We were invited last week to the launch of the Allegra World Coffee Portal, Project Cafe16 UK report.

With the input of over 16,000 people, it’s the definitive report on the state of the U.K. Coffee Shop market. Over the last 17 years, Allegra have captured in amazing depth and detail the development of what was a new breed of hospitality business, the Coffee Shop.

The polystyrene cup!

They have charted the unprecedented growth of an industry through a global recession, to a point where now 80% of the UK population visit a coffee shop once a month! It’s almost impossible to remember the boiling hot instant coffee served in a polystyrene cup that would have been the norm not so long ago.

This year the outlook looks positive because the percentage growth in the number of new outlets is set to be in double figures.  The like for like growth in established outlets is slowing due to the market becoming more mature and the growth of the availability of coffee in places such as  Greggs, who have really improved their coffee offer and are becoming real competition to the specialist coffee chains.

The independent coffee sector is still showing strong growth, now that the chains have educated the public. In fact 43% of people say that they know if a coffee is not served at the right temperature and 33% can tell if the barista is skilled in their work. This is a quantum shift in awareness from 17 years ago when Allegra started reporting.

Independent ‘Groups’

Interestingly the chains are desperately trying to make themselves look like independent’s with their latest designs mimicking the best of the indies, the indies that are becoming small chains are desperate not to lose the kudos of being indie are calling themselves ‘groups’ of independents.

Demand for specialist milks such as coconut, almond as well as soya is rising, with the customer being more and more health aware. Starbucks launched coconut lattes a few weeks ago and have some great feedback from their guests.

The report even considers the impact of high-quality coffee vending machines. A good coffee available in the workplace has become synonymous with being a great place to work with a boss that cares. So more and more business now provide this which means there are less trips to the high street.

Better Coffee Knowledge

The good news for Independent Coffee Shops is that the public are becoming more and more educated in coffee, how it’s made, where it comes from and how it’s roasted. They are looking for an alternative to the chains but they want great tasting coffee every time.

Because they have a pod machine at home that gives them a 100% consistent result,  they are not prepared to pay premium prices for inconsistent coffee out of the home.

The bad news is that Independent Coffee Shops that do not serve consistently excellent coffee are losing these newly educated guests.

The quality bar is being raised even higher and those who fall short will fall down.

The Project Cafe16 report is available now from Allegra world coffee portal

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