Eastern Europe’s speciality coffee market is catching up

Speciality coffee is the fastest-growing segment in the European coffee market. The main drivers behind this growth are a steady rise in the number of coffee shops and the introduction of unique, high-value coffee varieties. Eastern Europe lagged behind other markets for many years, when coffee consumption in the region was mainly associated with low-quality instant coffees and little consumer awareness. But the market has changed and is quickly catching up with developments in more developed coffee markets.

Expansion of speciality coffee in Eastern Europe

Rising incomes in Eastern Europe and familiarity of the consumer with high-quality coffees have boosted the entry of this region into the speciality coffee market. The growing number of coffee bars, micro-roasters and baristas reflect the expansion of speciality coffee throughout Eastern European countries. Specialised coffee shops and roasters are rapidly emerging in markets across the region, especially in Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.

The arrival of new players into the segment and local coffee events like the Prague and Warsaw Coffee festivals have made speciality coffee more available and visible in Eastern Europe. Europe’s most important speciality coffee event, World of Coffee, will take place in Warsaw in June 2020.

Importance of certification increases

In addition to the growing interest in high-quality coffees, certification is also growing in Eastern Europe. Fairtrade and certified organic products have been expanding in large markets like Poland and the Czech Republic. These developments tend to spill over to specific products, such as coffee. Sales of organic food in Poland surpassed €235 million in 2017. Polish retail sales of fairtrade products exceeded €21 million in 2018, growing 50% from 2017. The Czech Republic and Slovenia imported a combined total of 931 tonnes of fairtrade-certified green coffee in 2018, a 43% increase in one year.

Despite all this growth, speciality coffee remains a tiny niche in Eastern Europe. Multinational companies from Western Europe still control the coffee market. They shape consumer preference in the region with their mainstream brands, such as Tchibo and Jacobs. But this should not shy away exporters of high-quality and certified coffees. Exploring Eastern Europe could be an interesting alternative to Western Europe’s saturated market, and being a frontrunner could bring exciting opportunities. Understanding the market, its dynamics and main players will be a key asset.

Read more about this topic in a new study on Eastern Europe on our coffee market intelligence page.

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This news article has been written for CBI by Profound – Advisers in Development.

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