

The Finnish love their coffee

Representatives for roasters also confirm maintaining stable demand for coffee in the region, which creates conditions for their further development. Lenita Ingelin, senior vice-president of Paulig Business Area Finland & Baltics, said 2020 was an extraordinary year – especially in the HoReCa channel – due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Finland and the Baltics, the total coffee sales were slightly below the previous year. “However, during 2020 people were experimenting with new coffee tastes that had a positive effect on the sales of our premium coffee segment,” said Ingelin. “In Finland, our City [Coffee] product range, where each blend of coffee represents the coffee culture of a certain city, saw the most significant increase in sales — not being able to travel meant that customers bought 68 per cent more coffee in terms of the various ‘City’ blends than in 2019.”

Paulig Juhla Mokka, a light-roasted coffee, has been popular in Finland since it was introduced in 1929.

Paulig is especially optimistic for its traditional Juhla Mokka coffee — the light roasted ground coffee, launched in Finland for the first time in 1929, and its popularity and consumption have significantly increased since that time. According to Ingelin, today, almost every other cup of coffee enjoyed in the country is Juhla Mokka coffee.

She added that also last year, the iconic Presidentti coffee celebrated the 70th anniversary of the coffee ambassador, a tradition of Paulig in which the company selects special ambassadors annually to promote the brand. This tradition dates back to the 1920s.

Furthermore, a new variety for the City Coffee range, Café Reykjavik, was introduced in Finland and Estonia, and Classic Cremoso in the Baltics. “In 2020, we also opened a Paulig Café & Store (a Paulig flagship coffeehouse) in Moscow, Russia. It´s a unique place for coffee lovers, inspired by the Finnish Paulig Kulma, which opened in in the heart of Helsinki five years ago,” said Ingelin. “At the moment, we don’t have any expansion plans in our coffee category. We’ll focus on our current markets and nurture the coffee culture in the Baltics, Finland and other Nordic states.”

Paulig Presidentti coffee brand celebrated the 70th anniversary of its ‘coffee ambassador’ in 2020.

Ingelin confirmed that Finland is an important market for Paulig as its coffee culture is one-of-a-kind, and the Finnish people consume the most coffee in the world per capita. She noted that Finnish coffee consumption is almost 10 kg per person yearly and the figure has been stable for years. In 2020, the consumption declined slightly due to exceptional times. The drop in consumption in the HoReCa channels did not shift fully to the retail channel.

Market analysts confirmed these statements. Sneha Varghese, senior research consultant at Fact MR shared that as with many countries, Covid-19 has had a negative impact on the coffee industry of the Nordic region. “As an immediate response to Covid, various government bodies of the region have introduced country-wide risk management services such as social distancing, travel restrictions, and partially lockdown in various countries. This has significantly impacted the countries’ economies and their coffee industry.”

According to Varghese, there was a disruption in various activities such as labour supply, trade operations, logistics networks as well as import-export infrastructure, which has resulted in shipment delay and transaction costs in the coffee industry of the Nordic region. “Thus, the price of coffee has been highly volatile due to disruptions in the supply chain and the production of coffee. This also affects small-scale coffee roasters that primarily supply hotels, restaurants, and cafés. Moreover, Finland, Sweden, and Norway are predicted to remain the most lucrative markets by the end of 202.

Echoing Ingelin’s comment, Varghese said that based on per-capita consumption of coffee, Finland is the biggest consumer across the globe. “The per capita consumption of coffee in Finland is around 12 kilograms. On the other side, per capita consumption of coffee Norway and Iceland is 9.9 kilograms and nine kilograms, respectively. In addition, the consumption of coffee at home has been increased as people restricted to work from home and has limited options to go outside, consume coffee is one of the few ways for them to take a break from work.”

According to a study of the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI), which is affiliated with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, imports traditionally account a small share of the Nordic coffee market (especially compared to other European countries), considering that most coffee is packed and produced at local processing factories.

In Denmark, Sweden and Norway coffee is predominantly consumed black, meaning without milk and sugar, so the quality of the actual coffee is especially important in these markets.

CBI analysts point out that coffee in Scandinavia is generally considered to be of high quality, which despite the pandemic, creates conditions for the development coffee chains and micro-roasteries, with the biggest number being observed in Sweden and Denmark.

Paulig achieved Carbon Neutral certification for its roastery in Vuosaari, Finland and aims to make all its production sites carbon neutral by the end of 2023.

In recent years, local coffee roasters and global majors operating in the region have started to pay greater attention to the issues of sustainability. For example, according to Ingelin, Paulig achieved CarbonNeutral® building certification for its Vuosaari coffee roastery. “Our ambition is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from our own operations by 80 percent by 2030, and the plan is to make all of our production sites carbon neutral by the end of 2023. Paulig has been a pioneer in the coffee industry’s sustainability work. As one of the few large roasteries in the world, the company uses coffee beans from only verified sustainable sources.”

Specialty tea on the rise

In addition to coffee, the demand for tea in the Nordic region remains also strong, with the biggest being observed in case of specialty teas.

Alexis Kaae, an official spokesperson of Simply Tea ApS, one of the largest tea importers in the Nordic region, based in Denmark, in an exclusive interview commented: There is a huge interest regarding specialty tea in Denmark and some other Nordic states and a decline in supermarket commodity tea. Since the outbreak of Covid19, we are experiencing more and more restaurants and fermented tea companies looking for sustainable specialty tea. The demand for a healthy beverage seems to be on everyone’s agenda.”

She said that quality is always an issue as most Scandinavians know very little about tea or its production. “In order to meet the demand for education we have now planted five acres of Camellia sinensis plants in our own tea garden in Denmark. I suppose this can be defined as our major achievement for this year.

As the demand for tea in the Nordic region remains strong, some leading Western European tea manufacturers and marketers are considering accelerating their expansion into this market. Mike Harney, vice president of New York-based Harney and Sons, said, “We as a family-run company do well in the Norway region and have started distribution in Sweden. In terms of expansion in the next year, we are hoping 2022 takes our company to a whole new level amongst consumers in the Nordic region.”

  • Eugene Gerden is an international freelance writer, who specializes on covering of global coffee, tea and agricultural industry. He worked for several industry titles and can be reached at [email protected].

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