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Coffee retail: wake up and smell the innovation


There is arguably no retail sector in the world currently more exciting, dynamic or downright necessary than coffee – and I’m sure countless big-city professionals will agree for their own personal reasons. At an industry level, it’s a market rife with activity across acquisitions and innovation that is currently worth around £10.1bn in the UK, having achieved 20 years of sustained growth.

2018 was hot for major acquisitions of coffee chains by international conglomerates. We saw JAB Holdings acquire a majority stake in Pret a Manger for £1.5bn and Coca Cola acquire Costa Coffee – a deal which completed in January this year. You may have noticed in the news this week that Coca Cola is gearing up to launch its brand-new Costa ready-to-drink product; a move that, according to Coca Cola CEO, James Quincey, aims to “target mid-day slump” and signals innovation in the company’s product portfolio. Though blurring lines between product categories is only a small segment of the major transformation underway in the coffee sector, with the changing face of coffee on the high-street taking the cake (pun intended) for the most significant and worthy of our attention in the run-up to #MAPICFood in Milan next month.

In recent years coffee shops have become the epitome of cultural hubs in retail. Smaller chains and artisan cafés are on the rise, and each is a destination to work, relax, socialise and learn; it is open, green, bright and welcoming; it sells paraphernalia, quirky homeware, unique gifts, jazz music, 90s board games – the list goes on. By becoming all-around cultural destinations, coffee shops are harnessing the power of community and inclusion to tackle the troubles faced by today’s high-streets head-on.

Even the biggest chains are realising the central importance of becoming, not only coffee specialists, but cultural forums in order to drive footfall. Complete sensory in-store experiences, such as in-house roasting and tasting sessions, are prolific. Starbucks is a prime example of this having unveiled its third Reserve Roastery in Manhattan in January; a sprawling outpost of sheer barista theatre, housed within an incredible three-storey copper, concrete and wooden store design “inspired by the history of manufacturing” in Manhattan’s meatpacking district. You can read more about Starbucks’ new store in Dezeen’s picture article.

Digital of course also plays a huge role here, with ‘Instagrammable experiences’ becoming one of the biggest drivers of footfall in the modern age. Some coffee chains are embracing technology even further, capitalising on the new fronts for customer engagement opened up by digital; smooth transactions, interactive menus, loyalty apps and smart payment systems, to name but a few. Chinese start-up Luckin Coffee also featured in the news this week, announcing its plan to open a store every 3.5 hours to dislodge its biggest market rival, Starbucks, after securing $150m in Series B funding earlier this month. Luckin has enjoyed unbelievable caffeine-induced growth in the last year and a half, exploding its presence from nine stores at the end of 2017 to 2,073 at the end of last year.

An outstanding feature of Luckin’s business model is its seamless integration of digital. Luckin enables its customers to order their coffee via an app and then watch live-streaming video as their coffee is made and delivered within 20 minutes. This core focus on technology, discounts and delivery has played a significant role in its rapid growth and sets a number of exciting new precedents for the whole of the foodservice sector.

We’ve merely scratched the surface here when it comes to the future of coffee, which is looking increasingly bright. Speaking on behalf of the whole Innesco team, we cannot wait to dig even deeper into the topic at MAPIC Food, which will kick off its conference programme with “Coffee: the new black gold rush”, exploring everything from authenticity, merchandising, and emotions in customer experience, to the reasons why coffee is the best bet for multinational food groups. It’s gearing up to be a tantalising week of #foodservice insights, and if you are yet to register, it’s time to wake up… and smell the innovation!

Andrew Smith, Senior Account Executive, Innesco

 

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