Expanding Specialty Coffee Beyond Flavors and Roasts

Why convenience stores should pay attention to decaffeinated options
Photograph: Shutterstock

It’s not news that coffee is a spectacularly popular drink—59%  of consumers say they have ordered regular hot coffee in the last month, while 67% have ordered cold or iced coffee and 62% have ordered a hot specialty coffee, according to Technomic’s 2018 Beverage report. With numbers like that, it’s helpful for convenience store retailers to know what’s hot and what consumers are looking for so that they can maintain and even increase their sales.

Knowing consumer drink preferences is key. From regular drip to specialty coffees, caffeinated and decaf options, flavors, creamers and more, knowing what people want is crucial for success.

Flavors, brews and more

When choosing which coffee cafe to go to, 40% of consumers say it’s important that the location serves their preferred coffee, while 35% say its’ important that they can customize their beverage, according to Technomic’s 2018 Bakery and Coffee Cafe report. With that in mind, it’s important for c-stores to offer a variety of coffee options, including different bean origins, decaf options, flavored creamers (as well as non-dairy options) and more.

But beyond types and flavors, consumers are more frequently looking for other things—like coffee quality, sourcing and how the decaf coffee was decaffeinated. Swiss Water, in partnership with Ipsos, found that decaf drinkers seek out higher quality coffee and are willing to pay more for it—61% said so, in fact. So, it’s beneficial for retailers to put higher quality decaf in their stores.

The case for better quality decaf

Traditional decaf coffee is decaffeinated with chemicals including methylene chloride and ethyl acetate which can leave behind an unpleasant taste that coffee drinkers feel the need to cover up with cream and sugar. Beyond the subpar taste, chemically-decaffeinated coffee is also not sustainable. However, there are nonchemical alternatives, including the Swiss Water process. This process uses water, temperature and time to remove 99.9% of the caffeine. It’s a process that’s clean, sustainable and simple—and it produces a superior tasting coffee. Quality, however, is only part of what is bringing more people over to decaf.

According to data from the National Coffee Association’s 2018 Coff­ee Drinking Trends report, 42% of coffee drinkers drink decaf either some or all of the time. Of consumers who drink decaf, 37% say they drink three or more cups a day, compared to just 18% of regular coffee drinkers. And while younger people in particular are gravitating toward decaf, too—15% of millennials and Gen Z drink decaf, more than other generations—62% of consumers overall say they think it’s important to limit their caffeine intake.

And those trends are showing in sales—there was a 26% increase in decaf cups per day sold from 2016 to 2018, and 3.7% sales growth for specialty decaf coffee, compared to flat growth for regular coffee. Additionally, according to a recent 2017 Ipsos report comparing coffee consumption, 84% of consumers consider purchasing decaf if they know it’s Swiss Water processed, while 70% say their purchase intent increases if they see the Swiss Water logo.

Consumer are increasingly interested in high quality coffee, as well as concerned with transparency and health. In fact, 44% say they think sustainable food and beverages are healthier, and 56% say they’re more likely to buy sustainable items, according to Technomic’s 2018 Heathy Eating report. With that in mind, c-stores need to ensure they’re offering everything their customers want, from trending flavors and formats to sustainably-produced decaf options and more.

Offering Swiss Water Decaf options instead of conventional decaf is easy and can be provided by all major roasters serving the convenience foodservice industry.

This post is sponsored by Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Inc.

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