Increased certified coffee consumption in Europe despite COVID-19 pandemic

Coffee- by Tina Guina

Europe is the largest global market for certified coffee. In recent years, and during the pandemic, this market has grown. This is mostly due to European consumers’ attention to ethical consumption. Certification has helped ensure social and environmental standards in the European coffee industry. 

Sustainability is a serious concern for both companies and coffee consumers on the European market. Certification standards are often part of the sustainability strategy of European traders, coffee roasters and retailers. This has resulted in a growing demand for certified coffees.

Between 2018 and 2019, Rainforest Alliance-certified Arabica sales increased by 20%. Robusta sales increased by 12%. These increases are due to growing demand in Europe. The combination of Fairtrade and organic certification in coffee is also gaining popularity in consumer markets across Europe. Between 2015 and 2019, the global sales volume of green coffee with both certifications had a year-to-year growth of 5.5%. This amounted to 131 thousand tonnes of green coffee in 2019.

Growth despite the COVID-19 pandemic

The demand for certified coffee continued to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is mostly due to European consumers’ increased attention to ethical consumption. Also, the consumption of private-label coffee in recent months has boosted the sales of certified coffee products. Many European retailers source certified coffee for their private-label brands. Lidl (Germany), for example, committed to having its own-brand coffee certified to Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance/UTZ and/or certified as organic. Private label product sales increased in 2020. This is partly due to an increase in grocery sales in all European markets during the pandemic.

Many supermarkets entered the premium segment. They are expanding their range of certified coffee products despite the pandemic. For example, at the start of 2021, German discounter ALDI Nord launched the organic and Fairtrade-certified coffee Hermanas del Café. ALDI Nord sources this coffee from the La Florida cooperative, which supports women involved in coffee production in Peru. During the pandemic, British fast-food chain LEON launched its own organic and Fairtrade-certified coffee brand, too. It is available at Sainsbury’s stores across the United Kingdom.

Sustainability is becoming more complex

There are several sustainability concerns stakeholders share in the coffee sector.  These require joint action from industry, NGOs, academia, governments and other stakeholders. Concerns include:

  • Climate change;
  • Biodiversity loss;
  • Gender inequality;
  • Price and price volatility; and
  • Living incomes.

More and more, certification can help. But it does not solve everything.

You need to think carefully about whether you want to certify your farm or processes. We expect the market demand for certified coffees to level out gradually. Yet,  the production and availability of certified coffee will continue to grow. Although the market for certified coffees is growing, there is more certified coffee on the market than is sold as certified. This means that not everyone will be able to sell their certified coffee at a premium price.

Find out more

Want to learn more about certified coffee in Europe? Our latest studies give you useful information about certification. As a coffee exporter, make sure you check:

  • the demand;
  • possible market channels; and
  • return on investment;

before you get involved in a certification programme.

Gustavo Ferro and Lisanne Groothuis from ProFound – Advisers In Development wrote this news article for CBI.

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