Top coffee and tea trends for 2018

Zandile Chiwanza
March 02, 2018
By Zandile Chiwanza
There are many opportunities for the vending industry to improve the office coffee break, said Lesya Balych-Cooper, president of the Coffee Association of Canada.
There are many opportunities for the vending industry to improve the office coffee break, said Lesya Balych-Cooper, president of the Coffee Association of Canada. Photo: Fotolia
Millennials now outnumber boomers in the workplace, indicates the 2018 Nourish Trend Report , so it comes as no surprise that they influence the majority of trends this year.


“Millennials are the largest cohort so they influence everything that takes place in foodservice,” said Lesya Balych-Cooper, president of the Coffee Association of Canada (CAC). “They are on the go and tech savvy.”

And coffee isn’t the only hot beverage millennials are impacting.  

“What distinguishes the millennial tea drinker is that they love to have a variety,” said Louise Roberge, president of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada.

“Millennials are a lot more adventurous than boomers when it comes to being willing to change up flavours,” said Raelene Gannon, a tea sommelier based in Ontario. “Millennials are not as brand loyal, until they find a particular tea they like.”

So what are other coffee and tea trends to watch for in 2018? The CAC commissions an annual coffee drinking study on Canadian coffee  drinkers for its members. In the 2017 report, the top three things coffee consumers are looking for when drinking coffee away from home is taste, treat and convenience.  

“How quick and convenient can it be? Does it taste great? These are probably all great areas of opportunity for those in the vending and office coffee industry,” Balych-Cooper said.

Mindful consumers
Mindful consumers want to continue making responsible food and beverage choices. With advancements in technology, consumers can now access smart labels that tell them everything they want to know about the product. With this is mind, it is best that producers have answers to these questions.  

“If the coffee says fair trade or organic it has a positive effect on the intent for the consumer to purchase it,” Balych-Cooper said,“followed closely by things such as ‘grown on farms that treat workers well’, ‘grown in environmentally sustainable way’, ‘donates to a good cause’ or rainforest/ conservation alliance.”

Coffee consumers will continue demanding producers disclose their product’s backstory.  

Going beyond drip coffee
With regards to preparation methods, the tides are changing with millennials as well. “Traditional coffee vending machines that dispense instant coffee or drip coffee are the least favourite option for coffee in the workplace,” Balych-Cooper said. “Desire for single cup brewers remains higher than all other coffee preparations.”

More people want espresso available, but the technology isn’t widespread at the office yet.

“Espresso machines are the only preparation option where desire continues to outpace availability.” Balych-Cooper said.

Treat time
More and more individuals are also embracing coffee as a treat. Cafes are expanding their sweetened drink options on their menu to take advantage of this.

Millennials are driving the growth of espresso-based beverages because they drink more espresso, lattes and flat white. They also drink more iced, frozen and blended coffee drinks than those that are over 35.

De-mystifying decaffeinated
Coffee is no longer strictly seen as a beverage to drink only in the morning, but as something you can drink throughout the day.

“Decaf coffee has had a myth around it that it didn’t taste as good as caffeinated coffee, but that myth has certainly been busted,” Balych-Cooper said. “Offering fresh, delicious decaf is a great way to extend coffee sales throughout the day.”

Tea at work
The Tea and Herbal Association of Canada’s most recent research suggested consumption of tea in the workplace was significantly higher in 2017 and will continue to grow as one of the most popular places to drink tea.

“In the past it was the sixth place to drink tea,” Roberge said. “Now it’s the third. We see people are interested in drinking tea in the workplace.”

Herbal teas and self-care
Herbal tea is certainly not new to the scene but consumers passionate about tea are experimenting with different flavours and blends available. Baby boomers are also retiring and have more time to drink tea.

“There is a flavour for everyone, every mood or any time of the day,” Roberge said.

More and more consumers are grabbing a cup of tea as a form of relaxation.

“The traditional tea drinker associates tea with health benefits,” Roberge said. But our research shows young adults choose tea because it tastes good and it’s relaxing.”

Roberge said chamomile and peppermint are the most popular flavours.

Tea on-the-go
Brands like Tetley are putting out more ready-to-drink teas.

“That will be a continuous trend because millennials make stronger health associations with kombucha and herbal iced tea,” Roberge said.  Bottled teas are also now a preferred alternative to soda and juices for the health-conscious consumer.

Sugar and milk
Sweetening in general and white sugar use specifically, is declining. Alternative milks such as coconut, almond and cashew milks are gaining momentum.

Specialty food service establishments like David’s Tea and Starbucks already offer alternative sweeteners such as honey and raw sugar. This trend affects both the coffee and tea industries as the 2018 Nourish Trend Report said, “regardless of generation, consumers are increasingly seeing food and beverage as a primary path to health and wellness.”

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