Why Have Coffee Subscriptions Become So Popular?

Enrique Moreno
January 15, 2021
ordering products online

Today, consumers can purchase subscriptions for a vast range of goods and services, from music and TV shows, to beer and magazines. They have become increasingly popular in recent years, with the subscription ecommerce market growing by more than 100% between 2013 and 2018.

As part of this trend, more and more specialty coffee roasters have started offering subscription-based models to customers as an innovative way of selling their coffee.

Not only is it a convenient way for consumers to regularly receive coffee, it also provides them with the opportunity to experiment with new flavours and origins.

To find out more about the rise of coffee subscriptions and their benefits for specialty roasters, I spoke with MTPak Coffee Ambassador Nicole Battefeld.

See also: Developing Coffee Subscription Packaging

coffee packaging

What Are Coffee Subscriptions?

A coffee subscription is a service provided by roasters and cafes that allows customers to receive regular deliveries of coffee. Like most subscription services, they operate on a rolling basis – typically weekly or monthly – with the flexibility to cancel at any time.

Before matching customers with a plan, most companies will ask a few simple questions about their brew method, whether they want the coffee as whole bean or ground, and particular flavours preferences in the cup. This helps provide a highly personalised experience that’s markedly different to buying coffee at a supermarket.

Coffee subscriptions are appealing to consumers because they introduce them to new blends and single origins, as well as offering the opportunity to learn more about the “story” behind the coffee. This appeals to specialty coffee consumers who tend to value not only the quality of the coffee they buy, but also information about its provenance and the people involved at each stage of the journey.

For example, Rave Coffee, a well-known company in the coffee subscription market, will include information on topics such as growing, roasting, brewing, and tasting coffee with each monthly delivery. Educating customers in this way enables them to make more informed choices about the coffee they buy in the future, helping them to hone in on specific tastes and preferences.

coffee subscription packaging

What’s Driving The Popularity Of Coffee Subscriptions?

The popularity of subscriptions is at an all-time high, with research suggesting that more than 55% of adults in the UK pay for three or more monthly subscriptions. Roasters and cafés are also benefitting from this upturn in subscriptions, with many in the market reporting an exponential increase in subscribers year-on-year. In the US, coffee subscription sales have risen by an estimated 109% over the last year.

One of the reasons for this is due to a greater focus on high-quality coffee. As part of the third wave in coffee culture, consumers are now more interested in the distinct characteristics that each one has to offer. Coffee subscriptions cater to this by helping consumers discover new coffees, and develop their knowledge of the unique flavour notes and aromas involved.

Nicole Battefeld has worked in coffee for several years as a barista, roaster, and trainer. She’s taken part in a number of competitions around the world, and was crowned German Barista Champion in 2018. She tells me that the information-led approach of coffee subscriptions appeals to the specialty coffee sector.

“The coffee subscriptions that I’ve seen are pushing the specialty market in a way that enables end-consumers to understand more about what it means to really taste specialty coffee,” Nicole says. “Things like sharing different flavour notes, brewing guides, and recipes have become so important in attracting customers.

“Essentially, the more information you provide, the more customers will appreciate the experience of ordering online, and will keep coming back for more.”

coffee subscriptions

The Impact Of Covid-19 On Coffee Subscriptions

Another reason for the growth of coffee subscriptions is Covid-19. Over the last year, partial and full lockdowns as a result of the pandemic have forced many consumers to increasingly do their weekly shopping online.

A number of specialty roasters with little online presence, let alone a subscription service, have been quick to make their products available for home delivery. This has led to a marked proliferation of the subscription market.

“Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we, as a coffee community, have had to adapt. I think a lot of roasters and cafes did that extremely well,” Nicole says.

Meanwhile, many of those who already offered subscriptions saw rapid increases in the number of subscribers. American coffee chain Peet’s Coffee experienced a 70% leap in subscription orders in the 12 months to May 2020, while Beanbox, a subscription-only coffee service, saw a four-fold increase in sales during the first half of 2020.

While this unprecedented rise has largely been due to the implementation of measures such as social distancing, Nicole believes coffee subscriptions are more a sign of a changing mentality in general.
“In Germany, people were quite slow to online subscriptions,” she explains. “However, that’s all changed over the last five years, when people realised they could get coffee from really good roasteries all around Europe if they ordered online.

“People still like to go to shops, of course. But I think it will get to a point where half of coffee sales are online and half are in person. In time, I think the majority of coffee trade will happen online,” she adds.

rave coffee bag

Coffee subscriptions have a number of advantages for consumers and roasters. Not only do they provide a convenient and personalised experience for customers, they offer roasters ever greater flexibility to sell direct to those consumers.

For roasters, it’s important to ensure to use packaging that caters to the demands of consumers when launching a coffee subscription. When coffee is delivered to the consumer, the packaging is usually the first interaction they have with the product, which means it needs to leave a good impression.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer sustainable packaging solutions for subscription coffee, providing roasters with fully customisable options, from sturdy materials to attractive colour schemes and informative tasting cards. With our services, you’ll be able to create eco-friendly packaging at scale to meet the demands of your subscribers.

For more information on packaging coffee subscriptions, contact our team here.

MTPak Coffee

Photo credits: MTPak Coffee

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