Has the demand for takeaway coffee increased?

Jane Merchant
February 25, 2022
takeaway cups

Few industries were as severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as the coffee sector.

Many cafés were forced to shut down due to pandemic related losses. In Europe alone, the branded café market lost nearly £2 billion in market value.

However, some made it through by expanding into ecommerce and coffee subscriptions, home delivery, and modified takeaway orders through mobile apps and drive-thrus.

Now, as global Covid-19 restrictions lift, many cafés and roasteries are returning to serving consumers in-store.

However, they should not abandon their newfound takeaway offerings, as it could be a highly profitable revenue stream.

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How has takeaway coffee consumption evolved?

Over the years, takeaway coffee consumption has evolved from a morning caffeine boost to something of a status symbol.

In the 1900s, the first paper cup was invented to replace shared water containers. Roughly a decade later, the Spanish flu swept the planet, cultivating a fear of germs and cementing the popularity of disposable cups.

Then, in the 1930s, more people began drinking hot beverages such as tea and coffee out of disposable paper cups. This led inventors to file patents for cups with fold-out handles to replicate coffee mugs.

However, the true golden age of the paper cup was during the ‘60s, when the infamous Greek coffee cup, or the Anthora cup, was designed.

A patent for tearable coffee lids was also filed, and the American convenience chain Seven Eleven began offering fresh coffee in to-go cups. Furthermore, polystyrene cups became the popular choice for takeaway coffee.

The founding of coffee giant Starbucks in 1971 boosted the popularity of paper cups even further, and the invention of cup sleeves followed shortly after to make them easier to hold.

Starbucks was also instrumental in transforming takeaway coffee into a status symbol for busy professionals on-the-go.

Then, during the 1980s, menus began offering specialty drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes, further increasing takeaway consumption. However, as environmentalism started influencing public behaviour, polystyrene cups began to fall out of favour.

The next major changes in takeaway coffee consumption took place more recently. As the 2000s progressed, consumers and governments realised disposable cups were difficult to recycle and were adding to the increasing plastic waste crisis. 

The coffee industry responded by encouraging consumers to adopt reusable cups made of glass or natural fibres such as bamboo. 

By switching to a reusable cup for just one year, consumers could help protect the planet by saving an estimated 39kgs of greenhouse gas emissions, a further 287 litres of water, 126 trees, and 5kgs of solid waste.

Takeaway consumption and Covid-19

The effects of Covid-19 have altered many aspects of our lives. This is likely to continue into the foreseeable future as businesses and consumers adapt to the “new normal” way of living. 

While takeaway orders and in-person consumption have resumed in many countries, it is unlikely to resemble its pre-pandemic state. Notably, three key factors may influence takeaway consumption in the future. 

Increased hygiene concerns

At the beginning of the pandemic, many cafés and major outlets including Starbucks, stopped accepting reusable cups due to hygiene concerns.

It has since been proven that reusable cups do not harbour or spread the virus, but the misconception may keep consumers from using them. 

Furthermore, reusable cups are less suited to spontaneous coffee purchases, as some consumers may not always have one with them.

Increased environmental awareness

With the increase in takeaway offerings and hygiene concerns during the pandemic, many cafés had to halt their eco-friendly practices and revert back to using single-use plastic items.

Now things are returning to “normal”, there will be renewed focus on environmental business practices.

However, cafés and roasteries that are using recyclable or compostable takeaway cups must double their efforts to communicate this to consumers. A recent survey revealed 61% of US consumers struggle to understand ethical policies at cafés.

Growth in alternative takeaway platforms

A positive result of the pandemic was the growth in alternative takeaway platforms, such as online ordering through phone applications, and the use of drive-throughs. 

While the pandemic forced many coffee lovers to brew at home, consumers still treat themselves to a barista-made beverage. 

Cafés that implemented orders through these new platforms can expect them to remain popular, as they appeal to consumers who want convenience but are still cautious about exposure to Covid-19. 

In fact, just under half of all US consumers are open to the idea of coffee delivery, while in the UK, over 50% of consumers are happy to use a drive-through for coffee.

Will demand for takeaway coffee continue to increase?

It can be a challenge for café owners to determine how takeaway orders increase sales, as it differs depending on location, demand, and the cafés adoption of alternative takeaway delivery mechanisms. 

Establishments that are wondering whether to renew their focus on takeaway offering should first consider Euromonitor International’s report on cafés’ post-coronavirus evolution.

The report implies that, in the future, there will be a strong emphasis on “quick, increasingly contactless service”, which will be more takeaway focussed.

By providing a quality takeaway experience, café owners can profit off of this new trend by providing quality takeaway coffees and ensuring they are served at the right temperatures.

In addition, roasters and café owners should offer a range of takeaway cup sizes, with a choice of lids and cup sleeves to ensure consumer comfort throughout the drinking experience.

By switching to recyclable materials such as PET or kraft paper takeaway coffee cups, roasters and café owners can highlight their sustainability efforts and customise it in line with their branding.

When customising takeaway coffee cups, business owners can include recycling details on them. Not only does this show an effort has been made to ensure the cup won’t end up in a landfill, but it helps educate consumers on the correct way to dispose of their cups.

Focusing on sustainable takeaway offerings can help boost consumer reach and revenue streams. Furthermore, selecting the right recyclable takeaway coffee cup and accessories can have a dramatic impact on the success of takeaway offerings. 

MTPak Coffee can offer you a range of sustainably produced takeaway cups and help you brand them appropriately. More importantly, we can help you brand your cups with details of your business, also allowing you to communicate the cup’s recycling qualities to customers.

This can demonstrate the advantages of your compostable cups to a wider audience and encourage people to patronise your business.

For more information on our recyclable takeaway coffee cup options, contact the team

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