The last few years have seen a boom in the coffee market; no longer a slightly bitter necessity to wake you up in the morning, but a whole art form. Instagram is full of #dailycortado and #latteart and people spend hours learning how to create the perfect rosetta on their flat whites.
What then, has happened to the poor jars of instant coffee that the UK used to love and rely on?
The leading brand in instant coffee is still Nescafé, but whilst its newest brand ‘Azera’ is doing well, sales of their Nescafé Original are declining. Similarly, Douwe Egberts Pure Indulgence collaboration with the designer Orla Kiely has arguably been more popular than the rest of their collection.
So what was the key to success behind these two brands?
The Azera pack, with its Italian sounding name, chrome and orange packaging and adverts boasting ‘barista style’ coffee in minutes, echoes the aesthetic of an artisanal coffee shop. The stylish minimalist lines and colours recall traditional Italian coffee machines, and the claim that it is whole bean instant coffee promises barista worthy fare.
The Douwe Egberts Pure Indulgence similarly relies on design, albeit in a slightly different way. In this case their focus on premium coffee is as equitable as the jars; which can be used as storage after their original use, thus linking Douwe Egberts with premium design and style.
In other areas of the market, new and interesting innovations are emerging which try to capitalise on the changing perception of a quality coffee experience seen in the creation of the Wholebean Instant category as well as online innovations like Pact. Instant coffee has a lot of opportunity, and as discussed, some are doing a fair job to break into the convenience+coffee experience. That said, other types of coffee are breaking into the idea of ‘convenience’ such as filter coffee which is dominating the sector, as it seems more focused on the ‘real coffee bean’ experience and you only need to look at Hey in Bermondsey, who are championing the coffee bag; bringing quality and ease to real fresh coffee.
What can the instant coffee market continue to do then, to stay relevant?
As Generation Y are consistently moving away from instant and getting take-aways or making filter coffee, coffee has become so much more than caffeine; it has become a whole social experience, with a focus on craft drinks, food pairing, and artisanal products.
The key is in the authenticity. Instant coffee needs to take a leaf out of coffee culture’s book and pick up on the fact that it’s no longer enough to be convenient; people want experience and style, as well as taste. Brands that recognise this trend and build a sense of being ‘made not manufactured’, automatically reinforce the brand as being authentic, better tasting and made in a better way. They also need to look at their assets; Nescafé has been the number one instant coffee brand in the UK for years but whilst they are reliable, distinctive and loved by the people who’ve known it for years, they need to show that they are also adaptable and can create an authentic experience for people who can smell the difference between a flat white and a latte from a mile away.
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