Future trends in coffee: 2018 and beyond

It seems like there’s always a new Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Caffè Nero, or independent coffee shop popping up on our high streets or in our shopping centres. The selection and availability of one of the world’s most loved beverages has expanded massively in recent years, with ingredients and ways of offering the ‘coffee drinking experience’ becoming more innovative with every new creation.

But, how will the UK’s love for coffee transform the landscape of the industry throughout the rest of 2018 and beyond? With a great focus on sustainability, organic sources, health-conscious options, and quirky flavours, we look at the rise in popularity of coffee beverages and which trends we can expect to become the standard in UK coffee shops of the future.

The global coffee industry

According to the Mordor Intelligence Global Coffee Market report published in March 2018, coffee is one of the most consumed drinks in developed countries. World coffee production for the 2017-18 period is estimated at around 158.78 million bags — an increase of 0.7% compared to 2016-17 — while coffee’s global market value is anticipated to see a 5.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Looking at the industry from a UK perspective, the British Coffee Association claims that we drink around 95 million cups of coffee a day.

Evidently, the coffee industry is on the rise, but are there specific trends in this sector that are increasing in popularity and what can we expect to see more of in 2019 and beyond?

Cold-brew coffee

In the UK currently, cold-brew coffee is still a novelty — but expect this to become mainstream soon. Cold-brew is more than just ‘cold coffee’ — and it’s not iced coffee either. Cold-brew coffee is brewed with cold or room-temperature water over 12 to 24 hours. The reason it’s growing in popularity is because it often features a mellower, sweeter, more full-bodied taste with less acidity. More than that, it’s easily bottled and ideal for on-the-go coffee consumers, which makes it convenient for those who don’t have time in the morning to queue and order a hot option.

In the United States, cold-brew coffee sales rocketed by 80% in 2017, and we can expect this emerging trend to pick up pace in the UK as the beverage becomes more widely available. Considering that cold-brew coffee is also easier to brew in large batches, there’s no reason that coffee shops shouldn’t be on board.

Nitrogen-infused coffee

Expect to see a blurring of lines between pub and coffee shop in the future. Nitro-brew coffee is a type of cold-brew beverage served on tap and infused with nitrogen that delivers a creamy, ice-cold drink that has the look and texture of a pint of ale! Recently, Starbucks introduced it to its UK outlets after success in the United States and it’s highly probable that other chains and independent shops will follow suit.

Ethical coffee

Around the world, there’s a collective drive for sustainability and eco-friendliness — a trend that will not bypass the coffee industry, which appears set to show greater support towards ethical practices and products.
From paper coffee cups to sustainable production practices, many global coffee brands are making greater strides towards their ethical commitments. Starbucks, for example, announced in March this year that it was launching a new gadget that would allow its coffee farmers to log key information regarding their practices.

Kevin Johnson, chief executive officer at Starbucks, said at the Annual Meeting of Shareholders: “Over the next two years, we will look to demonstrate how technology and innovative data platforms can give coffee farmers even more financial empowerment. We’ll leverage an open-source approach to share what we learn with the rest of the world.”

Considering that America’s National Coffee Association also recently discovered that coffee consumers — particularly the millennial generation — are influenced by ethical certificates and buy coffee if they know that the treatment of workers and processes involved are fair and environmentally friendly, it’s likely that more brands will follow suit and invest time and effort in ethical coffee.

So, anticipate less plastic and more traceability when it comes to discovering where your coffee is sourced and how it got to your cup.

The rise of the flat

Described as a “staple on the UK’s coffee shop scene” by head of training at Lavazza, Dave Cutler, and a “key innovation” by Jeffrey Young, who founded the London Coffee Festival, most of us already know how important the flat white order is for coffee drinkers.

More than 10% of orders in premium coffee shops are for flat whites — but has this popular drink sparked a craze for other flat-coffee choices? Currently an emerging trend and set to become a regular entry on most coffee shops’ menu boards, drinks such as flat blacks and even flat mochas are gearing up to challenge the popularity of the flat white — so keep an eye out for it at your local cafe.

Alternative coffee ‘mixers’

In the UK, the alternative milk industry is expected to rise by 43% over the next three to four years, according to data from Agribusiness Intelligence, while the plant-based beverage sector — which includes many milk alternatives — is currently worth around £6.9 billion. Recently, the trend for non-dairy foods and drinks and other milk-substitute products that suit lifestyles, like vegetarianism, and conditions, such a lactose intolerance, has grown — and this is affecting the coffee shop industry, too.

Instead of the standard skimmed, semi-skimmed and full-fat coffee mixers, we can anticipate more variation. Oat, soy, rice, almond, cashew, coconut, and macadamia milks will likely grow in availability in UK coffee shops, with greater creativity around how baristas infuse their gourmet and speciality drinks with these alternative mixers.

Street coffee

Due to the low-risk and low-investment benefits, street food is a very popular sector for entrepreneurs to launch a food and beverage business.

Head of marketing at KERB — a street food event organiser — Alison O’Reilly, said: “Now a lot of people are leaving nine-to-five jobs in finance, tech and marketing. They see it as a low-risk way of setting up a restaurant without having to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

In the latter part of 2018 and beyond, we can expect to see more artisan coffee stands popping up at street food events across the country as both coffee and the street food industry picks up momentum. Considering the rising popularity of cold-brew coffee — suited to spring and summer — alongside hot-coffee options — ideal for autumn and winter; launching a coffee street food business offers the potential to be a lucrative, year-round venture.

Evidently, we can expect major industry and product changes in the coffee sector — but considering its positive outlook, will it encounter competition from other beverage types?