What is the demand for coffee on the European market?
Europe has a large market for coffee and offers interesting opportunities to suppliers worldwide. To know which market is most suitable for you, it is important that you know the quality and volumes of the coffee you can offer. Unique, high-quality coffees are best suited for the specialty market. Producers of larger volumes of good-quality coffees may find the most interesting opportunities in middle-range markets, where certification plays an important role.
Contents of this page
1. What makes Europe an interesting market for coffee?
Europe is a large coffee market, accounting for about one-third of global consumption. Although consumption is expected to stabilise in the long term, Europe will remain attractive to coffee exporters. Especially the growing specialty coffee market in Europe offers interesting opportunities. In this segment, you can compete by focusing on quality and establishing long-term relationships, rather than on price. The statistical analysis in this document relates to green coffee beans, based on HS codes 090111 (Coffee, not roasted, not decaffeinated).
Europe is the world’s largest coffee market
Europe accounted for 33% of global coffee consumption in 2020/21, amounting to an estimated 3.244 million tonnes of coffee. This makes Europe the largest coffee market in the world. Asia and Oceania rank second with a market share of 22%, followed by Latin America with 20% and North America with a market share of 19%.
Between 2017/18 and 2020/21, Europe’s coffee market is expected to increase only slightly at an average annual rate of 0.5% in volume. In general, demand in Europe is expected to remain stable in the long term, as the European coffee market is saturated. Nevertheless, consumer demand for specifically higher-quality coffees is expected to increase in Europe.
Europe is the main global destination for green coffee suppliers
As the world’s largest coffee market, Europe is also the largest green coffee importer. Total European imports of green coffee amounted to over 3.6 million tonnes in 2020, showing an average annual decrease of -1.3% between 2016 and 2020. This decrease is likely to be the result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in supply chain disruptions and the closure of out-of-home establishments such as cafés and restaurants across Europe.
The value of green coffee imports decreased by -2.1% on a year-to-year basis during the same period, reaching €7.9 billion in 2020. This drop in value is also in part due to the pandemic, but it also reflects the fluctuation of coffee prices due to (unforeseen events in) world market supply and demand, volatility in currency markets and investments in coffee commodities by hedge and pension funds. An example of these unforeseen events is the frost that damaged coffee plants and production in Brazil. These and the other factors mentioned above affect the New York and London coffee futures markets, to which most coffee trade is connected. The exception to this is specialty coffee, traded with a differential above futures market prices, which absorbs most volatilities of the bulk market. Specialty coffee may also be traded at a flat rate negotiated between the buyer and seller, where the futures market price is taken out of the equation altogether.
European importers sourced approximately 87% of their green coffee beans directly from producing countries in 2020, corresponding to 3.1 million tonnes. The largest direct importers from producing countries are Germany (35% of total European imports) and Italy (18%). Belgium (10%) and Spain (8.4%) follow as the third and fourth-largest direct importers in 2020. Intra-European trade accounted for 13% of European supplies in 2020, amounting to 454 thousand tonnes.
Europe has the highest per capita coffee consumption worldwide
The European Union (EU) has one of the world’s highest average annual per capita consumption at just above an estimated 5 kg of coffee per person a year. The leading country in per capita consumption in the world is Luxembourg, where the average annual coffee consumption is over 11 kg per capita. Other large coffee-consuming countries are the Netherlands and Finland at 8.2 kg per year per person, followed by Sweden at 7.7 kg, Denmark at 7.4 kg and Norway at 6.8 kg per capita per year.
The average per capita consumption in the abovementioned European countries is expected to remain stable. These countries specifically provide interesting opportunities for exporters in producing countries as consumers are increasingly drinking high-quality coffees. This is largely led by a strong growth of consumption in specialised coffee shops in Western Europe, where mostly high-quality coffees are served. Between 2010 and 2018, sales at coffee shops serving specialty coffee in Western Europe increased by 140%.
Europe is a major market for specialty coffees
Europe is the largest and most important market for specialty coffees, together with the United States of America. This is reflected in the large and still rising number of specialty roasters, coffee shops and local coffee brands in Europe, as well as more knowledgeable and demanding European coffee consumers. In general, coffee shops and small and medium-sized coffee roasters lead the way for the introduction of high-quality coffees.
In 2020 specifically, the demand for specialty coffee was lower than usual across all of Europe. Although online sales showed growth, the effects of the social distancing measures and health concerns of consumers resulted in a decline of out-of-home consumption. However, what the pandemic has shown so far is that the interest in high-quality coffees across Europe remained strong.
Prior to COVID-19, it was estimated that the European branded coffee shop market would continue to grow at an average annual rate of 3.9% from 2020 to 2025. In 2021, this forecast was readjusted to an average annual growth rate of 2.9%. The expectation is that the European coffee market will be back to pre-pandemic levels towards the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023.
The growing interest in specialty coffees in Europe, for both Arabica and Robusta, brings growing opportunities on the European market. These opportunities are especially interesting for exporters which manage to offer consistent supplies of high-quality coffees that meet the Q Arabica (Specialty Grade) and Q Robusta (Fine Robusta Grade) standards. Read more about the specialty market in the market segment section below, and in our study about specialty coffee on the European coffee market.
Europe has a large coffee-roasting industry
Europe is home to many coffee roasters of all sizes and types. However, the European market is mainly dominated by a few large multinational roasting and grinding companies, namely Nestlé (Switzerland), JDE Peet’s (the Netherlands), Melitta (Germany) and Lavazza (Italy), as well as Starbucks (United States) and Strauss Coffee (Israel). The top-10 roasters in the world are responsible for roasting 35% of the world’s coffee.
According to PRODCOM figures, Germany has the largest coffee-roasting industry in Europe, with a sold production volume of 572 thousand tonnes of roasted coffee in 2019. Italy has the second-largest coffee-roasting industry in Europe, with a sold roasted coffee production volume of 508 thousand tonnes. The roasting industries of Germany and Italy are followed by Spain, the Netherlands, France and Sweden.
Europe is the world’s largest exporter of roasted and ground coffee. Europe accounted for about 84% of the total roasted (excluding decaffeinated) export volume in 2020, amounting to an estimated 1.0 million tonnes.
Between 2016 and 2020, European exports of roasted coffee grew at an average annual rate of 3.7% in volume. In 2020, the largest roasted coffee exporting countries in Europe were Italy and Germany, both with market shares of 23% each. Other large European exporters of roasted coffee include the Netherlands (9.3% of the European volume market share), Switzerland (8.8%) and Poland (6.1%).
A wide variety of suppliers serves the European coffee market
According to data from Eurostat, Brazil and Vietnam are the largest suppliers of green coffee to the European market. These two countries account for almost half of Europe’s imports: Brazil supplies 28% of total European imports, and Vietnam 18%. Other significant suppliers of green coffee to Europe include Honduras (6.3%), Colombia (5.5%), Uganda (4.7%), and India (3.4%).
Each supplying country plays a different role, targeting certain segments of the European coffee sector. Brazil is a large supplier of both Robusta and Arabica varieties. In 2020/21, an estimated 71% of Brazil’s production was Arabica. Between 2016/17 and 2020/21, the total Brazilian coffee production volume increased at an average annual rate of 5.7%, reaching nearly 4.2 million tonnes of green coffee in 2020/21. Brazil’s coffee exports to Europe amounted to 999 thousand tonnes in 2020, registering an average annual increase of 0.4% between 2016 and 2020.
Vietnam, India and Uganda have a strong focus on Robusta production. Vietnam’s production volume consisted of 97% Robusta in 2020/21, Uganda’s 85% and India’s 73%. Between 2016 and 2020, Indian and Vietnamese exports to Europe decreased on average by -5.7% and -3.2% respectively, while exports from Uganda increased by 8.0% over the same period. India’s exports to Europe have been declining in the last decade due to a stronger need for value addition in different stages of coffee processing as well as to the rising demand for specialty coffees. Uganda’s increase in exports in recent years is attributed to an increase in production by newly planted coffee trees and favourable weather conditions, as well as to the high affinity for Ugandan coffee in Europe.
Colombia and Honduras are known for their large and exclusively Arabica production volumes. Colombia is the world’s third-largest coffee producer, producing an estimated 858 thousand tonnes in 2020/21. Colombia’s production decreased slightly between 2016/17 and 2020/21, at a rate of -0.5%. Supplies to Europe also decreased slightly, at a rate of -3.8% yearly, reaching 198 thousand tonnes in 2020.
In Honduras, Arabica production decreased at an average annual rate of -4.5% between 2016/17 and 2020/21. Nevertheless, Honduras’ green coffee exports to Europe grew at an annual growth rate of 3.8% between 2016 and 2020. Honduras is Europe’s second-largest supplier of organic coffee beans (after Peru), with supplies amounting to 41 thousand tonnes in 2020.
Peru’s production of Arabica varieties and organic-certified coffees also provides potential for specialty and niche markets in Europe. Coffee exports from Peru to Europe showed a year-to-year decline of -4.5% between 2016 and 2020, reaching a share of 2.9% of total European coffee imports. Reasons for the declining export volumes are the long-lasting damaging effects of the coffee leaf rust outbreak in 2015, as well as the fact that coffee farmers in Peru have been facing financial difficulties in the past three years as revenues have not met production costs. Peru is the largest supplier of organic coffee to Europe, with amounts reaching 44 thousand tonnes in 2020. A large share of Peruvian coffee supplies is directed to Germany, the main organic market in Europe.
Ethiopia is also a well-known supplier of Arabica coffee and organic-certified coffees. Only 37% (87 thousand tonnes) of Ethiopia’s exports was directed to the European market in 2020, mostly to Germany, France and Belgium. Large destination markets for Ethiopian coffees outside of Europe are Saudi Arabia, Japan and the United States. Ethiopian supplies to Europe declined slightly between 2016 and 2020, at a year-to-year rate of -0.1%.
Nicaragua’s coffee exports to Europe showed a sharp increase between 2016 and 2020, at a rate of 19% per year. European imports from Nicaragua amounted to 51 thousand tonnes in 2020, 1.2% of total European imports. Nicaragua is known for its Arabica production, yet the country has a small production of Robusta too. Nicaragua’s exports to Europe have been boosted by a public-private effort in the framework of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Central America.
- Read our study to learn more about how to respond to COVID-19 in the coffee sector.
- Regularly check the website of the International Coffee Organisation and read its monthly review of the coffee market. Here you can read about the latest developments on the supply and demand for green coffee, and about the international coffee futures markets.
- Refer to the biannual coffee market and trade reports of USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Here you can find information about developments related to global trade, production, consumption and stocks.
- Access the Access2Markets Trade Assistant to analyse European trade dynamics yourself and to build your export strategy. By selecting a country as your reporting country, you will be able to follow developments such as the emergence of new suppliers and the decline of established ones.
- Refer to our market intelligence page to learn more about trends on the European coffee market, as well as promising European markets.
- See the website of the Specialty Coffee Association to find news, events and resources related to specialty coffee in Europe and North America.
- Access the pages of Daily Coffee News and Perfect Daily Grind to read more about current developments on the coffee market.
2. Which European markets offer most opportunities for coffee?
Europe offers many opportunities to coffee exporters. The countries that offer the most opportunities show a mix of positive characteristics, including import volumes, of which a large share is sourced directly from producing countries, different suppliers, their role as distributor of green coffee beans and a growing market for specialty coffees. Germany, Italy and Belgium stand out as the most interesting markets for green coffee exporters. But markets such as France, Spain and the United Kingdom are also very attractive. Eastern European markets are smaller and show fewer direct links to producing countries, but are growing fast.
Germany is Europe’s all-round most important coffee player
Germany is the largest importer of green coffee beans in Europe. In 2020, Germany imported over 1.1 million tonnes of green coffee. Germany accounted for 35% of all European coffee imports sourced directly from producing countries. With 37% of total direct imports, Brazil is the largest supplier of green coffee to Germany, followed by Vietnam (22% of supplies) and Honduras (10%). On average, German green coffee import volumes remained fairly stable in the last years, with a slight decline of -0.7% between 2016 and 2020.
Most green coffee beans enter Germany via the Port of Hamburg. The ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven are also important entry points for coffee. As the largest importer in Europe, Germany is a potential destination for exporters of various qualities and origins, which will either be roasted locally or re-exported to other markets.
Germany plays a major role in green coffee re-exports in Europe, giving it an important role as a key coffee trade hub in Europe. About 36% of the total EU intra-trade exports were re-exported by Germany alone, amounting to 175 thousand tonnes in 2020. German intra-EU coffee exports increased on average by 1.0% between 2016 and 2020. The main destinations for Germany’s green coffee re-exports in 2020 were Poland (88 thousand tonnes), France (21 thousand tonnes), the Czech Republic (16 thousand tonnes) and the Netherlands (12 thousand tonnes).
Germany has the largest coffee-roasting industry in Europe; roasted coffee is both destined for local demand as well as for export. Examples of some large-scale coffee roasters in Germany include Melitta and Tchibo. In 2020, Germany was the second-largest roasted coffee exporter in Europe (after Italy) with exports amounting to 235 thousand tonnes. The main destination markets for roasted coffee were Poland (34 thousand tonnes), the Netherlands (28 thousand tonnes) and France (20 thousand tonnes).
German per capita coffee consumption is not among Europe’s highest, but at an average 5.5 kg per year it still sits above the European average of 5 kg. The market for specialty and high-quality coffee in Germany provides especially interesting opportunities for exporters that fit into this segment. Germany has the second-largest branded coffee-shop market in Europe, only after the United Kingdom, while it is Europe’s largest market for shops specifically focused on coffee. Besides, Germany is Europe’s largest market for organic produce, providing interesting opportunities for the export of organic-certified coffees. Note, however, that in Germany you will also find the most competitive organic coffee market in Europe.
Italy has a strong coffee-roasting industry
Italy is the second-largest importer of green coffee beans in Europe, only surpassed by Germany. In 2020, Italian green coffee bean imports reached a volume of 565 thousand tonnes. Italian imports declined slightly at an average annual rate of -0.3% between 2016 and 2020.
About 98% of Italian imports are sourced directly from coffee producing countries. The main suppliers of green coffee to Italy are Brazil (166 thousand tonnes), followed by Vietnam (133 thousand tonnes) and Uganda (76 thousand tonnes). In general, Italy imports a relatively large share of Robusta varieties, which are used as a basis for espresso blends. Green coffee beans are mainly imported into Italy via the Port of Trieste and the Ports of Genoa.
Almost all of Italy’s green coffee imports remain in the country and are used by the very strong Italian coffee-roasting industry. Large Italian roasters, such as Lavazza, Segafredo and Illy, export substantial amounts of Italian coffee blends to destinations all over Europe and the United States. This creates an important demand for green coffee from coffee producers worldwide.
Italy was Europe’s largest roasted coffee exporter in 2020. Italy’s roasted coffee exports in 2020 amounted to 236 thousand tonnes. The country’s roasted coffee export volumes increased at an average annual rate of 5.0% between 2016 and 2020.
Italy is also a large consumer market. Coffee is an integral part of culture in Italy, where each person consumes an average of 5.9 kg of coffee a year. The specialty coffee market in Italy is only slowly taking off, as Italy has only an estimated 100 specialty coffee shops (serving high-quality and unique coffees) compared to almost 150 thousand coffee bars. Despite being a small niche market, the fact that Italy is slowly welcoming more specialised coffee roasters and shops might bring interesting opportunities for high-quality coffees from special origins and with unique stories.
Belgium as a trade hub for coffee in Europe
Belgium is Europe’s third-largest green coffee importer. It accounted for 10% of all direct green coffee imports in Europe in 2020. A share of 96% of the country’s green coffee imports was sourced directly from producing countries in 2020, amounting to 301 thousand tonnes.
Brazil was the largest supplier of green coffee to Belgium, with 84 thousand tonnes in 2020. Vietnam ranked as the second-largest supplier with supplies reaching 61 thousand tonnes, followed by Honduras with 38 thousand tonnes of green coffee. Overall direct green coffee imports by Belgium increased at an average annual rate of 1.0% in volume between 2016 and 2020.
Belgium is one of the main trade hubs for coffee in Europe. Over 77% of its imports are re-exported, amounting to 243 thousand tonnes of green coffee re-exports in 2020. This makes Belgium the largest re-exporter of Europe, with a share of 33% of total European green coffee re-exports.
The main export destinations of Belgium are its direct neighbours, with the Netherlands accounting for about 56% of re-exports in 2020. Large-scale and specialised Dutch coffee importers often use Belgian ports for their operations. Other re-exports were directed to France (25%), Germany (4.2%) and Spain (3.7%).
Belgium’s important role as an importer and re-exporter of coffee is largely due to the storage capacity of the Port of Antwerp. It is the largest storage site for coffee in the world, allowing for more than 250 thousand tonnes of coffee to be stored at a time. The port of Zeebrugge is another entry point for coffee, offering large temperature-controlled storage facilities and a distribution platform for green coffee throughout Europe by rail, road and sea.
In early 2021, both ports agreed on a merger, which will further strengthen the position of Belgium as a key trade hub for coffee in Europe. Belgium will thus remain one of the most important destinations for coffee exporters wanting to enter Belgium or other target markets in Europe. Once completed, the ports will operate under the name ‘Port of Antwerp-Bruges’.
Eastern Europe gaining importance as a green coffee destination
Eastern European countries show significant potential as markets for coffee exporters. Consumption in Eastern Europe is still well below Western Europe, but a shift in coffee consumption is noticeable. This is particularly the case in Poland, where the number of specialty coffee shops is on the rise. Specialty coffee is also gaining traction in other markets in the region, such as Russia, Romania and Bulgaria, which illustrates the growing interest of Eastern European consumers in coffee quality and variety.
The region represents a relatively small share of total European coffee imports. The Eastern European countries Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia together sourced 6.5% of all European green coffee imports in 2020. Overall, Eastern European green coffee imports increased at an average annual rate of 3.3% between 2016 and 2020.
Poland is the largest importer of green coffee in Eastern Europe, and Europe’s ninth largest. In 2020, Poland imported 3.6% of all European imports, amounting to 128 thousand tonnes of green coffee. Poland registered year-to-year growth of 5.7% between 2016 and 2020. In 2020, Poland imported 65% of its green coffee directly from origin. The largest suppliers to Poland were Vietnam (35%), Brazil (18%) and Uganda (2.6%). About 31% of Polish coffee imports came from Germany.
The second-largest importer was Bulgaria, importing an estimated 30 thousand tonnes of green coffee in 2020, about 0.8% of total European imports. That year, about 79% of Bulgarian coffee imports was sourced directly from origin countries, mainly Vietnam (27%) and Brazil (22%).
Note that, compared to Western Europe, several countries in Eastern Europe import proportionally less green coffee directly from producing countries. For instance, the Czech Republic only sourced 16% of its imports directly from origin. This is mainly so because of the strong infrastructure and importing facility in neighbouring ports, such as the Port of Hamburg. For small and medium-sized roasters in Eastern Europe, it is often less risky and more cost-effective to source from specialised importers that use these ports. In addition, the main players on the Eastern European market are large multinationals that usually import through one point, roast in large-scale facilities and distribute coffee throughout Europe.
However, as roasters in Eastern Europe gain scale, it is expected that they may also gain autonomy in terms of sourcing directly from producing countries. In the long term, these countries may also develop further and upscale their infrastructure to be able to import directly.
Eastern European countries that do source most of their green coffee imports directly from origin include Bulgaria (79% of total imports), Slovenia (97%) and Romania (78%). Vietnam is the main supplier to Bulgaria, illustrating the focus on Robusta to serve the country’s large demand for instant coffee. Most supplies to Romania were sourced from Brazil with a share of approximately 19% in 2020, followed by Vietnam with 16%. Slovenia sourced its largest supplies from Brazil with a share of approximately 51% in 2020, followed by India with an estimated 20% of supplies.
Other interesting European destinations
Spain, Switzerland and France are other interesting markets for exporters in Europe. They combine a large consumer market with a high share of Europe’s direct imports from producing countries: Spain has a share of 8.4% of total European direct imports in 2020, followed by Switzerland with 5.8% and France with 5.1%. Vietnam is the largest green coffee supplier to Spain, while Switzerland and France import their largest share from Brazil.
In terms of per capita consumption, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark also have interesting potential, since they have the highest per capita consumption in Europe. Note, however, that absolute consumption is not necessarily very high, due to a relatively low number of inhabitants in these countries. In terms of quality, North-Western European markets have more penetration of high-quality coffee than Eastern and Southern Europe, where volumes are higher, but coffee quality is usually lower. The market for certified coffees also tends to be larger in North-Western European markets than in Eastern and Southern Europe.
- Refer to our country studies for more specific information about a certain market. For instance, access our factsheets on Germany, Italy, Belgium, Eastern Europe, France, the Netherlands, Russia, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom.
- See the websites of the national coffee associations for more information about the coffee (roasting/trading) industry in these specific countries. For instance, have a look at the sector association in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, or Italy.
- In your target market, check out the websites of big and small coffee roasters and importers. Their company websites will provide some initial information on where they buy their coffee and what kind of quality they look for. For instance, see the website of the Dutch trading company This Side Up and French importer Belco to read more about their coffee suppliers’ profiles.
- Visit European trade fairs to find potential business partners. Important coffee trade fairs in Europe include SCA World of Coffee (focus on specialty coffee, once a year in a different European city) and COTECA (fair for coffee, tea and cocoa in Germany, held every two years). Other important trade fairs include Anuga (every two years in Germany), SIAL (every two years in France) and Biofach (once a year in Germany, only for organic produce).
- Check the European Coffee Trip website to find examples of specialised coffee shops and small-scale roasters active in the specialty niche market in Europe.
- Have a look at our study with Tips for Finding Buyers, for more practical recommendations on how to increase your chances of finding buyers on the European coffee market.
3. Which market segments in the European market have most potential for suppliers in developing countries?
The coffee market is highly competitive, especially in the mainstream segment. However, opportunities in the specialty market are growing, as an increasing number of European consumers is prepared to pay higher prices for high-quality coffees. Consumers in Europe are also increasingly demanding sustainably produced coffee. The industry has tried to meet this market demand by adopting various sustainability standards, in part through certification schemes. As such, especially in the mainstream market, certification has become a market entry requirement. Do note, however, that its importance is also growing in specific smaller markets, such as specialty coffee.
The European market for specialty coffee is growing
While the mainstream market grows with tighter margins and cheaper products, the consumption of high-quality and specialty coffees is also growing at a fast pace in Europe. The market for specialty coffee offers opportunities for suppliers offering high-quality coffees. This specialty segment is a small niche, which commands high quality and high value.
All European markets have been showing growing demand for specialty coffee, although the size of the segment is most pronounced in North-Western Europe. This area is marked by higher income levels and consumer awareness, as well as a more developed coffee culture than the rest of Europe.
As written above, the increasing interest in specialty coffee is reflected in the growing number of coffee bars and chains, small roasters, small local brands, and baristas. Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many cafés had to temporarily stop their operations, leading to a 30% decline in coffee shop sales in 2020 throughout Europe. In general, the larger coffee chains and shops have proven to be more resilient to the crises, tapping into their resources to stay afloat, whereas smaller businesses proved to be especially vulnerable.
As a result, despite numerous shop closures, the European branded coffee shop market still registered growth. The market grew by 0.9% to over 39 thousand outlets in 2020. Not all these branded coffee shops will serve specialty coffees, though several will work with coffees with cupping scores of 80 and above. When these branded shops have grown significantly in size, they may start sourcing their green beans directly from producers, often still leaning on their former supplier (which is usually an importer) for logistical services.
Another effect of the global health crises is that especially coffees scoring less than 84 points registered an increase in sales over 2020, whereas the higher-quality coffees scoring 84 points and above registered a decline in sales. Despite the disruptive short-term impact of the crisis and the registered shift of buyers to lower-grade specialty coffees in 2020, it is expected that the European specialty market (also for the higher graded 84+ coffees) will show a positive outlook for the long term. This is especially so as there is a strong belief that consumers wanting to consume high-quality single origin coffees with unique taste profiles will continue to want those same coffees, despite the effects of COVID-19.
Refer to our study on specialty coffees to investigate which countries specifically stand out in the European specialty coffee market and could be an interesting match for your coffee produce. Note that specific Europe-wide data on the consumption of specialty coffee is not available, partly because there is no industry consensus on a clear-cut definition of specialty coffee.
Europe is the world’s largest market for certified coffees
Europe is the most important market for certified coffee in the world. Certification schemes play a very important role as they mirror the growing consumer awareness and changing industry profile towards sustainability. The main independent certification schemes in the coffee consumer market are Fairtrade, organic and Rainforest Alliance/UTZ. Note that the importance of each certification scheme in Europe varies significantly from country to country.
Rainforest Alliance/UTZ markets
The integration of UTZ and Rainforest Alliance under a single organisation has resulted in very large market coverage in Europe. Although both standards merged in 2018, mutual recognition for coffee was only formalised in July 2020. As such, certification data for each scheme are given separately.
Rainforest Alliance/UTZ-certified coffee is mainly sold in high volumes to mainstream markets in Europe. Between 2015 and 2019, UTZ-certified global coffee sales increased by 14%, mainly as a result of increasing demand by European retailers and specialty brands in Europe and North America. Italy and Finland showed the highest increase of UTZ-certified coffee supply chain actors in recent years.
UTZ-certified coffee products are widely available in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and the Nordic markets. In these countries, many retailers, such as Ahold, Aldi, Ikea, Jumbo, Kaufland and Lidl, as well as coffee roasters and brands, such as JDE Peet’s, Lavazza, Paulig and Tchibo, offer their own private label products certified with the UTZ-standard.
Between 2018 and 2019, Rainforest Alliance-certified Arabica sales increased by 20%, while Robusta sales increased by 12%. These increases are mainly a result of increasing demand from Latin America and Europe. The largest markets for Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee products in Europe can be found in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and France. A well-known and popular coffee brand in Europe that is certified with the Rainforest Alliance-label is Nespresso. Large European retailers also work with Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee, such as the German Kaufland, Lidl and REWE, the British ASDA, and large roasters like Lavazza.
European markets for organic coffee
The European organic market is the second-largest single organic market, only after the United States. European organic retail sales reached €45 billion in 2019. The interest in organic coffee follows the general organic market trend in a country. That means that interesting markets for organic coffee particularly include the largest organic markets in Europe: Germany (with a market share of 27% of the total European organic market in 2019), France (25%) and Italy (8.0%).
Following the organic market trend, it is likely that the demand for organic coffee in Europe will continue to increase. After all, the entire European market for organic retail sales continues to increase, at an average annual increase of 11% between 2015 and 2019. The COVID-19 crisis has further driven up demand for organic food and beverages, as organics are considered healthier and safer than conventional products.
Total green coffee imports by the European Union (EU27) in 2020 amounted to 3.1 million tonnes. Organic coffee imports by the EU that year reached 131 thousand tonnes, or 4.3% of total green coffee imports. This percentage shows that the organic coffee market is still a niche segment in Europe. Nevertheless, the market registers growth, as organic coffee imports by the EU increased by 6.7% between 2019 and 2020.
The United Kingdom is the largest Fairtrade market, with overall Fairtrade retail sales of over €1.8 billion in 2018. The UK is also the leading market for Fairtrade-certified coffee. Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer are examples of British retailers that converted their entire private label coffee lines to 100% Fairtrade. Greggs, the largest bakery chain in the United Kingdom, drove up growth of Fairtrade coffee sales in the out-of-home segment in the UK.
Germany is also a major Fairtrade market in Europe. About 5% of total German coffee sales were Fairtrade-certified in 2019. The total number of Fairtrade coffee products sold through retail channels and by the out-of-home segment in Germany reached about 350 products in 2019.
Switzerland is also a relatively large market for Fairtrade products, with retail sales reaching €817 million in 2018. Overall Fairtrade sales in Switzerland grew by 13% between 2017 and 2018. The Fairtrade share of coffee products in Switzerland reached an estimated 11% of the total market, amounting to the use of 7.6 thousand tonnes of Fairtrade-certified green coffee in 2019. Switzerland also registered Europe’s highest per capita consumption of Fairtrade products, with over €95 per person spent in 2018.
The fastest-growing markets for Fairtrade coffee are Ireland, Finland and Denmark, which grew at average annual rates of 36%, 35% and 25% respectively between 2016 and 2017. In Ireland, for instance, the growth of Fairtrade coffee sales is driven by the fact that the country’s leading coffee and tea company Bewley’s has committed to only sell Fairtrade-sourced coffee beans since 2017. Also, large coffee chains Insomnia and Starbucks are important contributors to the growing Fairtrade sales in the country.
The global volume of Fairtrade-certified coffee reached 207 thousand tonnes in 2018. Between 2015 and 2018, sales volumes increased at an average annual rate of 5.0%. The largest suppliers of Fairtrade-certified coffee are Peru (26% of total sales in 2018), Honduras (17%) and Colombia (15%). An estimated 28% of the total Fairtrade-certified coffee production is sold under the label.
Growing market for Fairtrade and organic-certified coffees in Europe
European coffee consumers are particularly interested in the origin of their product. They are looking for coffees that are ethically sourced, both from a social and ecological point of view. As a result, the combination of Fairtrade and organic is gaining popularity in consumer markets across Europe. Between 2015 and 2019, the global sales volume of green coffee that was certified by both standards marked a year-to-year growth of 5.5%, amounting to 131 thousand tonnes in 2019. The popularity of this double certification is expected to continue to grow.
In Germany an estimated 23 thousand tonnes of Fairtrade coffee was sold in 2019, of which approximately 77% was also certified as organic. To compare, in 2014, sales of Fairtrade-certified coffee reached almost 17 thousand tonnes, of which about 66% was organic-certified. Popular German brands with a line of Fairtrade and organic coffees include GEPA, Kaffa from Original Food and Rapunzel.
European retailers also increasingly offer private label coffees which are both organic and Fairtrade certified. Examples include ALDI’s Barissimo line and Waitrose’s No.1 line coffees. Swiss retailers also increasingly offer private label products which are both organic and Fairtrade certified. Leading Swiss retailer Coop has about 25 private label brands, of which Naturaplan is the most relevant for organic coffees. Coop’s Naturaplan coffee capsules are an example of a Swiss private label product holding both organic and Fairtrade certification.
- Access our studies to learn more about the specialty coffee sector in Europe, the European market for certified coffees and the organic coffee potential on the European market.
- Find importers from specific European markets that specialise in organic products on the website of Organic-bio.
- If you produce coffee according to a Fairtrade scheme, find specialised European buyers who are familiar with sustainable and/or fair trade products, for instance by using the FLOCERT customer database.
- Promote the sustainable and ethical aspects of your production process and support these claims with certification. See our study on doing business with European coffee buyers for more tips on marketing and promoting your coffee.
- Before engaging in a certification scheme, verify with your potential buyers whether certification is required and whether it provides you with a competitive advantage over other suppliers to the European market. This is important, as a relatively large share of certified coffee worldwide is not sold as such.
- Inform yourself about the costs involved to certify your company. Direct costs include those necessary to comply with the certification standard, as well as the fee paid to a certifying body to obtain the certificate for your farm or company. If you are new to certification, get price quotations from different control bodies in your region and negotiate with these (private) companies to get the best deal.
- Are you interested in exporting high-quality coffee? Learn more about cupping scores on the website of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). You can also consider getting a Q-grader or R-grader certificate to be able to cup and score your Arabica and/or Robusta coffee according to international standards.
- Investigate whether you qualify for industry awards, such as the Cup of Excellence programme. This can be an interesting way to profile yourself and your coffee origin in the European market for high-quality coffee. The Cup of Excellence is an annual competition among the highest-quality coffees, which takes place in several countries.