Coffee is one of the most popular non-alcoholic beverages globally, prized for its aroma and caffeine content. It is grown in more than 70 tropical countries, and is the second most exported commodity in the world after oil. The top coffee-producing countries globally are Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia. The highest annual per-person consumption is in Scandinavian countries in Europe, where long, dark, and cold winters make coffee highly prized. The European market is big business and young coffeepreneurs should be taking note of the opportunities and continuously be looking for ways to sell coffee into the European market.
Coffee consumption per capita
The top 10 consumers of coffee by country are predominantly European with the exception of Canada.
1. Finland – 12 kilograms (26 lbs.)
Finland is the biggest consumer of coffee globally on a per-person basis, the average Finn drinks nearly four cups a day. Coffee is so popular in Finland that two 10-minute coffee breaks are legally mandated for Finnish workers.
2. Norway – 9.9 kilograms (22 lbs.)
Norwegians drink more than three cups of coffee a day. Coffee houses are popular in Norway, and unlike in the United States, they are primarily places to socialize, not to work or to carry a drink out.
3. Iceland – 9 kilograms (20 lbs.)
Beer was not legal in Iceland until 1987, and wine is costly, so coffee has long been the most essential social drink in the country. It is customary in Iceland to offer any visitor a cup of coffee, and Icelanders have a stock reply, tíu dropar, or “ten drops,” to indicate that they just want a small cup.
4. Denmark – 8.7 kilograms (19 lbs.)
In Denmark, the word kaffeslabberas means an informal social gathering where coffee and cake is offered, often after dinner. At weddings, people will often be explicitly invited for the bryllupskaffe or wedding coffee reception.
5. Netherlands – 8.4 kilograms (19 lbs.)
Dutch merchants first introduced coffee to the West, shipping entire coffee plants from the Yemeni port of Mocha to India and Indonesia, where they were grown on plantations to supply beans to Europe.
6. Sweden – 8.2 kilograms (18 lbs.)
Swedes have a word, Fika, to describe an extended coffee break from work where you socialize with friends. Swedes spend on average 9.5 days per year having a fikarast.
7. Switzerland – 7.9 kilograms (17 lbs.)
The Swiss combined coffee and wine to create a popular drink, Luzerner Kafi, which is red wine added to thin coffee with sugar. The Swiss also created Nespresso, one of the most popular coffee brands in the world.
8. Belgium – 6.8 kilograms (15 lbs.)
The Belgian cities of Brussels and Antwerp have thousands of coffee houses, including Wittamer’s, which serves brûlot, an espresso drink of sugar, cinnamon, cloves, shredded lemon peel, and warm cognac set alight.
9. Luxembourg – 6.5 kilograms (14 lbs.)
Despite being one of the world’s smallest countries, Luxembourg has thousands of coffee houses, from elegant houses with white linen table cloths to small, stand-up coffee bars.
10. Canada – 6.5 kilograms (14 lbs.)
The only country in the top ten not in Europe, Canada spawned one of the world’s first coffee chains, Tim Horton’s, which makes three out of every four cups of coffee sold in Canada.
A mature coffee market!
The European coffee market is mature but is evolving, largely due to the saturation of consumption Specialty coffees, single-serve methods and ready-to-drink coffees are growing in popularity while sustainability remains a top priority for industry stakeholders due to the effects of climate change. The growing consumer demand for traceability and transparency in the value chain, as well as the growth in digital marketplaces has intensified direct trade between producers and European roasters.
So where did it all start?
Development of the current European coffee market has been defined by waves starting in the 1960s. The first wave marked the popularisation of coffee consumption in Europe, lasting through the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s. The second wave entailed a shift to higher quality coffee and the development of coffee corner locations, marked by the advent of chains, such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee, beginning in the mid-1990s in Europe. The third wave has been noted since the mid-2010s, marked by the growing demand for high-quality coffees that focus on particular taste attributes — a ‘coffee-like-wine’ consumer attitude — and direct sourcing, usually traceable to farm level.
The high-end segment of the European coffee market is currently experiencing a fourth wave, characterised by what is called the science of coffee. In this context, it has become crucial to understand the intrinsic characteristics of the coffee bean and the influence of its preparation on its taste. During the third and fourth waves, consumers have also taken interest in the origin of coffee and understanding the story behind the product as well as the impact of their consumption at origin.
Meanwhile, there is an upcoming fifth wave in the global coffee industry, which is aimed at achieving a highly successful, high-quality, customer-centric and sustained coffee business that meets the desires and needs of today’s demanding and knowledgeable coffee drinker.
What are the opportunities?
- Convenience coffee
Similar to the rest of the coffee world, convenience is a key driver to growth of coffee consumption. European demand for single-serve coffee, such as coffee pods and capsules, has been growing strongly for the past 10 years. This has seen even stronger growth with the advent of the COVID 19 pandemic where consumers moved from popping out for their favorite cup of java to simply pouring a Nespresso from home.
- Speciality coffee
A growing number of consumers in Europe are willing to pay more for high-quality coffees with some consumers willing to pay more for coffees with a good story related to origin, highlighting environmental, social aspects and other sustainability topics.
- Certified coffee
European consumers are increasingly concerned about the social and ecological impacts of their consuming habits. This has a great influence on the coffee market, where sustainability standards are ever more popular and where companies are increasingly required to comply with such standards
- Coffee Tech
Bitcoin coffee? Well not really – Blockchain technology is a tool that you can use to increase accountability, transparency and traceability. It is an open system of decentralised data tracking and storage. In the case of coffee, this means that the database records transactions in a verifiable and permanent way, so its origins and journey can be traced back. Coffee that is recorded into blockchain thus allows a roaster to see where the coffee comes from and how much was paid for it earlier on. Likewise, producers can see to whom their coffee was sold eventually and for how much.
- Sustainable coffee
Attention to climate change and biodiversity issues is rising in the coffee industry. Climate change is expected to substantially reduce the areas suitable for coffee cultivation by 2050. Prolonged droughts, rising temperatures, biodiversity loss and heavy rains expected as consequences of climate change can severely affect the global coffee production. Several coffee varieties have already been declared endangered due to the effects of climate change
Coffeepreneurs would be wise to keep an eye on the European coffee market to increase their profits, by producing new and in-demand coffee products at source.
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