Nearly two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, consumers continue to rely on daily comforts for moments of normalcy in uncertain times. Coffee is at the top of that list.
For years, coffee has earned a top spot among America’s favorite drinks. In a recent national study, the National Coffee Association found 60% of respondents had a coffee in the past day, more than any other beverage — including water!
While it’s a safe bet that coffee will continue being the beverage of choice for many Americans, how they drink it is constantly changing, and the food and beverage industry needs to stay on top of these evolving trends to stay competitive.
We’ve pulled together some of the hottest trends to watch in 2022.
1. Ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee
In a fast-paced world, consumers value affordable products that take minimal preparation time without sacrificing quality and flavor. Ready-to-drink (RTD) teas and coffees check those boxes. The canned and bottled drinks can be bought in bulk and are easily found in gas stations, grocery stores, coffee shops, vending machines and more.
A report by Grand View Research, Inc. estimates the global RTD tea and coffee market will be worth $116.13 billion by 2024. U.S. sales for RTD products increased by 9.5% from August 2020 to August 2021, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI, proving demand is steadily growing.
Consumers are also embracing products that allow them to make coffee from home in 2022. By adding hot water to liquid coffee concentrates or instant soluble coffee, beginner baristas can make drinks in their own kitchens that resemble the ones they buy in shops. Both products are easy to preserve for long periods of time and often have more caffeine than traditionally brewed coffee.
2. Health and well-being
Coffee drinkers are no longer satisfied with only getting a quick jolt of energy from their cup of joe. Consumers are expecting more health benefits out of their daily drink and they’re paying attention to where they can go to get a boost.
The market for plant-based milk alternatives has grown in recent years, with sales reaching $2.5 billion in 2020, according to SPINS market research data reported by Good Food Institute. While plant-based milks may not match the protein or calcium content provided by dairy milk, they offer different advantages to consumers. They are lactose-free, low-calorie, rich in vitamins, and have lower saturated fat and cholesterol levels than dairy milk. Almond and oat milk rule the market, but consumers can choose from a plethora of options to match their preferred textures, flavors and nutritional values.
Expect to also see consumers asking to modify their coffee with supplements. For example, protein powder can be added to the staple drink to boost the beverage’s nutritional value, especially for people cutting back on dairy, where they might have otherwise used protein powder.
Sugar intake reduction is one area many will target as they work to improve their health. Syrups, chocolate and other sweeteners will take a backseat. However, since drinking black coffee isn’t for everyone, expect to see flavored coffee beans rise in popularity. Manufacturers can use oils to infuse coffee beans with different flavors — without adding sugar or artificial coloring — and grant consumers more control over their diets.
3. Environmental impact
The coffee industry has been flagged for significant negative environmental impacts on the world’s waterways, forests and wildlife. The taste for coffee is growing at the same time consumers are moving sustainability up on their list of priorities. Of all the new coffee products released in 2020, 48% carried an ethical or environmental claim, according to a Mintel Global New Products Database (GNDP) study reported by Global Coffee Report.
Using plant-based milks and creamers is a trend that’s gaining ground for both its health benefits and low carbon footprint. According to a study conducted by the University of Oxford, one glass of dairy milk produces nearly three times more greenhouse gas emissions than plant-based alternatives.
Along with valuing environmental responsibility, expect consumers to align with brands that can offer product traceability. Single origin coffees are made with beans grown and produced in a single region or country, often by one farm. Consumers not only get the opportunity to connect to the “story” behind the coffee they’re drinking, they can also research ethical business practices of the farms growing the product. Single origin coffee products tend to be more expensive than regular coffee blends, but customers are willing to pay the price to support local farmers and have a direct link to the region producing their beverage.
4. Coffee on tap
New twists on iced coffee flavors have led beverage trends in recent years, but taste alone isn’t enough for today’s coffee drinkers. That’s why coffee served on tap will be high in demand in 2022.
Nitro coffee is one of the newest obsessions for coffee aficionados. A cold brew is infused with nitrogen gas and left to chill. It requires a lengthier preparation time than the average cup of coffee and companies hoping to add it to their menu will need to install a beverage tap, but the effort is worthwhile according to fans. The result is a drink with a rich, creamy texture and sweet flavor — plus, it’s high caffeine content is sure to wake even the most sleep-deprived customers!
While nitro coffee is likely the reason many coffee shops installed their beverage taps, it isn’t the only way to use the resource. The market for kombucha tea, which is commonly sought out for its health benefits, is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.9% between 2022 and 2027.
5. Coffee shop experience
The pandemic is revolutionizing the American working experience and the coffee industry needs to adapt alongside consumers. Shutdowns and restrictions prompted a skyrocketing use of coffee shop drive-thrus in 2020 and that trend is carrying into 2022. According to a National Coffee Association report, workplace coffee consumption is down 55% from 2020 while drive-thru and app-based ordering are both up 30%.
A great cup of coffee can bring customers inside a business, but offering an elevated experience will keep them coming back. That can mean offering a wide range of specialty coffees and flavors to try or a cozy workspace with high-speed internet, especially since remote working is only going to increase in a post-COVID world.
Taste, nutrition, sustainability and innovation will lead consumer trends in 2022, but offering coffee-lovers the best experience is impossible without a strong foundation at the production level. Consider conducting a manufacturing analysis and/or developing a strategic plan for your facility this year to optimize production and keep clients (and consumers) happy. Just ask Starbucks and Royal Cup Coffee about how we helped them with their success.
Want to learn more about what you can do to get your facility ready in the new year? Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.