Is coffee is dead? Part 2. ~ Sounds + Food 'n' Retail

Is coffee is dead? Part 2.

dead coffee.JPGNot too long ago, asked the question about whether coffee is a bad business to be in, taking into account the exploding number of quick coffee-stops, as well as the fact that global players like Starbucks, and the soon-to-come McDonalds café, are saturating the market. There's another part to this, which I actually discussed before, but I didn't make the connection: coffee as a soft-drink.

In the Starbucks-book, "Pour your heart into it," Howard Schultz talks about how Starbucks got into the canned coffee business, with the help of a chemist and Pepsi. The chemist had come up with a method to captured the essence of coffee into an extract, which enabled Starbucks to add it to a number of new products, such as ice-cream and indeed "porta-coffee," also leading to more business-opportunities outside of Starbucks-outlets. Pepsico had the "porta" knowledge, as well as the distribution-channels, and from what I hear their partnership was a raging success.

About a month ago, I wrote that Coca-Cola had entered a partnership with Nestle, to develop similar products, and just read about a another partnership between Coke and  illy, a premium brand of coffee and related products.

The rest of this post is speculation:
Now I'm sure that the coffee-makers will do their best to not have the can equal a taste of fresh coffee, though at the same time more competition in canned coffee will definitely drive the quality upwards. Perhaps up to a point where it will perhaps convince customers not to wait in the long queue associated with "good" coffee, and instead get a quickie at a supermarket or in a machine at work. Similarly, an increase in downstream-marketing by producers, may lead to an increased demand for these products up the chain, at cafés, giving Starbucks-, illy-, and Nestle-outlets an advantage over generic coffee-producers. Thinking defensively, all of this sounds pretty bad for existing cafés. I'm not a fan of thinking defensively however.

Offensively speaking, this is an opportunity. Comoditised coffee means that there is more space left for other activities which help increase the value of "third places." Comoditised coffee also means that the overall quality of coffee will go up, and that consumers will look for other selling-points. By taking a license on illy or Nestle coffee (I don't think/know if Starbucks licenses), cafés can profit from the downstream marketing that is already happening. Even cans of coffee can present an added value, for instance in large queue-situations (like the ones I discussed last time), which I perceive as an excellent opportunity for offering tasters.

And really, this may not change much for cafés. The manufacturers' downstream marketing towards consumers may cause an increased demand for illy or Nestle-coffee (or cans) in cafés, pressuring them to take it into their assortment. But the same has happened with drinks like soda and beer for decades, though I'm sure that there are some horror-stories to tell here too. And so far, canned coffee has definitely been lacking the taste department, so it may not all represent competition for existing drink-venues. I may be making an elephant out of a fly. In any case, interesting to think about and to see how this will play out.

Oh, and the picture is meant to represent a cup, spilling coffee. If it looks like crap (the coffee kinda does), my apologies.


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