At the start of 2018, we started a dialogue with our customers to understand their coffee making and drinking habits at home. We’ve been so intrigued by the initial insights from these discussions that we've decided to try and learn more and establish whether our customers are showing early signs of a revolution in the way coffee is being made at home in the UK.
Our surprise started with how few of our customers seem to be using a Cafetière (or French Press) at home to make coffee. Until recently, most surveys of domestic coffee-making have concluded that the majority of people, over 50%, rely on a Cafetière to make their fresh coffee. But, after discussions with about fifty Spiller & Tait customers, we found that only a handful use Cafetières. The majority mentioned bean-to-cup machines, Aeropresses, and Automated Filter Machines, while a few also use a Chemex, or a V60 dripper.
It was no revelation that a high percentage of our customers use bean-to-cup machines, or grind the beans themselves immediately before brewing in another device, since over 80% of the coffee we sell at Spiller & Tait is in whole beans. However, it was a shock to find that the Cafetière was so seldom mentioned. Surveys still suggest that about 70% of UK coffee drunk at home is Instant Coffee, with the Cafetière being the most popular method for fresh coffee. So, why do our recent discussions with customers seem to contradict the prevailing wisdom? It’s no surprise none of our customers admitted to drinking Instant coffee (how could they!), but only two said they used a Cafetière.
Spiller & Tait customers are clearly not representative of the typical UK home coffee consumer. Indeed, a significant percentage of them buy 1kg of whole beans from us each month. Which means their coffee consumption is well above the UK average of 2.8kg per year (Finns drink the most coffee with 12kg per annum). So, we’ve started to wonder whether our customers reflect a new, all be it minority, trend in coffee making behaviour which has so far been unrecognised by many of the UK consumer behaviour surveys.
Has the high street coffee culture, which boomed in the UK over the last decade, started to spawn a revolution in the way some people make and drink coffee at home? It seems like a sensible conclusion to draw. We are starting to think that many of the new discerning coffee consumers are now tired of the formulaic nature of some coffee chains and want to explore the nuances of fresh coffee for themselves at home, while also saving cost. Indeed, a deeper dive into the consumer research reveals an unexpected trend which may reinforce this conclusion.
Recent research by Mintel suggests that, despite UK consumers’ love of coffee shops, for some the draw of the kitchen is now strong. Half (51%) of coffee drinkers prefer to drink their hot drinks at home rather than out-of-home, including 55% of men and 47% of women. The fact that half of coffee drinkers prefer to drink hot drinks at home could suggest that the range of beverages for at-home consumption may, in fact, be so well-established that more consumers can now recreate the coffee shop experience without having to leave the comforts of home.
Certainly the rise of Nespresso pod and other capsule machines on the counters of many UK kitchens, stimulated by convenience and George Clooney, is evidence enough of a shift in consumer behaviour. But, the relegation of the Cafetière as a favoured coffee making device for Spiller & Tait customers, might well be evidence of a more fundamental change. And it’s one we can only speculate on for the time being. But our hunch is that there is a quiet revolution taking place in UK homes. As coffee drinkers have become more discerning, they have been experimenting with new and different ways to make their own cup. And with technological advances, the cost of coffee shop equivalent machines and sophisticated brewers for home coffee making has fallen to within reach for many households.
We certainly know from our own experience as coffee roasters and on-line retailers that the boom in fresh coffee consumption at home has spawned a whole new retail channel for coffee in the last decade. Coffee bean sales on Amazon UK are now one of the most competitive products in its Grocery category. And a quick search for “coffee beans uk” on Google will yield hundreds, if not thousands, of search results. The UK consumer now has so many places to buy various types of fresh coffee online, that the demand from discerning customers must be very strong to keep even a small percentage of these businesses afloat.
However, rather than jump to too many conclusions about consumer behaviour change, we’ve decided to help fill in current gaps in available data on domestic fresh coffee drinking habits by conducting our own survey. Please help us understand what’s happening in the world of in-home coffee by completing the short survey available via the link below. It will only take a few minutes of your time.
In return for your survey answers, you will be eligible to win a £100 Spiller & Tait coupon to purchase any coffee equipment or coffee available on our website. All survey responses received by 30th of April 2018 will be entered into the competition. The competition results will be announced on our website and via our social media on the 1st of May 2018 and the results of our survey will be shared in the same way later that month.
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