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Coffee in the next decade: upcoming trends.

Coffee in the next decade: Upcoming trends

What's hot for the 1990's? - According to the Associated Press' review of Food and Wine magazine, fresh fruit pies, potatoes, turkey, grains, lean red meat, and iced coffee. Yep, you read right: iced coffee. Seems strange to see iced coffee listed with such "traditional" foods, but it's strange in a very pleasant way.

When we first started our business, we had to give customers free coffee so they'd try an iced coffee beverage we called a "Coffee Cooler." Six years later, in a leading magazine, iced coffee appears on the list of "Ins and outs for the decade" and it is considered "In." For many of us in the coffee business, this acceptance is a vision of the future coming true.

During this past year and over many a cup of coffee, I have talked with people involved in the coffee business. As a result of these conversations, I'd like to offer consensus on what are perceived to be upcoming trends in the coffee industry for the next decade.

According to FIND/SVP, projected retail sales for gourmet coffee in 1990 are $750 million, and competition for each and every dollar will increase. (To give you an idea of how the gourmet coffee segment has grown, retail sales of gourmet coffee in 1983 were $210 million.) Consumers are increasingly demanding better quality coffee and major roasters will find themselves competing with regional roasters to answer this demand. Both regional and major roasters will face stiff competition from coffee shop owners as more and more of them begin roasting in-house to maximize profit, quality control, freshness and product selection.

Roasting and packaging machinery will continue to downscale in size and cost. The smaller wallets and limited space of independently owned roast houses, as well as coffee shops roasting in-house, will require equipment that is economical in size as well as dollars.

Pre-packed, whole bean coffee for the retail market will also continue to downscale in size. The 80's introduced two ounce and eight-ounce bags to consumers; in the 90's look for four ounce and six ounce bags of coffee to have a major impact. Imagine how this will improve the variety of selection and product freshness. Retailers that I supply tell me that four-ounce packages (especially flavored) are a hot item.

Other innovations in packaging will provide longer shelf life for products and more eye appeal for consumers. More and more of the packaging material will be clear so consumers can see the coffee beans. Coffee will be packed in vacuum cans with one-way valves, and metalfoil bags will become user friendly. (When I say user-friendly, I mean a bag that opens easily, reseals easily, and has a flat bottom so it stands up and displays easily. Most metalfoil bags I have seen have to be opened with scissors or teeth.) The use of glass displays for bulk beans will increase, and the use of plastic bins will decrease.

Consumer demand for quality specialty coffee will continue to rise, and new sources of green coffee will have to be found. Look for Arabica coffee from Africa to enjoy a greater popularity, especially in the U.S. Mexico too will begin concentrating on selected bean development for specialty coffee. The cup (consumer) will finally dictate to the growers instead of the growers dictating to the cup.

Increased competition for the retail dollar will force roasters to concentrate more on quality than quantity. European style processing and bean selection will become the American way. More attention will be paid to color sorting, sizing, blending and product excellence.

Tradition will be important in the next decade as the Baby Boomer generation grows up and returns to its roots. (And let's face it, grown up consumers have always been the backbone of the coffee industry.) Traditional behavior, traditional food, traditional things will become important again. This is great news for the smaller roaster and shop owner because, let's face it, one big advantage they have over major players in the roasting game is direct contact with the consumer.

Unable to compete with major roasters on price, small businesses will focus their concentration on customer service and account retention. Coffee buyers will frequent the shop where the owner is present, remembers their names, and remembers taste preferences. This kind of personal touch is important in an increasingly impersonal high-tech world.

In the health-conscious 90's, coffeehouses will continue to serve in place of the "bar scene." People will talk over coffee in an open, airy coffee house instead of a drink in a dark bar. Meeting at the local coffee house, sipping coffee and watching coffee being roasted with someone becomes romantic, if you will, like being part of a parade, or enjoying a waterfall or a fireplace.

With the emergence of one cup coffee brewing appliances, can variety packs of ground coffee be far behind? Imagine a variety pack of coffee, much like tea, offering a variety of freshly roasted products in regular, flavored and decaf. I can, but only if packaging costs are kept down so it can be priced as a staple rather than a gift.

More and OCS (office coffee service) groups will have gourmet coffee as an option. You'll also find that vending machines will include traditional gourmet, flavored and decaf coffee in their selections with greater regularity.

Equipment used to brew and hold coffee will become more attractive, functional, and geared to high volume foodservice use. Air pots will become more common-place, and flat bottomed brew baskets will go the way of the dinosaurs, replaced by conically shaped brew baskets.

The 90's will be the year for espresso in the U.S. More and more Americans are limiting their alcohol content and they will be looking to caffeine for their kicks. Just as consumers have a usual drink preference, they will be more selective about the quality and type of coffee beverage they will consume. Espresso provides a concentrated, refreshing taste and Americans will no longer be satisfied with the swill that has too often been, for the most part, passing as espresso. This will put pressure on roasters to accommodate the Italian way of brewing.

Espresso sales, both of the beverage and the machinery, will increase. Espresso machines will become more complex internally so that they can become simpler operationally. Selection of a grinder, which is critical, will no longer be a subject for discussion because they will be built into the machine at the factory. Machines will decrease in price and increase in ease of use. You'll begin to see espresso machines everywhere. (To get an idea, walk around San Francisco and Seattle and get a load of the number of espresso machines you see.)

As espresso gains greater popularity and machines become easier to operate, look for major Italian roasters to expand their market by concentrating sales efforts and advertising dollars on the U.S. Small to medium-sized roasters will provide the main competition for the large Italian roast houses, since our large institutional roasters are not set up to produce a quality espresso blend (see Tea and Coffee Trade Journal, Nov. 1989 issue, "Espresso and Institutional Sales."

If you can't get gourmet coffee at the office from your OCS company and the vending machine doesn't offer it, walk right outside the office door and you'll probably find a coffee cart that has what you want. Coffee carts will be everywhere as gourmet coffee takes to the street to satisfy consumer demand. These carts will be capable of serving you freshly brewed coffee, espresso or an iced coffee cooler.

Coffee concentrate, whether prepared commercially or at home, will enjoy greater popularity in the 90's. Extraction techniques have improved to the point that the concentrate is pleasant rather than bitter. This concentrate (especially flavored) can be used to prepare an iced coffee drink, hot coffee by the cup, or as a delightful addition to many recipes and sauces.

Teas will enjoy a greater popularity, especially the beautiful and exotic types available in bulk. Bulk teas allow you to drink in the visual pleasure of seeing bits of mango or orange peel and to inhale the exquisite aromas they create. They will be served hot or cold, flavored or non-flavored, decaf or herbal, and enjoyed by a growing number of people.

The growth rate of flavored coffees will slow down, and the sales of traditional specialty coffees will gear up. Flavored coffees will always stay with us, but the first flush of excitement over them will abate during the 90's. One area that they will stay with is as a base for cold drinks.

Coffee based soft drinks and coolers will become stiff competition for iced teas and colas. Heavy, sweet, coffee soft drinks will attract the 18 to 24 year old consuming public who prefers a cola to a cup of coffee. We have to make an even greater effort to attract this segment of the population and keep them drinking coffee.

Juan Valdez will have competition in the homey spokesman department. Producing countries will wake up and small the coffee and realize that Juan is a big reason the American public requests 100 Colombian coffee. The American public requires a spokesperson to associate with a product. Look what the two guys pitching Bartles and James did for wine coolers!

Consumer education will be even more of an issue in the 90's as more of a distinction is made between specialty and gourmet coffees. Consumers will spend money for premium coffees, but they want to know that is what they are getting. "Gourment" has become an all-purpose and overused term, and in my mind, there is a clear difference between specialty and gourmet coffee, attention will have to be paid to merchandising the two types distinctly.

All specialty is gourmet, but not all gourmet is specialty...but that's next month's column. I'm going to go get a cup of coffee and relax, see you next month!

Shea Sturdivant is president of Coffee Roasters of New Orleans, Inc., a roasting firm specializing in flavored coffees. She provides consulting and educational services in sales and marketing to the coffee industry and her clients include one of the country's largest private label roasters. She is affiliated with the Roastery Development Group, a consulting and educational firm, based in San Francisco and New Orleans. She would welcome any and all input, please direct inquiries to her c/o Coffee Roasters of New Orleans, Inc., 811 Fulton Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, 504/523-3533.
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Title Annotation:coffee in the 1990's
Author:Sturdivant, Shea
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Words:1757
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