Stimulating Times: Focus on Coffee

07/09/2017 - 14:44
Cafe culture continues to be on-trend, with more cost sector caterers capitalising on coffee and its potential to boost profits. Sheila Eggleston reports.

According to Allegra World Coffee Portal, we are into a ‘fifth wave’ of cafe culture, which focuses on the demand for excellence, and a long way off from the ‘first wave’, which catered for simple refuelling.

The good news is that the challenge of rising import costs impacting coffee prices has failed to burst coffee’s bubble, which no doubt World Coffee Day on 1 October, an event launched by the International Coffee Association in 2015, will be celebrating.

Speciality and artisanal brews are making the biggest waves for discerning Brits that crave cafe culture – from the beans and ethical certification, to syrups, toppings, food accompaniments and eye-catching presentations.

Consumers are spending on average £54 million per week on speciality coffee, according to Beacon Purchasing’s recent research, with 40% of people now ordering a speciality drink at least once a week. Looking at the most popular products, the flat white is becoming more mainstream with 4% of drinkers choosing it, while 20% opt for a latte or cappuccino, with lattes more popular among 18-24 year olds and cappuccino preferred by 45-plus year olds.

The high street has had a distinct effect on the cost sector where more operators are seeking out their own beans and brands.

As part of a collaboration with Soppexcca, a Nicaraguan-based cooperative, contract caterer Bartlett Mitchell launched its premium ethical coffee during Fairtrade Fortnight last year. Perkee is a single-origin coffee using only 100% Arabica beans sourced from Nicaragua and roasted in Yorkshire.

Since its debut, the coffee has been rolled out to more than 40 sites, making it the bestselling line across the business and accounting for more than a quarter of the company’s coffee sales. Now the caterer has reached a milestone having sold more than 500,000 cups.

“When we set out to develop our coffee range, we wanted it to be ethical and Fairtrade but we also wanted to make sure it tasted good,” comments marketing director Lin Dickens. “We were delighted when we found the right blend to launch into our client venues, and how popular it became.”

Bartlett Mitchell carried out research in partnership with coffee specialist Bewleys at the beginning of last year and found that customers were looking to move away from big coffee brands whose reputation had been damaged due to issues around tax and sustainability. The research also found that customers were keen to support brands committed to sharing profits directly back to source.

A similar stance has been taken by Olive Catering Services. Co-founder Damon Brown, describing the evolution of coffee trends, says that around 18 months ago the business noticed a change.

“Independent coffee shops were springing up and customers began to demand more from their drink other than something hot and caffeinated,” explains Brown. “They wanted to know where the bean came from, and what flavour profiles it would deliver.

“We were already at the stage where almost all of our prospective clients were asking us to include a coffee provision and this shift in demand made us realise we needed a new approach. We worked on an alternative offer, sourcing beans from a variety of suppliers, and held an intensive tasting day with one of our clients, Danone. The bean that came out top became the house bean for our own brand, UTZ-certified Love Coffee.”

Brown says the business also decided to feature guest beans to ensure customers have a choice of products from week to week.

“We decided when developing it that we needed to apply the same standards to our coffee as our food; that meant investing as much into our baristas as we do in our chefs,” adds Brown. “We now deliver a huge amount of training for baristas across the UK, which is great for their development and also gives us the flexibility and control we need.”

A growing demand is for recyclability and Olive addressed that by offering a discount for consumers with their own portable cup, and, at certain sites has given away portable cups to staff to encourage them to think about whether they need a takeaway cup.

Packaging expert Huhtamaki’s research concurs: it shows that 68% of consumers want to know about the environmental credentials of the packaging used to serve takeaway drinks, with 82% wanting to know if it is recyclable, which the company’s products are.

UK marketing manager Becci Eplett says the research shows that almost a quarter of consumers are buying takeaway hot drinks two to three times a week or more, with the sizes most frequently ordered being 12oz and 16oz.

UCC Coffee UK & Ireland’s recent insight into coffee in the workplace showed that more than two-thirds of workers believe high-quality coffee makes the workplace a better place to be. The survey revealed that the average worker drinks 2.96 cups of coffee a day – with 54% of respondents saying they would stop buying high-street coffee if the quality at work was improved. Subsequent research found that incremental sales could be achieved by focusing on coffee with food. For example, 74% of consumers ordering food with coffee opted for cakes or pastries.

Union Hand-Roasted Coffee says the return of filter coffee is emerging as a recommended alternative to Americanos and is a great way to showcase single-origin coffee and the variety of flavour profiles they offer. Seasonal drinks such as cold brew and iced lattes are also on the rise and becoming mainstream, as well as a demand for non-dairy options for milky drinks.

Tom Noonan, senior brand manager for DaVinci Gourmet, says there has been been an increased focus on health and wellbeing with consumers and operators paying close attention to the ingredients and nutritional content of their food and drink choices. “Our flavoured syrups have been reformulated to become the largest brand free from artificial colours and flavours, so they can be assured they are getting exciting drinks full of natural flavours,” he advises. He adds that dessert-inspired drinks are growing more popular, with more consumers choosing them as an alternative treat.

Nespresso UK B2B commercial manager Ian McDonald says it has responded to the appreciation of flavour and quality with the addition of Variations to its B2B range. “With the addition of Espresso Caramel and Espresso Vanilla, we’ve created diverse flavours that deliver a unique coffee experience,” says McDonald. “Service is central to the cafe experience and our easy-to-use B2B models mean baristas can focus on understanding and appreciating the provenance of our blends.”



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