What comes to mind when you hear “instant coffee”? Surprisingly, the answer to this question is found not in the coffee beans themselves. There is a stigma surrounding instant coffee in North America. According the Harry Balzer, in the United States only 9% of coffee drinker use instant. In some regions of Latin America fresh coffee is preferred but is consumed by the more affluent and wealthy, coffee houses with quality coffee are found in big metropolitan cities. In Japan instant coffee consumption has grown rapidly mainly for the similarity of preparing a cup of tea and coffee. Europe prefer fresh coffee but the in the UK 90% of coffee
sales are instant and that’s because they’re always boiling water. Instant coffee is a 21 billion dollar industry and therefore not to be ignored by retailers. There is a reason why Starbucks launched their VIA line of “ready brew” coffee in 2009.
Starbucks and the Keurig Phenomenon
Feelings towards instant coffee could be shifting to the positive and faster than anticipated. When Starbucks launched its line of instant coffee in 2009, it was severely criticized and even attacked by food critic Phil Lempert, adding VIA to his “2010 worst products list”. Some of their hard-core loyal customers said it would “cheapened” the brand. Two years after, Starbucks reached 180 million in sales from their line of VIA products making it the 5th best-selling instant coffee in the U.S. It seems even the most loyal when need a convenient coffee jolt, they would choose VIA as their alternative. Starbucks might be helping in removing the shame from instant coffee in the U.S.
Another major player in this segment that has taken America by storm is Keurig K-cups and their “single serve” coffee brewers. America has embraced this idea and Fortune placed Green Mountain second on their list of 100 fastest growing companies.
Perhaps is the idea that instant coffee served from a $200 dollar machine is classier than pouring it yourself. At what point did preparing coffee required a degree? I grew up heating milk on the stove and pouring it in my dad’s Nescafe instant coffee, until today my dad is a Nescafe loyal instant coffee drinker. My sister bought an espresso machine that just sits pretty on their kitchen counter and I know the first time my dad attempts to use it he will hate it. Coffee at home has to be simple, easy and more importantly ready to go ASAP. Keurig has reported sales of over 1.7 billion just of their portion packs, which by the way, more and more coffee retailers such as Folgers, Starbucks and many others are jumping on the band wagon. Now this is a machine that I can see my dad using it just place the k-kup in, press the button done! If I want an espresso than I go to my local coffee shop.
It might be sooner than later when America change the way it looks at instant coffee.
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