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Will Single-Origin Coffee Mimic the Whiskey Trend Cycle?

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Coffee drinkers are becoming more sophisticated, leading to a growing interest in premium products like single-origin coffee. The volume of consumer discussions about single-origin coffee has been growing at around 10% per year, and this niche product now accounts for 15% of all online conversations about coffee. However, coffee sourced from a single farm or region only accounts for around 5% of all coffee products on the market.


Consumer Discussions Over Time, US Data, March 2017 – June 2019


Source: Signals Explore


Consumer Interest Outpaces Products In-Market


Single-origin coffee’s share of consumer discussions is three times greater than its share of all products. Only specialty-grade coffee is more undersupplied, with a share of discussion nine times greater than share of products.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, products in-market claiming organic, Arabica, and blended coffee surpass the levels of consumer discussion at rates of two, five, and twenty times respectively.


Consumer Discussion vs. Product Claims, US Data, March 2017 – June 2019


Source: Signals Playbook™ Insights


Independent coffee brands like Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, Volcanica Coffee, and Artizan Coffee Co. are leading the way in addressing consumer needs for brews of single origin. Nespresso, Starbucks, and Illy – together the focus of around 80% of U.S. consumer discussion about coffee brands – supply less than 5% of all single-origin coffee products.


Brands Addressing Single Origin, US Data, March 2017 – June 2019


Source: Signals Playbook™ Insights


Could Single-Origin Coffee Follow the Single Malt Whiskey Trend Cycle?


Although a range of themes can be found among the almost 6,000 consumer discussions per month about single-origin coffee, one of the most frequently-voiced opinions is that this is a premium or luxury product. As some coffee experts have noted, single-origin coffee’s traceability makes clear to consumers that it comes from a single, high-quality source.

As coffee drinkers become more sophisticated, single-origin coffee could mimic the trend cycle of single malt whiskey. The UK, specifically Scotland, is the largest whiskey exporter in the world, with £4.7 billion ($5.7 billion) worth of exports last year. Exports of single malt Scotch whisky (spelled without the “e), whiskey made from barley in a single distillery, grew 11.7% year-on-year between 2011 and 2018. As a result, single malt’s share of all Scottish whiskey exports rose from 17% to 28%, according to data from the Scotch Whisky Association.


How Brands Can Take Control of the Single-Origin Coffee Conversation


Single-origin coffee is still a niche product with 10x fewer products than blended coffee and 3x fewer products than organic coffee. But as consumer discussion about single-origin coffee grows louder, coffee brands will find the noise impossible to ignore.

Like drinkers of single malt whiskey, consumers of single-origin coffee aren’t only thirsty for tasty products – they’re also thirsty for quality. The obvious first step for coffee brands is to roll out a greater range of single-origin products. Beyond that, brands can engage more sophisticated coffee drinkers by clearly labeling their products and aligning marketing efforts to highlight the unique origin of each single-origin brew.


Insights by Uri Goldberg,

Director of Insights at Signals Analytics

Uri Goldberg is a management expert, specializing in serving governments and corporations on strategy, innovations and economic development issues. He worked with McKinsey& Co. where he directed key consulting projects for Fortune 500 companies as well as governments in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He also served as Foreign Policy Aid in the office of Israeli President Shimon Peres in his former capacity as Vice Prime Minister.

Written by Nadav Shemer


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Signals Analytics and its next-gen, on-demand data platform takes trillions of unstructured and unconnected external data points and turns it into actionable insights for product Innovation, Marketing and Strategy. The platform’s analytic engines connect disparate data with deep context to help brands better align with evolving trends. Signals Analytics’ clients include Procter & Gamble, e.l.f., Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, Roche, Mars, and others. Backed by Sequoia Capital, Qumra Capital, Pitango Growth and TPY Capital, Signals Analytics is redefining market research for the world's leading brands.

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