It’s no secret that coffee shop owners should keep an eye on how consumer behaviour is changing, and identifying trends is an important part of that.
However, as we get closer to the end of the calendar year, it’s becoming clearer which trends have defined 2022 across the coffee industry – and which may be relevant into next year and beyond.
From cold coffee and coffee cocktails to increasing quality and functional ingredients, there’s been plenty going on at coffee shop level. To learn more about this, we spoke with three industry experts to get their insight – read on to find out what they said.
Cold coffee and ready-to-drink (RTD) products
Cold coffee and chilled RTD beverages have been a definitive trend over the last few years, and 2022 was no different. Sales of cold brew and iced coffee in coffee shops shot up by 27% and 11%, respectively between April 2021 and April 2022.
Broadly speaking, this category includes beverages like cold brew, iced lattes, iced coffee, and nitro cold brew, as well as the myriad bottled and canned coffee-based products sold by brands like Starbucks and Coca-Cola.
These products are particularly popular among Gen Z and Millennial consumers, especially those looking for a refreshing pick-me-up during periods of warmer weather.
Gurdeep Singh Sain is Head of Marketing at Monin UK & Ireland. He explains that as a result of cold coffee’s growing popularity, many hospitality businesses are looking for new ways to improve customers’ cold coffee experience.
“Marco single batch coffee brewing equipment is being used at the top specialty coffee shops,” he explains. “The Marco POUR’D system is fitted with two dosing units and a three-button tap, allowing cafés to use excellent concentrates to create lemonades, cold brew, iced teas, or flavoured water.”
Nitro coffee – often taking the form of cold brew flushed with nitrogen gas – is a major player within the cold beverage category in particular. There’s a belief it will continue to grow in the next few years, perhaps more specifically within this segment.
“Nitro,” as many refer to it, is low in sugar with a smooth, creamy flavour. It is commonly offered as a canned ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage, although it can be sometimes found on tap.
“Generally speaking, I’ve seen the RTD coffee market grow year-on-year over the last three years, and that’s predicted to continue,” Gurdeep adds.
Coffee cocktails and mocktails
Boyd Yap Moon Kit is a product manager at Dankoff Coffee Specialist. He predicts more innovation in the caffeinated cocktail and mocktail space, and says that this can help cafés diversify.
“The new generation of consumers is more adventurous; they like to explore more than the standard range of drinks,” he explains. “They also don’t mind spending more if the new beverages are creative and appealing.”
In particular, cold brew cocktails and flavoured malt beverages are both very popular among consumers under 40 years old, making them an ideal fusion product for cafés to explore. There are even RTD coffee cocktails entering the market.
Alongside this, more hospitality businesses – including restaurants, bars, and more – are now offering caffeinated cocktails on tap, including espresso martinis and even frozen Irish coffee.
However, for consumers who aren’t looking to drink alcohol, non-alcoholic cocktails (or mocktails) are also becoming more popular.
Since 2021, mocktail sales have increased by 33% and with a market value of around US $331 million. In coffee shop settings, mocktails can encourage creativity, giving baristas the freedom to explore exciting flavour combinations by mixing coffee with common cocktail ingredients like tonic water, bitters, and juice.
Shawn Tseng is a Marco partner and the business developer at Cojaft International. He says that specialty coffee is in a good position to permeate other segments (such as mocktails) “because of its great diversity and abundant flavours”.
He adds: “I think coffee will continue to be a good ‘catalyst’ among people in all HORECA sectors.”
New and seasonal flavours
For years, brands like Monin and Torani have been creating flavourings targeted at the coffee shop market.
These days, they serve as the foundation for a number of seasonal drinks such as the pumpkin spice latte. Gurdeep also points out that many coffee shops now offer a range of “core” flavour syrups like vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut.
Gurdeep adds that he’s seen more growth recently with new and exciting flavours. He adds that some seasonal flavours are sticking around for longer than usual, too
“Interestingly, we see other flavours which have typically been more seasonal, growing in popularity all year round,” he explains. “This includes gingerbread, salted caramel, and cinnamon.
“Traditionally, hot coffee has been flavoured with sweet and nutty syrups,” Gurdeep notes. “However, we’re now seeing more of a range, including more floral and acidic flavours, such as cherry, rose, mint, and even raspberry.”
Health & wellness
Health and wellness is by no means a new trend, but research shows that Gen Z consumers do pay more for healthier food and beverage products.
“Careful consideration of the products we consume and lifestyles we lead have pretty much permeated most parts of society now,” Gurdeep adds.
This is especially relevant for coffee brands; functional beverages that include ingredients with tangible benefits are becoming increasingly prominent within the specialty coffee sector.
One sub-segment that’s gathering speed here is “functional coffee”. This catch-all umbrella term refers to any time coffee is mixed or prepared with ingredients which offer some kind of functional benefit, including botanicals, vitamins, probiotics, or even components of traditional medicine.
Coffee is also regarded as a good base because it’s naturally low in sugar and free from other ingredients.
Gurdeep explains that the functional beverage industry presents a massive opportunity for cafés to cash in on. As well as the classic turmeric latte, many different menu items are now emerging to appeal to consumers’ commitment to personal wellness.
Gurdeep says that more recently, this segment has started to include ingredients like matcha, which is rich in antioxidants, as well as collagen and CBD for stress relief.
A bigger focus on water quality
Water makes up 98% of each cup of coffee, meaning high-quality water is vital to achieving a balanced cup profile. Conversely, poor quality water can create an unpleasant cup.
Shawn explains that since the Specialty Coffee Association of America released its water guidelines in 2009, the industry has started to understand that water quality has a specific influence on coffee flavour.
Boyd agrees, adding that aside from making coffee tastier, high-quality water is also better for coffee machines.
For hospitality businesses, it’s never been easier to access high-quality water on demand. For example, the Marco FRIIA HCS under-counter water system allows cafés to dispense high-quality hot, cold, and sparkling water from a single tap.
“The FRIIA’s design optimises barista workflow, helping them make many different kinds of beverages in the same spot, avoiding walking back and forth getting different ingredients,” Shawn adds.
By using a font like the FRIIA, cafés can win back more counter and refrigerator space. This system means less equipment is needed to serve a wider range of drinks to stop coffee bars from being cluttered and simplify barista workflow.
There’s no denying that as more and more of these trends emerge, coffee shop owners need to capitalise on these trends to stay relevant.
As well as exploring RTD and cold coffee, sugar-free options, flavourings, and functional ingredients, Boyd emphasises that investing in the right equipment is critical. He says this allows cafés to develop a wider range of drinks, be more consistent, and optimise barista workflow.
“Cafés should revisit their menu and workflow, to see if there is any room for improvement [and] which elements can be changed or re-designed to enhance customers’ experience,” he concludes.