The growth of the coffee industry has been truly unprecedented and experts have been prepared for the bubble to pop. However, it seems growth is still happening and even in 2017, over half of the US population consume some form of coffee daily. So where exactly is coffee headed?
A growing trend is the ready-to drink beverages (RTDs) which boast a surprising authenticity and quality. Perhaps it is our consumer-driven society where everything is a rush and there is little time to sit down. This trend places pressure on cafés and baristas who promote the ethos of enjoying a freshly prepared, specialty beverage. Therefore, they must come up with innovative variations to stay one step ahead.
Iced or chilled coffee has become a very popular beverage of choice although its preparation is not quite as simple as it sounds. It involves brewing it slowly over a 12 to 24-hour period with room temperature or cold water. The slow, steady brewing process produces a cup of coffee less sharp, full bodied and bold in flavour.
A relatively new trend making headlines is nitro coffee. Starbucks have taken the phenomenon on-board, rolling it out in select US stores. This process involves infusing the coffee with nitrogen as it is poured which creates a naturally creamy product, negating the need for milk and sugar. It’s also dispensed in the same manner as tap beer and is proving very popular amongst younger consumers.
Who would have thought that not only can coffee grinds be reused as garden fertiliser, but the coffee cherry skins can also be converted into a desirable product? Cascara is a beverage created out of the skins and is very tart in taste while still containing a portion of caffeine. The beauty of this development is the recycling of an otherwise discarded product, which of course is agreeable to many organic and refuse-minimising social cultures. Again, Starbucks is investigating ways to incorporate cascara into its menu and bring it in the mainstream spotlight.
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With more focus shifting to the manufacturing process, some roasters have found they can create new flavours from barrel-aging their beans much like a good whiskey or rum, while others have found special flavour properties from the fermentation process. The industry is certainly expanding creatively, which only increases competition and the need for more and more innovation to stay ahead.
Coffee and alcohol have long-since been a match made in culinary heaven and it seems the marriage is still young with far more to explore. Younger consumers in the 22-34 age bracket are interested in cafes that also hold liquor licences; complex coffee-based alcoholic cocktails are quickly gaining traction and proving a worthy point-of-difference.
Coffee as an industry is like others where it is susceptible to the pulls of technology, automation, and even social media and apps. Roasters are experiencing the consistency and lack of human error associated with automated systems. Specifically, this can relate to consistent grind-by-weight options as well as the ability to acutely control brewing temperature, which is especially of interest to the tea industry.
With any evolving industry, it is essential to stay at the forefront which requires a balance of paying attention to the competition, the market and the supply chain. Most industries are reliant on ordering or manufacturing inventory stock and can benefit from a little help. The coffee sector is no different with the importing of beans and the tracking of them throughout complex processing outlined above. It’s important to exhibit control, especially when dealing with specialty coffee.