Canned Coffee: Should specialty roasters offer it?

Hayley Osbourne
June 13, 2023
An image of canned coffee with a consumer holding a glass of canned coffee, in an article on specialty canned coffee

While convenience has been important to coffee drinkers for centuries, consumer demand has never been as high as it is now. However, the definition of convenience within specialty coffee often changes. Over time, several innovations have entered the market, from instant coffee products to ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages and coffee capsules.

Canned coffee is an RTD option that consumers can purchase from supermarkets, cafes, and some restaurants. Many industry experts point to Japanese brand Ueshima Coffee Company (UCC) as the inventor of canned coffee as we know it today. Since then, the beverage option has remained immensely popular in Japan and other Southeast Asian countries – and the market has grown substantially in other parts of the world, too.

Notably, the canned coffee market is predicted to reach $42.36 billion by 2027. This provides specialty coffee roasters with a unique opportunity to increase profits by offering a variety of options.

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Exploring the history of canned coffee

The first commercially successful canned coffee was developed in 1969 by the founder of UCC, Tadao Ueshima. He created technology that could produce cans of coffee which retained flavour over long periods. It is believed the idea came to him when he was forced to leave his coffee-flavoured milk behind when his train left early. He wanted to create an alternative that resulted in less waste.

Consequently, Ueshima believed there was a more convenient way to drink coffee while on the go – leading to the invention of the first-ever canned milk-based coffee: UCC Milk Coffee. At the 1979 World Exposition in Osaka, UCC offered free amples, cementing its popularity in Japan.

Canned coffee became a convenient option for consumers who lacked time to sit in cafes, as it can often be purchased from vending machines. The additional variety of canned coffee options has helped to ensure its continued popularity among consumers. For instance, the cold brew coffee market hit a growth rate of $1.37 billion in 2022.

Specialty coffee brands that have helped propel the RDT market include Starbucks and Pact. Each brand offers its own version of cold brew and other cold canned coffee options – and has seen a significant increase in profits from doing so.

The main benefit of offering canned coffee is that it appeals to consumers who crave convenience. Studies have shown 97% of consumers have abandoned a purchase because the service wasn’t convenient enough. In the same study, 83% of consumers revealed convenience when shopping is more important to them now than it was five years ago. Given the majority of the public now lead fast, on-the-go lifestyles, the convenience of canned coffee is a positive draw that could contribute to a roaster’s success.

An image of Starbucks canned coffee options, canned coffee from Starbucks, in an article on canned coffee

Breaking into the canned coffee market

Several specialty coffee roasters have broken into the canned coffee market with significant success. Starbucks, for example, provides a range of chilled coffee, including canned coffee, that are available in supermarkets around the world. These include:

  • Chilled classics refer to a cup and straw ready-to-drink coffee. Options include popular flavours such as cappuccino, caffe latte, caramel macchiato, and chocolate mocha. 
  • Plant based chill classics are a cup and straw ready-to-drink coffee option that includes flavours such as almond iced coffee, and oat-based vanilla macchiato. 
  • Frappuccino comes in a glass bottle in flavours such as salted caramel brownie, vanilla, and cookies and cream. 
  • Double shot refers to a canned coffee with a double shot of espresso and milk, with or without sugar. 
  • Triple shot is a canned coffee with a triple shot of espresso and milk, with or without sugar. 

The design for Starbucks’ canned coffee option ensures the brand’s logo is front and centre – a logo that is instantly recognisable around the world. Furthermore, it is large enough that it can be seen before anything else, already drawing the attention of loyal customers. 

The cans are silver in coffee, and feature a brown banner across the top – the colour of coffee. Given that canned drinks are simply espresso and milk, this is an effective use of colour that subconsciously conveys what the product is to the consumer.

Costa Coffee’s canned coffee options are available in the brands’ classic flavours: latte, vanilla latte, and caramel latte. Recently, the brand released a double-shot espresso flat white canned coffee option. The design of the cans is deep red, with the brand’s name printed across the front in its trademark font. The top of each can feature a banner that indicates the flavour.

This design technique is clever as, in the same vein as Starbucks, Costa is an easily recognisable brand. By using their recognisable font and brand colour, a consumer can recognise the product within seconds. 

The recently released flat white offerings feature a green strip at the top and bottom of the can. This is a useful tactic when releasing a new flavour, as it can help the product stand out. The brand has duplicated the base design across the board for brand awareness but updated it slightly to draw consumer attention. 

An image of canned coffee from LongStory Coffee Co, cold brew coffee, nitro coffee, in an article on canned coffee

What to consider when entering the canned coffee market

Several studies show cold brew coffee appeals to Millennials and the younger generations. Therefore, aiming cold canned coffee at a younger market could help a roaster determine which beans and roasts to offer.

It is also important to use packaging that is both sustainable and engaging for consumers. Notably, 86% of consumers show a willingness to pay more for sustainable packaging.

Roasters who adhere to this trend can widen their brand awareness by appealing to eco-conscious customers. 

Additionally, ensuring the design is bold enough to stand out, and that it appeals to a roaster’s target audience, is equally important. Brands can easily get lost amongst each other on supermarket shelves.

At MTPak Coffee we offer a range of sustainable packaging options for specialty roasters, whether you are selling whole bean, ground, or RTD coffee. More so, we can print fully customisable stickers that can be used on canned coffee offerings. Our custom, die-cut stickers can also be used across other packaging options, such as coffee bags, coffee boxes, and bottles.

Our range of coffee packaging options is fully customisable to help maximise the coffee-drinking experience. Our eco-friendly customisation techniques include spot UV with a glossy, satin, or matte finish, embossing and debossing, as well as hot foil stamping in a variety of colours.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you package canned coffee.

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