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Which trends offer opportunities or risks in the European coffee market?

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The European coffee market is mature, but constantly evolving. Specialty coffees, single-serve methods and ready-to-drink coffees are growing in popularity. Sustainability remains a top priority for industry stakeholders. Buyers and retailers often use certification to promote their sustainability efforts. 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. At the same time, increasing involvement of multinational companies in mainstream coffee trading and roasting further consolidates the market, putting pressure on prices along the entire chain.

1. European coffee consumers more knowledgeable and demanding

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.

At origin

On the production side, producers are learning more about the profile of buyers. In addition, a slow rise in expertise about coffee quality and quality assessment has led to the establishment of more cupping labs at cooperatives, where farmers evaluate and learn to appreciate the different aspects of coffee quality according to international standards.

Examples of coffee cooperatives with integrated cupping labs and internationally trained cuppers are Cooperative Muungano (DR Congo), AsproUnión (Colombia), Koakaka (Rwanda) and Koperasi Arisarina (Indonesia). In some cases, national cupping schools have been established, for instance by IHCAFE (the Honduran Coffee Institute) and ANACAFE (Guatemala).

Tips:

  • Keep yourself informed on the different trends, developments and waves of the European coffee market. This can help profile your products and business in a more targeted way. Look for information on the websites Perfect Daily Grind, Daily Coffee News, World Coffee Portal, Specialty Coffee Association: News, Bar Talks and Comunicaffe International.
  • Check out these coffee tasting exercises to start learning how to taste coffee and eventually consider the possibility of becoming a Q-grader (for Arabica) or R-grader (for Robusta). Refer to the Coffee Quality Institute to see if any cupping projects or activities have been developed in your region.
  • Becoming a Q-grader or R-grader could be expensive, so consider also earning a professional tasting certificate provided by local institutions, such as the coffee quality and tasting programmes offered by national institutes of professional training in Honduras (INFOP) or Colombia (SENA).
  • Develop and promote your unique selling points as a supplier of (specialty) coffee. Think about what sets you apart from your competitors and create your marketing story around it. It can be related to the origin of your coffee, for example, the agro-climatic characteristics of the producing region, the culture of the producing communities or the unique quality of your products, such as your cupping score, or a combination of these.

2. Convenience drives growth of European single-serve and ready-to-drink coffee market

European demand for single-serve coffee, such as coffee pods and capsules, has been growing strongly for the past 10 years. The European coffee pods and capsules market is expected to grow further at an average annual rate of 6.8% until 2026. This growth is influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led consumers to buy more and more coffee to be consumed at home, due to the closure of cafés, restaurants, offices, etc. and increased popularity of the home office.

Large industry players continue to invest in their single-serve coffees. For instance, in mid-2020, Nespresso announced it will invest about €145 million to increase production of their coffee capsules in Switzerland. JDE Peet’s announced in late 2020 that it would increase their coffee capsule production in France by 60%, to meet increased global demand for at-home coffee products during and after the pandemic.

Especially in Northern and Western Europe, retailers keep expanding their assortments of single-serve methods. The ease-of-use of these products, their strong marketing, and the wide variety of flavours available have contributed to their popularity. The European market of pods and capsules is dominated by Nespresso, Starbucks, Lavazza and JDE Peets.

One important trend within the single-serve market is the introduction of specialty coffee capsules. This is still a very small market but is growing rapidly, with more and more roasters including an offering of coffee capsules in their assortment. Examples of companies offering specialty coffee capsules are the British Difference Coffee, Halo, Hayman and Colonna, the Dutch Bocca Roasters and Coffee Company and Belgium’s Caffènation.

The growing popularity of specialty coffee capsules brings interesting opportunities for specialty coffee exporters, as it helps popularising specialty coffees of different origins and flavours. Nespresso has also joined this trend by launching the Reviving Origins programme, aimed at bringing back lost coffee origins. Origins in their assortment include Colombia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, DR Congo and Cuba.

The single-serve market has a major downside as well, which is the negative environmental impact of coffee capsules. In response, the industry has introduced recyclable and compostable solutions and alternatives. Today there are many environmentally friendly solutions found on the market, such as the compostable coffee capsules of Dualit and the biobased capsules from Dutch roaster Peeze.

Still a niche market, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffees form one of the fastest growing market segments in Europe. The market is expected to grow by 4.8% between 2021 and 2026. The convenience of RTD coffees and their perceived health aspects drive this trend, as RTD coffee is presented as an alternative to sodas. Cold brew coffees and nitrogen brew coffees are examples of RTD coffees. Coca-Cola is the largest player in the RTD sector, followed by Starbucks (distributed by PepsiCo) and Nestlé.

Tips:

  • As an exporter of large quantities of standard quality coffees, identify European roasters that manufacture private-label packaging, single origins, coffee blends, ready-to-drink products (RTD), pods, capsules or importers that supply to these roasters, and approach them to sell your green coffee directly. Bear in mind that many single-serve manufacturers use mostly bulk coffee, often certified by Rainforest Alliance/UTZ.
  • Read our study on how to find buyers in the European coffee market for more information.

3. Specialty coffee is a growing segment in the European market

The majority of European consumers still buy cheap mainstream coffee, usually in the form of standard blends, ground-for-filter or capsules and pods. However, a growing number of consumers in Europe is willing to pay more for high-quality coffees. Some consumers are also willing to pay more for coffees with a good story related to origin, highlighting environmental, social aspects and other sustainability topics.

There is no exact definition of specialty coffee. Generally, it is related to cupping scores, which reflect how coffee was evaluated during coffee cupping. There are different protocols you can use to score a coffee, such as the one developed by the Specialty Coffee Association. For some, coffees with a cupping score of 80 and above qualifies as a specialty coffee, while for others it has to have at least some certification or a cupping score of at least 85.

Although precise market data do not exist, certain developments in the specialty market stand out:

  • Signature blends: These are carefully selected coffees from various origins, which reach unique taste palettes. They cater for specific consumer tastes, communicating balance and quality. Examples include various blends by Coffee Masters (United Kingdom), Taf (Greece) and Flying Roasters (Germany).
  • Single origin: Coffee origins have received attention from industry and consumers for years now. Single origin is associated with high quality and uniqueness from a certain region or country. Growers from Ethiopia, for example, rely on the uniqueness of this origin, which is considered to be the birthplace of coffee. Peruvian producers also promote their coffees’ unique origin, with their national coffee brand Cafés del Peru, which was launched in 2019. Other examples of single origins are: Jamaican Blue Mountain, Hawaii Kona, Kenya AA and Guatemala Antigua.
  • Single farm or estate: Coffee sourced from one single farm is called single farm or single estate. Examples include Tanzanian Kifaru Coffee and the Salvadorian Finca el Cerro.
  • Micro lots and nano lots: The specialty coffee market has also led to an increase in micro and nano lots. These lots consist of extremely high-quality coffee beans, which are sold for very high prices. Micro lots usually consist of 10 to 75 bags. Nano lots are even smaller, consisting of less than five bags of coffee conferring an even more exclusive quality. Micro and nano lots are allowing for more direct relations between producers and smaller buyers, such as specialised traders and small-scale roasters. This opens up an interesting opportunity for top-quality and value-added coffees. However, volumes are low, the costs for preparing these lots for export and the logistical expenses are high. Micro and nano lot coffees usually do not represent the core business of a coffee producer but may primarily boost the producer’s reputation of having the skills to produce interesting varieties and processing.

Growing specialty market

The fact that large trading companies are expanding their portfolio with specialty coffees shows how the segment is gaining importance. InterAmerican Coffee, owned by Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, was one of the first large players to set up a division dedicated to sourcing specialty coffees. Other more recent examples include Olam Specialty Coffee, Volcafé Specialty, Rehm & Co (owned by Benecke Coffee) and Sucafina Specialty.

Although mainstream coffee actors increasingly engage in the specialty market, there is also a large number of specialised independent trading companies in Europe. These companies are focused on importing small volumes of high-quality or single origin coffees, for which they pay interesting premiums. Examples include Coffee Quest, Trabocca, This Side Up (the Netherlands), Belco (France), Falcon Coffees (United Kingdom) and Nordic Approach (Norway).

The increasing interest in specialty coffee is also reflected in the growing number of coffee bars, small roasters, small local brands and baristas in Europe. The specialty segment has been hit hard in 2020 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the closure of many specialised coffee shops and bars. Especially the higher-end segment suffered, registering lower demand than in previous years.

Nevertheless, the interest in high-quality coffees across Europe is embedded in consumer preferences and is here to stay. In fact, due to a growth in e-commerce and the consumption of higher-quality coffees at home during the global pandemic, the interest in unique and high-quality coffees may see further growth in the near future. Also, supermarkets are increasingly looking at specialty coffee, offering lighter roasts and starting up collaboration with local roasters, such as Lidl in Ireland.

Fine Robusta

Most specialty coffees are Arabica cultivars, of which Typica and Bourbon are the most widely known. High-quality Robusta (or: Fine Robusta) is not yet widely available. However, there have been increased industry efforts to also create a common language for Robusta quality. As a result, it is now possible to become an R-grader, a cupper specialised in Fine Robusta coffees. Also, updated Q Fine Robusta Standards and Protocols were published in 2019, as well as a Robusta Green-Grading Handbook.

These efforts are the result of a growing interest in Robusta varieties in the specialty coffee market. Some European coffee shops and roasters already focus on Fine Robustas. For instance, the Swiss micro-roaster Röstlabor offers single-origin Robustas from countries like Mexico and Thailand, alongside specialty Arabicas. Another example is Black Sheep Coffee in the United Kingdom, which serves single-estate specialty grade Robusta from India.

The growing demand and the current limited supply of high-quality Robusta coffees offers interesting opportunities for exporters which are able to provide a constant supply of fine Robusta coffees. Consider also growing organic Robusta, for which demand is also growing. Examples of Fine Robusta exporters include Beanspire Coffee (Thailand) and Macenta Beans (Guinea).

Tips:

  • Read our study on the specialty coffee market in Europe to learn more about trends and market opportunities for coffee exporters.
  • Investigate new varieties that can be propagated in your farm or cooperative, as well as different ways of processing coffee. This may increase revenue, but more importantly, it will increase your reputation as a specialty coffee producer. If interested in your micro and nano lots, importers may also purchase your mainstream coffee to fill up the container.
  • Learn more about coffee cupping and cupping scores on the website of the Specialty Coffee Association. Consider obtaining a Q-grader certificate to be able to cup and score your Arabica coffee according to international standards of aroma and taste. If relevant, explore opportunities to become a R Robusta grader as well.
  • Provide correct documentation, such as a detailed cupping result report and full description profiles of your coffees. Buyers expect proof of the grading process and the final cupping score of your coffee. Being able to indicate the coffee’s variety, altitude, fragrance, aftertaste, balance, sweetness and uniformity will be important in conveying to your potential buyer that you know what coffee you have. The exact minimum scores differ per country and buyer but usually ranges between 80 and 100. However, some buyers might consider 80 too low and demand a cupping score of 85 or higher. Note that buyers will cup and re-grade your coffee.
  • Investigate opportunities in high-quality micro or nano lots. Read this article on how to limit risk and improve quality on your micro lot.
  • Refer to the Cup of Excellence platform to connect with other industry players and potential buyers.
  • Use the website of the Specialty Coffee Association to find news, events and resources related to specialty coffee in Europe and North America.

4. Certified coffee market continues to grow, but requires caution

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.

Certification standards are often part of the sustainability strategy and minimum requirements of European traders, coffee roasters and retailers. Many European retailers, for instance, have committed to only sourcing certified coffee for their private-label brands. An example is that all private label coffees from Lidl (Germany) must be Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance/UTZ and/or certified as organic. Another example is Coop (Switzerland), which requires all coffee products in their assortment to be either certified with Fairtrade standard Max Havelaar or 4C.

As certification has become essential for medium and large European coffee companies, it is increasingly difficult for non-certified suppliers to access the European market. However, small coffee roasters in the specialty segment are more interested in building trust with suppliers, doing so increasingly by direct sourcing and less so through third-party certification.

Although the market for certified coffees is growing, there is more certified coffee on the market than is sold as certified. According to the Coffee Barometer 2020, about 55% of global coffee production is certified, while only 25% of total coffee production is purchased as certified by the industry worldwide. This means that not every producer or exporter will be able to sell their certified coffee at a premium price, possibly putting them at financial risk.

Certification standards in coffee

The major certification schemes in coffee are: Fairtrade, organic, Rainforest Alliance/UTZ and 4C. Rainforest Alliance/UTZ has large-scale operations, reaching mainstream markets in Europe. As of July 2020, Rainforest Alliance offers mutual recognition options for coffee. This means that companies at the end of the supply chain will be able to source UTZ and/or Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee and then use either the Rainforest or the UTZ label on their product. 4C, which stands for Common Code for the Coffee Community, also serves the mainstream market.

Organic and Fairtrade certifications have entered the mainstream markets but can still be considered niche markets. Fairtrade launched its first living-income reference prices, specific for Colombian coffee, in mid-2021. Besides Fairtrade’s mandatory minimum prices and fixed premiums for coffee purchases, the living-income reference price is voluntary. Living-income prices reflect the prices required for coffee farmers in Colombia to have a decent standard of living.

To read more about the size of these certification schemes and their importance in different European countries, refer to our study on the demand for coffee on the European market.

Smaller certification schemes for niche markets also gain more visibility in Europe, addressing issues such as biodiversity. An example is Bird Friendly Coffee, which is currently mostly available in the United Kingdom and France. Other examples include Demeter (biodynamic), Símbolo de Pequeños Productores (SPP) (smallholder), CU Fair Choice and Fair for Life (social and fair-trade standards, but not as popular as Fairtrade).

Tips:

  • Refer to the Sustainability Map of the International Trade Centre for more information on trends, figures and developments in this market, including an overview of certification schemes.
  • Refer to our study on exporting certified coffees to the European market to learn more about market opportunities in Europe. For specific information about organic coffee, access our study on Exporting organic coffee to the European market.
  • Consider showing the sustainable and ethical aspects of your coffee production with certification standards. However, be aware that there is currently more certified coffee in the market than actually sold. This means it could be difficult to bring your certified coffee to a market. Therefore, before engaging in any certification schemes, always verify whether there is sufficient demand in your target market or with the buyers you already know.
  • Consider the costs involved in the certification process. You can do so by making a detailed production cost calculation with and without the certification expense, using various scenarios with different volumes of certified coffee sales to calculate the possible extra profit with each additional certified container sold. Check this article by Caravela on how to estimate production costs on your farm. Usually, in the beginning, you may not sell a lot of certified coffee; sales evolve over time as you increase your portfolio of certified buyers.
  • Consider that certification is not just there for profit, but also to help you improve yields by producing more efficiently, more sustainably and producing higher-quality coffee, thanks to better agricultural practices.
  • See the Coffee Barometer 2020 for more information about the developments of certifications in the European coffee market.

5. Increased direct trade between small roasters and producers

Growth in certification also reflects the growing demand in Europe for transparency and traceability of food products, including coffee. Importers, roasters and retailers are now required to have traceability systems in place to record the path and the history of a product and to monitor the processes it goes through along the supply chain.

In recent years, several large importers, roasters and retailers have developed their own sustainable sourcing programmes to meet the demand for traceability. These programmes are either additions to existing certification schemes or bypass them altogether by moving towards a direct trade, responsible sourcing model. Examples of sustainable sourcing programmes from European roasters include Jacobs Douwe Egberts' (Supplier) Code of Conduct, Nespresso’s AAA Sustainable Quality Program and Lavazza’s Sustainability programme.

The demand for greater transparency in the coffee chain has strengthened the links between coffee producers and roasters. More and more coffee roasters, shops and sustainability-minded brands try to form more direct links with farmers, coops and associations, also meeting the consumers’ demand to be more closely connected to the source. Although this is a very small fraction of the direct trade market, it is growing in importance. There is a growing number of actors and digital tools that aim to bridge the gap between specialty coffee roasters and coffee producers, for instance the digital marketplace Algrano.

Many of the roasters engaged in direct sourcing are located in western and northern Europe, where the concept of direct sourcing appeals most to consumers. Examples of small roasters with direct links to origin are Carrow Coffee Roasters (Ireland), Clever Coffee (Denmark), Wakuli and Bacano (the Netherlands), Horsham Coffee Roasters (the United Kingdom). Examples of cooperatives exporting their coffee to specialised roasters are Muungano Cooperative (DR Congo) and Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (Ethiopia).

There has been pushback against direct trade, arguing that it might have led to self-enforced, self-regulated and firm-led schemes, because it lacks any form of outside control or validation. For exporters, engaging with reliable and ethical buyers will make the difference. Commitments that do not have a solid foundation or schemes that are not validated by the market will create risk for the supplier.

Tips:

  • Invest in long-term relationships. This will help you manage market risks, improve the quality of your products and reach a fair quality-price balance.
  • Trust between a buyer and a supplier should be mutual, and commitments such as advance and premium payments should be well documented.
  • Keep your loyalty and commitment to long-term partners. Resist changing to a new buyer for quick profit, with no sustainable prospects. You may need the previous buyer in the future, and they may not appreciate such hasty behaviour.
  • Make sure communication with your buyers is fluid. European buyers normally expect emails, for example, to be answered within two days with detailed information. Buyers strongly appreciate a proactive attitude, so inform your buyers of any possible or foreseen issues and what you can do to avoid or solve problems.
  • Make sure you are in control of your supply chain. Know your producers and stand out from your competitors by telling your story. This approach makes it easier for you to focus on a niche, specialty market, which increases your chances of obtaining a better price for your coffee.
  • Explore online trading sites like Algrano, Beyco, Almacena Platform and Cropster to connect to roasters in Europe and elsewhere.
  • Read CBI’s new study on Tips to go digital in the coffee sector.
  • Read CBI’s study on finding buyers for coffee and doing business in Europe.

6. Blockchain is gaining ground as a tool to increase transparency and traceability

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 that also supports cryptocurrencies. 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.

By bringing together information about end-users and producers, blockchain has the capacity to create and strengthen relationships. It enables roasters to make safe claims of direct trade, while producers can invest in connecting with buyers and improving access to farms by providing information about the size and availability of harvests. Some see the accessibility of blockchain, especially in more rural areas, as well as the education about blockchain’s benefits as major challenges for the successful adoption of blockchain.

Examples of the use of blockchain technology in the coffee industry include Trace from Fairfood, which is used by Dutch importer Trabocca. Another example is Farmer Connect. This platform, launched in 2020, aims to improve traceability in the global coffee supply chain. It has big industry partners on board, such as Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Sucafina and Colombia’s National Federation of Coffee Growers. Farmer Connect also targets consumers with an app called Thank My Farmer. The app iFinca is another example, which connects consumers and farmers, and verifies farmgate prices.

Another implementation of blockchain is the green coffee trading platform Beyco (launched by Progresso in 2018), which offers direct connections between potential buyers and sellers, using blockchain technology. It also connects social investors with potential clients in producing countries, thus helping both ends find the best match.

Tips:

  • Learn more about traceability along the coffee supply chain in the UNIDO manual Traceability in the Green Coffee Supply Chain.
  • Read more about the added value of traceability for coffee farmers in this blog from Caravela Coffee.
  • Read more about the application of blockchain technology in the coffee chain and learn about the implications for the industry on the Perfect Daily Grind website.
  • Look into the above blockchain initiatives online and consider listing your organisation to join the buyer-seller community. The Progreso-supported Beyco platform may be suitable for small and medium-sized coffee producers working in specialty coffee.
  • Refer to the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide to get an idea of current market prices for specialty coffee. This guide quantifies anonymous contract and pricing data of importers and roasters, based on quality, quantity, and origin of purchased coffee. The idea behind publishing this data is that transparency can contribute to challenge current pricing mechanisms in the coffee industry.

7. Sustainability initiatives in the coffee sector continue to expand

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. Plant disease outbreaks have also been directly linked to climate change, for example, the outbreak of coffee rust in Central America and the coffee borer beetle pest in Latin America. These issues might make it more difficult for exporters to fulfil contracts according to the agreed terms, as availability of coffee is under pressure. Also, issues around gender inequality, low prices, price volatility and living incomes are also serious concerns from a social sustainability point of view. Child labour also remains an important social challenge in coffee production.

The newly released update of the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Coffee Guide pays special attention to sustainability in coffee. According to the release note, the book builds on collaboration with more than 70 coffee industry actors from across the globe, from seed to cup, to chart a path towards a more sustainable future for the industry.

Private sector initiatives

These concerns result in consumers demanding more sustainable coffees, and it stimulates industry players to take action. As a result, the main multinational coffee companies have developed their own sustainability commitment programmes. Starbucks has its own private standard for quality and sustainable coffee production, which is called Starbucks’ Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices (C.A.F.E. Practices). Nestlé also has its own private guidelines with a similar approach and focus on quality: Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality. Jacobs Douwe Egberts initiated the Supplier Code of Conduct to identify and address priority issues in the coffee supply chain. Retailers cover their sustainability concerns and requirements with their own codes of conduct as well, such as those by REWE (Germany), Ahold Delhaize (Netherlands) and Carrefour (France).

Companies are also directly engaged in projects at origin to improve sustainability matters. For instance, the trading group Neumann Kaffee founded the independent NGO Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung, with which it implements several coffee-based projects to promote a sustainable coffee economy. Roaster Lavazza founded the Lavazza Foundation, which implements sustainability projects to support coffee producing communities worldwide. Smaller and mid-sized industry players are also involved in projects directly at origin. For instance, access the websites of Dutch trader Trabocca or UK trader Falcon to get an idea of the type of projects at origin traders are engaged with.

Global multi-stakeholder initiatives

In addition to the private sector, the number of sustainability initiatives and events in the global coffee sector is increasing. A few examples of multi-stakeholder, sector-wide collaborative sustainability initiatives include:

In common, these programmes do provide a platform for actors in the value chain to share experiences and to create a common understanding of the issues affecting them. They also generate knowledge, tools and policies which can propel the sector towards more sustainable and profitable practices.

European-wide initiatives

There are also developments on a European level. The EU is implementing its so called European Green Deal, which has the aim to make Europe climate neutral by 2050. One of the cornerstones of the Green Deal is the ‘From Farm to Fork’ strategy, which aims to create a healthier and more sustainable food system. As part of this facet, the EU is for instance working on an EU law that requires companies to address human rights and environmental standards within their value chains, including coffee. The European Coffee Federation (ECF) reported that it supports an EU-wide mandatory due diligence approach for companies to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for actual or potential adverse impacts in their own coffee supply chains. The EU is also working on a European due diligence solution to stop EU-driven deforestation, which includes coffee.

Make sure you have a good overview of the opportunities, training modules and support regarding sustainability in your region. There are a lot of local and international initiatives to support farmers with their businesses. For example, you can look into local governmental programmes or sector-related organisations, such as the International Coffee Organization, the European Coffee Federation, the Speciality Coffee Association and PROMECAFE; as well as certification standards, such as FairtradeRainforest Alliance/UTZ; in addition to agricultural institutes or universities in your country or region, such as The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE).

Tips:

8. Increasing consolidation in the mainstream coffee segment

Both the European and the global coffee markets are increasingly consolidating. In an already competitive and saturated market, large-scale players continue engaging in mergers and acquisitions. In 2018, Jacobs Douwe Egberts’ (JDE) holding company JAB Coffee spent about €45 billion on acquisitions. In late 2019, JAB Holdings merged JDE with Peet’s, with more than 21,200 employees worldwide and a revenue of €6.9 billion. In 2020, JDE Peet’s became the first company to exclusively focus on coffee and tea to announce its listing on the Amsterdam stock exchange.

Nestlé spent about €6.2 billion on a deal with Starbucks in 2018 to sell Starbucks-branded coffee products in retail outlets outside the coffee corner chain, thus gaining market share in the United States. In another example, Lavazza allocated €2 billion on acquisitions in the coffee industry, acquiring, for instance, Mars Drinks.

There is also a trend whereby mainstream companies engage further in the specialty market. For instance, Nestlé acquired specialty roaster Blue Bottle in late 2017, while JAB Holdings acquired Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Intelligentsia and JDE Peet’s acquired specialty roaster Campos Coffee in 2021. These large companies increasingly adopt terms common to the specialty market, such as single origin and premium quality, thus appealing to consumers who look for signs of quality. As a result, more and more producers are working under the umbrella of large-scale companies, having to comply with volume, quality, traceability, certification and other requirements established by these buyers.

Another trend that explains acquisitions is the industry’s attempt to expand the consumption options in coffee, for instance, by marketing it as an alternative to sodas. Examples of this movement include the acquisition of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group by Keurig Green Mountain, the partnership between PepsiCo and Starbucks and the acquisition of Costa by Coca-Cola.

In the coffee shop market segment several acquisitions have also occurred. JAB Holdings has acquired major restaurant chains that sell large volumes of coffee, such as the British Pret A Manger in 2018. Starbucks is consolidating its market position by expanding globally. As described above, market consolidation leads to standardised products and requirements, where exporters eventually need to comply with, often pushing those that cannot comply out of the market.

These examples are part of a decade of increased consolidation and many acquisitions in the global coffee sector. Due to the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, this trend took a different path, where many smaller coffee establishments did not survive the global health crisis due to strict and long lockdowns.

Tips:

  • Investigate whether you can follow the standardised qualities, volume requirements and standards required by large-scale roasters or whether your product is more suitable to smaller-scale markets. See our study on finding buyers for coffee for more information on different approaches to the coffee market.
  • Diversify your markets. If you have coffees of different characteristics and of sufficient volumes, you may operate in conventional, certified and high-quality markets. Many importers are keen on purchasing a mix of qualities and certifications because they will be a one-stop-shop to different customers.
  • Constantly research online to understand the factors that influence New York coffee market price fluctuations, such as overproduction, upcoming weather and harvests in Brazil, supermarket wars and hedge funds. Examples of useful sources include the USDA Coffee Reports on the World Market and Trade and ICO’s monthly coffee market reports.
  • Learn more about coffee hedging and global coffee prices on the Perfect Daily Grind website.

This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by ProFound – Advisers In Development.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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