Top Coffee Trends To Look Out For In 2021

TJ Grant
March 12, 2021
cold brew coffee

In early 2020, the world completely changed. A global pandemic triggered by the outbreak of coronavirus brought countries across the world to a standstill as governments imposed some of the toughest restrictions in history. By April, nearly half of the global population had been placed under some form of lockdown to help prevent the spread of the virus.  

Naturally, the impact of Covid-19 has had a knock-on effect on the coffee industry, from producers and exporters, to roasters and baristas. According to research firm Marex Spectron, 95% of all out-of-home coffee businesses were forced to close their doors at one point or another in 2020, while falling prices have affected thousands of farmers across producing countries.

But what does all this mean for the coffee sector? And are pandemic-induced trends here to stay? To explore this further, I spoke with Head Roaster at Meron Coffee and 2019 Romania Barista Champion, Delia Avram.

See also: Understanding Millennial Coffee Trends

neighbourhood coffee shop

Hospitality: The Rise Of The Neighbourhood Coffee Shop

During the peak of the pandemic and facing falling sales due to closures, many cafés and roasters swiftly adapted by implementing curbside takeaway and delivery services for customers. In the US, there was a 521% increase in coffee businesses offering either a pickup or delivery service.

Sales of takeaway and delivery services rose by 5,380% and 340% respectively in the US alone, as consumers sought to support local businesses. Thanks to the success of these services, it’s likely that more and more coffee shops and roasters will continue to offer delivery and pickup services to bolster sales in 2021.

One of the fears around this development is a lack of face-to-face interactions. However, coffee shop owners have still been prioritising the customer experience in an attempt to sustain brand loyalty. In particular, we’ve seen the rise of “neighbourhood coffee shops”, a new era of coffee shops focused on communities rather than office workers.

Catering to a large percentage of the population working indefinitely from home, these coffee shops typically provide a more personalised experience to customers. Instead of a quick turnover of customers, their focus tends to be on a smaller, more tight-knit customer base with higher levels of brand loyalty.

Furthermore, many coffee shops have begun doubling up as grocery stores in response to widespread shortages of basic goods. For example, last year the number of US cafés selling toilet paper and almond milk rose by 711% and 1,100% respectively. As community bonds strengthen during the pandemic, and reliance grows on smaller and more local businesses, we may see coffee shops selling a wider variety of products to increase sales.

coffee subscriptions

Subscriptions & Home Brewing Equipment

In addition to more takeaway drinks, the closure of coffee shops also prompted a growth in the number of at-home coffee consumers. A recent survey by YouGov found that a third of consumers were making more coffee at home than before the pandemic hit. This surge is reflected in the sales of coffee equipment in the US, which rose by 11% in 2020.

As part of this trend, coffee subscription services have also experienced a climb in sales. Companies such as Pact, Origin, and Hasbean, which provide home deliveries of freshly roasted coffee, have grown in popularity over the last year, as consumers look for more convenient ways of buying their coffee. They offer greater personalisation than coffee from supermarkets, as well as including information such as where the coffee was produced and when it was roasted.

Delia Avram is head roaster at Meron Coffee, a specialty coffee franchise with more than 15 locations across Romania. In 2019, she was crowned Romanian Barista Champion and has her finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest trends in coffee. She predicts that the shift towards at-home consumption will encourage many consumers to become more interested in the coffee they drink.

“I think that one of the most prominent trends will be the search for top quality beans,” she says. “As people get to know more about what they like, they’ll want to make sure they have the best coffee to hand. At-home consumption of specialty coffee increased during 2020 and will continue to do so this year.”

Indeed, around 66% of at-home coffee consumers state that they have perfected their brewing techniques during lockdown. This has given rise to more knowledgeable and informed consumers, who will inevitably push for higher quality coffee, both at and out-of-home.

Delia believes that this trend presents an opportunity for baristas and roasters to openly share their knowledge and feed the growing interest in specialty coffee. 

“Baristas and roasters have more information and experience on how to brew the best cup of coffee at home,” she says. “Sharing our know-how will help the community grow.”

Expect video tutorials, online workshops, virtual networking events, and how-to guidebooks to increasingly pop up in 2021.

coffee trends

Is Sustainability Still Top Of The Agenda?

Sustainability has topped the list of priorities for both consumers and companies for decades – and 2021 is no exception. 

Fuelled by the expectations of younger generations, sustainability covers everything from deforestation and carbon emissions, to equal wages and human rights. A 2019 Forbes report reveals that over 60% of those aged 18-24 prefer to purchase from ethical and sustainable companies, while 43% of millennials state that sustainability influences their decision to buy a product.

However, according to management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Covid-19 has caused sustainability to fall down the list of consumer concerns, particularly in terms of coffee packaging.

The company predicts that issues of hygiene and food safety have taken precedent since the outbreak of the virus, with a renewed appreciation for companies that have taken extensive health and safety measures. For example, coffee shops that have banned the use of reusable cups may be favoured in the short term by some consumers.

Nevertheless, Delia believes that for specialty roasters, sustainability is still one of the most important considerations.

“When packing freshly roasted beans, roasters should have two things in mind: how to optimise the degassing phase and how to be more responsible towards the planet. We always need to be looking for the most eco-friendly way of packaging our coffee,” she says.

And some companies are looking at ways of incorporating both. In late 2020, Costa Coffee introduced an innovative anti-bacterial Reusable Cup Lid so customers can continue caring for the environment while remaining Covid-safe.

sustainable pouches

For specialty roasters, it’s important to keep up-to-date with the latest trends in the coffee industry. It can help you stay ahead of competitors and create products that will have widespread appeal. Covid-19 has had a significant impact on consumer behaviour, influencing a range of developments including the rise of coffee subscriptions and neighbour coffee shops. However, other trends such as a focus on sustainability have existed for a while and remain as important as ever.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of biodegradable, recyclable, and compostable coffee packaging for specialty roasters. Our fully customisable pouches and takeaway cups can be designed according to your needs, while degassing valves, resealable zippers, and pouring spouts can all be added. We use water-based inks for all our printing, which means you will be able to offer a completely sustainable product.

For more information on our sustainable packaging, contact our team here.

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