Over the past two years, the coffee industry has proven just how adaptive and innovative businesses can be. Experts from the product retail, roasting and café segments comment on what’s hot in the bean and brew scene and identify six dominating trends.
- The rise of the home barista
The combination of lockdown restrictions and a general shift towards working from home has seen the rise of the home barista. According to De’Longhi’s National Product Trainer, Cheryl Bosworth, this has coincided with a significant increase in domestic coffee machine sales.
“We’ve experienced a surge in demand of domestic machines since the start of the pandemic, particularly across the fully automatic category,” she says. “And with more people looking to create an authentic barista experience from home, we expect to see this growth continue.”
A marked shift in collective coffee habits has forged a greater connection to the process of making coffee for many people, according to Craig Simon, Founder of Criteria Coffee.
“Whereas daily coffee drinkers would previously get their coffee from a local café or roaster, consumers now want to make their own coffee,” says Craig.
“From the perspective of someone who supplies coffee, I hope this trend continues because it has promoted a greater desire for education and awareness about the quality of different blends. It has also inspired more people to switch to higher quality brew on demand blends.”
- Coffee education and training
In tandem with the rise in domestic machine use, there has been an appetite for more coffee knowledge and training, encouraging the industry to invest more into educational programs both in person, and online.
Designed as an immersive learning space for enhancing the at-home coffee experience, the De’Longhi Coffee Lounge in Sydney is the first of its kind.
“Visitors have the opportunity to experience the process of bean to cup through masterclasses, exclusive events with industry experts, and hands-on learning with our machines,” says Cheryl. “We want to give coffee lovers the chance to develop their personal flavour profile, find their perfect roast, and take a deep dive into the art of making coffee from home.”
For Seven Miles Coffee Roasters, the thirst for home brewing knowledge has been evidenced by significant growth of their coffee training centres, now open in in Manly Beach, Wollongong, Brisbane, Canberra and Orange.
“People love learning about coffee,” says Ben Graham, Head of Coffee Science and Education at Seven Miles. “In the past year, our YouTube channel has amassed a huge following on our training, reviews, and myth busting videos.”
Daniel Finn, Marketing Manager, Nomad Coffee Group says one of the biggest investments the company has made is in creating coffee content.
“We designed and built a combination recording and training studio to give us the capability to create classes – whether live classes, on-demand, or pre-recorded,” says Dan. “We want to help customers understand the variety of different coffees out there, and their origins, flavours and recipes.”
- Coffee subscriptions
In line with a surge in home brewing and online learning, there has been a steady increase in personalised coffee subscriptions over the last few years.
“Subscription services have become an integral part of the coffee industry because they give consumers the opportunity to explore different blends from different roasters, continue to support local businesses and build rapport with their favourite roasters,” says De’Longhi’s Cheryl.
For those who may not have the budget to invest in a premium domestic machine, subscription-based coffee services can also be a gateway to machine ownership.
One example of this is Industry Beans’ membership package which includes a De’Longhi La Specialista Prestigio machine and a monthly coffee subscription for a delivery of fresh beans. The member pays off the machine incrementally each month and after 12 months, becomes the owner of the machine.
And while subscription customers will have favourite blends, coffee lovers are also known for their experimentation, says The Bean Cartel Owner, Stacy Visser.
“Customers are always asking: What do you have that’s new? We expect people to explore new blends and single origins to satisfy curious minds and we encourage our customers to explore by allowing our subscriptions to be on rotation or for shorter periods of time.”
- Cold brew
Another space where there has been a lot of opportunity for innovation and experimentation is with cold brew.
“Cold brew is a healthier alternative to drinking caffeinated sodas and it is just starting to make headway now here in Australia,” says Cheryl. “It has the potential to dominate the market because of the convenience it offers being stored in cases in a fridge, without the need to worry about shelf life or degradation flavour-wise.”
Industry Beans, in particular, has been well-recognised for their cold brew, becoming a cult favourite since it was first brewed in Fitzroy in 2017.
“From our incredible cold brew cans to our cold brew coffee concentrate, we are always looking for ways to innovate and that is something that will continue in the cold brew space,” says Alex Lees, Wholesale Operations Manager for Industry Beans.
Nomad Coffee Group has also worked to develop their own cold brew coffee lines, releasing four cold brews so far, with a fifth on the way.
“Cold brew coffee can be a blend, single origin, carbonated like sparkling, a mix and a base as well, so it has got application potential – not just in the coffee shop or the grocery aisle – but in bars, restaurants, the hospitality space,” says Dan of Nomad Coffee Group. “One of the neatest cold brews created by our NZ brand, Flight Coffee is a sparkling blend with manuka honey that is popular straight up or used as a base in cocktails.
“Cold brew also pairs well with alternative milks such as oat milk. Our Australian made oat milk latte cold brew has quickly become our best seller in cafés and online.”
- Plant-based milk
Milk-based espresso coffees are beloved in Australia with more than 70 per cent of coffees served in cafés being milk-based. Trends also show that plant-based milks are increasingly popular with consumers, evident in the number of barista-style plant-based milks.
“People actually love the taste of non-dairy milk,” says De’Longhi’s Cheryl. “And with coffee education on the rise, consumers are keen to learn how to their plant-based milk with the same great taste and texture as traditional milk. At De’Longhi we’ve put a lot of research and development into our LatteCrema systems to ensure consistent milk froth with plant-based milks.”
A growing interest in maintaining good health and protecting the planet in recent years has further bolstered the demand for plant-based milk alternatives which stack up favourably on both fronts, according to Serge Costi, General Manager Marketing at MILKLAB.
“Using plant-based milk for coffee is a trend that has boomed over the past five years with one in four barista-made coffees now plant-based,” he says. “This trend skews toward the younger generations which indicates a long runway for growth. At MILKLAB we offer a variety of specialty milks for people to explore, including macadamia milk, coconut milk, and of course – almond, soy, and oat milks.”
Coffee experts agree that a sustainability focus in the coffee market is here to stay for the long-term.
Craig Simon of Criteria Coffee says the biggest challenge for coffee producers is in limiting material waste from packaging and processing methods.
“We are currently looking at ways to implement more recyclable packaging. Our soft plastics collected for recycling and the waste products from our roasting process are being collected every week to be used for farming and composting,” says Craig.
Craig stresses that coffee businesses will need to work hard to make strides with these efforts, while at the same time remaining transparent about the industry’s impacts on the environment. Ben from Seven Miles concurs.
“Sustainability will be a huge factor this year and into the future. It will need to be driven by market leaders like ourselves who identify that numerous factors – from climate change to pricing pressures – are threatening the very viability of some businesses,” Ben explains. “Being transparent about the challenges facing the industry will help all players navigate this industry with open eyes.”
In an effort to keep ahead of the sustainability curve, Nomad Coffee Group recently appointed Sustainability Manager Nick Percy and has been certified as carbon neutral by Climate Active.
“Consumers are now judging brands on sustainability credentials and the industry has a big role to play because there is a lot of carbon generated from bean to cup,” says Dan.
“We are very conscious of the carbon footprint incurred by our packaging materials, so, we have partnered with several other companies to help manage our single use waste and lower the by-products of our roasting process. Nomad Coffee Group has also shifted our facilities to 100 per cent green power and restructured our waste management to immediately have an impact on reducing our carbon emissions.”
Trends or ongoing goals?
The coffee industry has proven to be resilient and flexible in its ability to navigate challenges, which is evident in the trends that have emerged in 2022. But what lies beyond the horizon? How many of these are not just trends but ongoing goals that will continue to develop?
The appetite for coffee knowledge and more authentic home brewing experiences will undoubtedly continue to evolve, along with the call for retailers and café operators to respond with more impressive innovation, education, and a sensitive approach to sustainability that will allow the industry to do things greener and cleaner.