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Coffee Marketing Tips (and Predictions) for Ten Growing Industry Trends

What new standards do you think the coffee industry will have over the next ten years? Working on coffee marketing over the next three months seems like a tall order in the pandemic.

If we can rely on anything, it’s the fact that coffee comes in waves. First wave coffee was as simple as could be, focusing on introducing this plant to a mainstream audience. The second wave completed the deal and turned coffee into an everyday beverage. Third wave is what Western coffee drinkers – particularly those interested in the specialty space – are most familiar with, focusing on environmental sustainability and cultural growth. 

The fourth wave of coffee is still in the air, but current trends are already setting the stage. I’m going to look at ten coffee trends set to become standards over the next ten years and what that means for the cards in your deck – your coffee marketing strategies. 

#1: Specialty Coffee Will Shift Away From 100% Arabica (But Not Single-Origin)

Not only does specialty coffee need to score eighty points or higher on the specialty coffee grading scale, it needs to be 100% Arabica. Sadly, achieving this number won’t exactly be easy over the next ten years, with Arabica more sensitive to factors like climate change, leaf rust, and the coffee borer beetle. 

New players such as the more temperate and rust-resistant coffea stenophylla, rediscovered in Sierra Leone, mark the gradual shift from Arabica. I don’t, however, think specialty coffee will move from single-origins quite yet. It’s such a major selling point on multiple levels and the coffee industry still has two or three decades before single-origin starts coming under scrutiny. 

…With any luck.

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Whether because of availability or pricing, specialty coffee is going to struggle to keep bags 100% Arabica. It wouldn’t surprise me to see 50% Arabica or 80% Arabica become the new coffee marketing slogans. 

Raising awareness of the benefits of Robusta will be essential to soften the blow of losing that 100% Arabica selling point.

#2: Robusta Will Replace or Challenge Arabica for Top Spot

There have been some stirrings among multiple sectors of the coffee industry on this bean variety, particularly in Vietnam where the largest volume of Robusta is made. Robusta has been repeatedly set up for failure by comparing it to its relatively milder tasting and less-caffeinated Arabica cousin.

While not as climate change resistant as previously thought, this variety is fast becoming a more plentiful crop than it used to be. It’s only a matter of time until it carves out its own specialty niche by necessity.

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The new cultural shift concerning specialty coffee will very much become a first-come, first-serve marketing blitz.

Many casual coffee drinkers are unaware of the differences between coffee varieties, so deeper education is a necessary push to establish brand value. Robusta marketed as the bean that could ‘save coffee’ in lieu of shrinking Arabica stock is an angle you could take.

coffee cherry

#3: Cascara Will Become the New Must-Have Drink 

Coffee production produces a ton of waste. While there are admirable efforts to mitigate carbon footprints with the introduction of carbon-free roasting technology and recyclable coffee bags, there’s more that needs to be done.

Cascara is set to answer these concerns in a major (and tasty) way. Using the leftover fruit pulp from the coffee process, this single ingredient boasts a wealth of health benefits. You’ve got a slew of antioxidants, a high concentration of caffeine, and, of course, lots of waste being repurposed.

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The sustainable behind-the-scenes details, tea-like appearance, and ability to be repurposed makes cascara instantly appealing to Millennials and Gen Z. 

Cascara could become the new must-have drink in the West, especially if it’s marketed as a ‘superfood’ or ‘saving the environment’. Is it a little corny and reductive? Yes. Is it effective? Also yes.

(Do you need a specialized eye on your coffee marketing campaign? I’m a B2B copywriter, content writer, and marketer in the coffee niche: contact me today for rates and availability.)

#4: Ready-To-Drink Market Will Have a Battle of Ethics

Grab-and-go drinks are practically therapeutic in such an exhausting and tense economic landscape. 

That said, there’s an inherent downside to the grab-and-go mentality. The growing RTD market is set to collide hard with sustainability and traceability issues, since these elements are considered ‘the domain’ of specialty. A significant section of the Millennial market is focused on value and ethics, particularly where their preferred brand overlaps with health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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The RTD market will continue blooming, though it will bump into similar issues facing the specialty coffee space (which are not mutually exclusive categories). 

Considering many organic certifications are now coming under scrutiny for being unreliable, this battle will be very much uphill. Coffee marketing campaigns will have to battle common concerns about RTD by discussing them directly, so beating around the bush isn’t wise.

#5: Instant Coffee Will Continue to See a Cultural Revival

Instant coffee sees a pretty strict cultural split. It’s shunned by many brewers as defective and inferior on a sensory level, while casual drinkers favor it for its low price and ease of use. 

With the dalgona trend setting the tone for the pandemic back in 2020 and specialty instant making waves, I’m confident instant coffee will continue to see a cultural revival. Specialty coffee is set to dwindle by sheer virtue of shrinking land and rising prices due to climate change. It only makes sense the Robusta-focused instant coffee space will rise up. 

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The ready-to-drink market will have a little crossover competition with the instant coffee crowd, but not too much. 

Instant coffee requires a little bit of a personal touch that RTD doesn’t have. Emphasizing fun little details like origin or home recipes will add another layer.

tea bags and tea packaging

#6: Steeped Coffee Will Slot Between Instant Coffee and RTD 

With the soothing quality of steeping tea with the flavor of coffee, steeped coffee slots neatly between several categories. Fans of RTD and instant coffee have a lot to enjoy here.

Provided coffee businesses prioritize actually recyclable coffee packaging, steeped coffee has the potential to stand out on the sustainability front.

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Effective coffee marketing taps into the personal and lifestyle reasons behind a purchase. Steeped coffee that utilizes sensory imagery of being soothing, convenient, and easy will connect with customers.

#7: Most Coffee Alternatives Won’t Become Mainstream…Yet

I’ve seen turmeric lattes and beanless coffee. I’ve (regrettably) seen charcoal lattes. Coffee alternatives are bound to become a new norm…I just think it won’t happen yet.

Depressing statistics hover above the coffee industry’s head on a regular basis. By the time 2050 comes around, a solid half of all viable coffee growing land will shrivel up. Coffee farmers have been leaving their farms in droves from coffee-producing countries in Central America, often pivoting to sugarcane, cacao, and avocado. 

While I believe cascara will be a big exception, the sheer history and global cultural impact of coffee means the traditional bean won’t be let go anytime soon. While beanless coffee and coffee-flavored additives are making headlines, coffee alternatives will remain a fun little superniche…for now. 

In the next twenty to thirty years? This’ll be a whole different story.

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With the exception of cascara, coffee alternatives will likely remain a niche of a niche.

That’s not a bad thing, of course. Every product has its audience. Drinkers who want coffee alternatives usually seek them out because they don’t like coffee’s flavor, need different health benefits, or want to try something new.

#8: Coffee Origins Will Shift Away From South America and Africa

It all comes together. Not only do I believe Robusta will start carving out previously unheard of niches for itself, it’ll also change the way we look at origin staples like Colombia and Brazil. 

Vietnam and Indonesia are slowly, but surely, starting to stand out in the coffee supply chain. The former is already the largest producer of Robusta, while Sumatran coffee from Indonesia has been making waves for its delicious flavor. Kopikalayan is an Indonesian-based coffee chain with its sights set on becoming a global household name, which I don’t doubt it’ll achieve.

I’ve tried Sumatran coffee a few times in the past and found myself impressed. Expect to see some reviews soon in my Decaf, Decaf Everywhere series. 

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It’ll take time for smaller origins to carve out a mainstream market. Tariffs, export restrictions, and consumer ignorance are major barriers for coffee producers.

Smaller origins are still bound for top spot by sheer virtue of the fact no top dog can remain in its position forever. With climate change shrinking up Brazil and Colombia’s land, I can easily see origins like Indonesia or Uganda filling in the gap. Coffee marketing campaigns should double-down on awareness-level blogs, social media, and ebooks to generate interest.

#9: Decaf Will Become the Go-To Health-Focused Option

There are parallels between the emergence of no/low alcohol and decaf coffee. Both are shunned by mainstream drinkers as watered down pretenders of the real deal.

Both are also viable health-focused options that are seeing impressive growth. The oft-mentioned Millennials (what can I say, I’m biased) are one of the biggest drivers for decaf coffee sales. Issues like headaches, withdrawal, nausea, insomnia, and heart palpitations are frequently cited as reasons to snip out caffeine.

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With more drinkers seeking out decaf to avoid side-effects, coffee marketing campaigns have a wealth of opportunity to bring in buyers.

Stressing the lifestyle changes of implementing decaf over caffeine will resonate more with the concerns of coffee drinkers.

#10: Mainstream Coffee Culture Will Encourage a Local Flavor

My last projection is a touch broad, because coffee culture itself is a term that’s a touch broad. While Starbucks is the crowning king of mainstream coffee culture, new entries pop up in the space regularly.

Increased interest in local small businesses is being seen in the Chinese wine industry and it’s one I believe will carry over swiftly into the coffee space. Local roasters already have a foot in their communities, but I think a more keen interest in the smaller players will continue to rise. 

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People want to know their dollar is propping someone else up. Someone they can likely see and talk with.

Local coffee marketing will thrive in this department. More personalized efforts like email newsletters or signed coffee merchandise will go a long way to keep repeat buyers. 

Conclusion

The next ten years are going to be highly volatile for the coffee supply chain. Coffee marketing needs to be both proactive and reactive.

The pandemic has simply peeled back trends that were always bound to happen. Over the next ten years, new coffee industry standards will likely be the following:

  • Specialty coffee will shift away from 100% Arabica, but stick to single-origin
  • Robusta may see an improved reputation as a more reliable variety
  • Cascara is likely to become a must-have drink for coffee and tea-drinking demographics
  • The RTD market will face an uphill battle of balancing ethics with convenience
  • Instant coffee is already seeing a cultural revival among different drinkers
  • Steeped coffee will have amazing crossover appeal with instant and RTD fans 
  • Coffee alternatives will remain a small niche (for now)
  • Popular coffee origins will shift toward other countries like Vietnam and Indonesia
  • Decaf coffee will see a refreshed reputation as a go-to health option
  • Mainstream coffee culture will fall to the wayside in favor of local flavor

(Impactful coffee marketing needs to go beyond repeating buzzwords. Contact me for specialized copywriting, content writing, and marketing services in the coffee niche.)

Curious about specialty coffee or coffee news? Check out:

Check out my review of Rwanda Bean’s Amahoro Decaf and why their behind-the-scenes caught my eye.

Small businesses go through a bumpy first few years. I loved reading this interview with a former Cameroon coffee farmer who switched to roasting and exporting coffee in Minnesota.

A tiny cafe that opens up like a fridge? Say less. This pop-up cafe from Miharashi is designed to accommodate the limited space in major Japanese cities. 

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