2017 on Cafe Spaces: A Year in Review

As the end of 2017 draws near I’ve been reflecting on how my work has developed over the year.  As more regular readers of the blog may have noted, I was off on maternity leave until the summer, so in terms of research outputs this year, it’s been a little slower than if I had been at work all year. That said, I’ve covered lots of interesting topics here on the blog, and my research activities have continued to develop, with a new project emerging. This blog post is really a re-cap of issues covered on the blog, and significant events that have taken place this year for me in my coffee shop industry research journey.

Flat white coffee

In January I highlighted a set of teaching resources produced by Costa for Schools which may be useful for Key Stage 3 and GCSE Geography teachers for topics around coffee, transnational corporations and coffee shops, as well as broader concepts of space, interdependence, cultural, understanding and diversity.  The end of the month saw a post around the decline of pubs and high transformations after the Local Data Company released data showing a decline in bars and pubs in UK town centres, alongside a 31% increase in coffee shops.

At the beginning of February I took a look at the coffee shop culture  in Russia. While it is a country with a rich tea drinking culture, coffee consumption is growing, and consequently so are the number of coffee shops, with the market currently being dominated by domestic coffee house chains such as Shokolodnitsa and Coffee House. Then I moved on to discuss how some consider coffee shops to have become the new ‘local’ in the UK, after Allegra Strategies published its Project Café 2017 highlighting a number of trends for the UK market. Moving to a different area of the world, a blog post was produced on Cofix, the low cost coffee shop that has been growing in Israel.

February saw the emergence of a theme on this blog which recurs at a number of points in the year: coffee and the circular economy. In this post I began to explore some of the efforts of those in the coffee industry to engage in the circular economy, from programmes to use coffee grounds to grow mushrooms from GroCycle, to the production of energy from Bio-bean.  Moving back to the UK context I then explored the growth of the coffee shop chain: Coffee #1 which owned by the brewer SA Brain has continued to expand further into the country since. Thinking more broadly about coffee related activities I then considered how the growing number of coffee festivals have become important events for stakeholders in the coffee shop industry, but how they have the potential to be important for the places they are located too, in terms of bring in tourists and visitors. Continuing with the issue of takeaway coffee cups which I started to write about last year, the ‘Calling for cups’ blog post highlights some developments in schemes that started to emerge in the UK.

McDonalds might not be the first company you think of when you think of coffee, but through its McCafe range the company has sought to expand their presence on the coffee landscape. They even released an advert which I discussed in ‘The McCafe view of specialty coffee’, which tries to have a bit of a go at the specialty coffee market, suggesting it is too complicated, expensive and bewildering for the general consumer. The coffee shop industry would not be what it is today without its baristas, and through my research I’ve been collecting data on working in the coffee shop industry (and its associated benefits and challenges). I wrote a blog post which highlights some top tips for getting ahead in the coffee shop industry for baristas.

In March I moved on to write about co-working and cafes based on a presentation I had prepared for a workshop on co-working dynamics in the city, exploring how some cafes facilitate or inhibit co-working practices. A few weeks later I transformed this presentation into a PowToon animation which can be viewed here.

Later in the month I explored the presence of Starbucks in Italy after an article from the BBC questioned how Starbucks could succeed in a country like this with a rich traditional coffee culture. Returning to the coffee cup issue I then highlighted how the Environmental Audit Committee had launched an inquiry into plastic waste focusing on plastic bottles and coffee cups. I submitted evidence to this inquiry (if you’re interested you can read my submission here). Due to the general election that was held in June this inquiry was closed, but a new one was opened in September and the results were due to be published at the end of December. Then I wrote a blog post to summarise some of the websites and blogs where I read about the coffee and shop industries, not an exhaustive list but includes places I frequently visit.

This was followed a couple of weeks later by a post about magazines I read to learn about coffee and coffee shops.

Moving to the other side of the world a post on ‘Coffee shop culture in Australia’ explored how the country developed its well-established coffee culture where the independent coffee shop dominates the landscape.

April saw the return of the London Coffee Festival, the largest coffee festival in the UK. In this blog post I explored the issue of sustainability both at the festival and the broader Square Mile Challenge for recycling coffee cups.  After a few caffeine fuelled days at the Old Truman Brewery I decided to do a bit of analysis of how the festival was discussed on twitter, producing some visualisations using Netlytic.

April also saw the arrival of UK coffee week, a fundraising campaign that involves many coffee shops across the country to raise money for Project Waterfall. I discussed these topics briefly in this post. After realising that latte art has become a new entry in the Oxford English Dictionary I decided to explore the concept of latte art in a little more depth in ‘the language of coffee: latte art’.

Later this month I turned my attention to the activity of Starbucks, and its moves to open ‘reserve stores and roasteries’ in a number of cities, as well as a slightly different store format in Japan, ‘Neighbourhood and Coffee’. After highlighting where I read about coffee in books, websites and blogs, and magazines, the next blog post turned to highlight podcasts I listen to for learning about coffee from ‘The Coffee Podcast’ to ‘Orange Cactus Coffee’.

Spaces of Community Report Cafe IndustryThe end of April saw the launch of a research summary report for the project that the cafespaces blog was initially designed to support – Spaces of Community: Dynamics in the café industry. The project sought to explore the growth and development of the café industry in the UK, and examine the role of cafes in different urban spaces. While there are a number of other publications in the academic publishing machine, this summary provides a short and accessible version of some of the key research findings.

In May I wrote a series of blog posts about coffee and café culture in Portugal (which are now available both in English and Portuguese). The first explores general coffee and café culture in Portugal and how it is changing with the arrival of some international chains, and the emergence of a specialty coffee industry in the country. The second focuses more on specialty coffee in Portugal after I visited Luso Coffee Roasters and Mesa 325. The third returns to consider café culture in Portugal, highlighting some of the changes taking place.

May saw the closure of a pioneer of specialty coffee in Birmingham 6/8 Kafe on Temple Row, after the building it inhabited was to be transformed. In a short blog post I consider its closure and the link between urban development and coffee shops. Turning again to coffee culture in another area of the world ‘Growing coffee shop culture in Nigeria’ explores the expansion of the chain Café Neo and other coffee shops in Nigeria and beyond. Considering somewhere a little closer to home, the final post for May turned the spotlight to the city I work in, Coventry, highlighting how the city has a growing café culture.

In June I considered how cafes use social media. After obtaining a coffee of new book by 3FE founder Colin Harmon, ‘What I Know about running coffee shops’, I wrote a short review. Kickstarter is full of coffee related crowdfunding projects, one in particular that July brought to the fore was for HuskeeCup, a cup that was made using coffee husks, a great example of engaging in sustainable behaviour, as discussed in this blog post. As I was beginning my phased return to work I took part in the Coventry University 2017 conference with a presentation focusing on how to turn a research idea into research reality, as I’ve did with the ‘Spaces of Community’ cafe project. As the end of maternity leave drew near I took time in ‘The New Adventures of a Latte Parent’ to reflect on the role that cafes had played in this stage of my life, and how cafes as social spaces for many parents and carers are really important. I then moved on to consider the growing coffee culture and specialty coffee industry in the Middle East, focusing on the expansion of the chains such as Coffee Planet, as well as independent specialty coffee shops. I also received a surprise package in July, which turned out to be from Orange Cactus Coffee, a coffee roaster in the US, and iOrange Cactus Saguaro Coffeencluded a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans, as I explored in this post. The final post for July examined a documentary produced by Romedia Studios ‘Coffees – Italians do it better?’ which provides an overview of contemporary Italian coffee culture, its history, trends and transformation.

In July I returned to the issue of working in cafes, considering the ‘coffice economy’ after I gave a presentation at the Coventry University Faculty of Business and Law Conference. Moving to the other side of the world again, I explored the activity of Starbucks in Japan after it opened an outlet in Kyoto which was inside a 100 year old Japanese townhouse, complete with tatami rooms and traditional decoration. July saw the first ever Birmingham Coffee Festival which I visited with the family. Held in the Custard Factory in the Digbeth area of the city, the festival brought together a range of coffee businesses from the Midlands and beyond, as I explored this blog post.

There was plenty of new coffee books appearing in 2017, and the next one I managed to work through was the Best of Jim Seven, reviewed in this blog post. In July I also took part in the Circular Economy Conference: Transitioning to Sustainability presenting some research around the coffee shop industry and the circular economy, as documented in this blog post.

For a number of reasons August and September were quiet months on the blog, but I did manage one book review of ‘Paris Coffee Revolution’ which explores the growth of the specialty coffee industry in the French capital.

keepcup star warsOctober began with another book review, this time of New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History, an examination of how coffee is intertwined with the development of the city itself. After announcements from a number of companies about specialty coffee companies receiving investment from large international companies (such as Nestle buying a 68% stake in Blue Bottle Coffee in the US), I wrote a blog post to consider some of these consolidations and why they were taking place. After the BBC published an article on four solutions to the coffee cup problem (i.e. too many disposable cups), I wrote a short blog post to examine these and suggest that there are lots more solutions available. The final post for this month considered a piece on ITV news which highlighted how the national chain coffee shops in the UK continue to dominate the market, despite a growing presence of independents.

November was a quieter month on the blog, although I did publish a piece on the Conversation ‘Has Britain reached peak coffee shop?’ to explore the continued growth of the coffee shop industry in the UK, and current predictions for its future. This led to an invitation to take part in a panel on BBC Radio Scotland on the Kaye Adams Programme to talk about the growth of coffee shops, and if we’re close to saturation point. A blog post summarises these activities here.

conversation ferreira peak coffee shop

In December I examined some of the data published as infographics by the SCA on specialty coffee consumption trends in the USA, and the size of the coffee market in Western Europe. There was also a post this month about a press release from Coventry University in November based on some of my work around consumers and reusable coffee cups.

Jennifer Ferreira Coventry University coffee

With some more reading complete I wrote a blog post about ‘Everything but the coffee’ an examination of Starbucks and how it ingrained itself into the lives of the American population. After spending some time analysing data about global coffee production and consumption from the ICO I produced a few maps and charts to show global patterns and how some of these have been changing in recent years. After being asked a number of times about any ‘good coffee books’ that I’ve read this year I decided to put together a blog post detailing some of the books I’ve managed to read, many of which came out in 2017.

Towards the end of the month after the release of Allegra Strategy’s Project Café 2018 Europe, I considered some of the trends taking place in the European coffee shop market. And to end the year, a blog post introduced a new funded research project I will be undertaking around the coffee shop industry and the circular economy in the UK and Germany.

This ended up being a much longer post than I had expected. It’s been a really productive year in terms of posts on the blog and the development of my research more generally, even though I’ve technically not been at work for a substantial part of the year. The coffee and coffee shop industries are dynamic and ever changing, and there are such a wide range of issues that can be researched. This year I’ve submitted a series of papers around the role of cafes in different urban spaces, and the coffee shop industry and sustainability. Hopefully 2018 will see some of these become available as I embark on the new research project focusing on the circular economy, as well as all the other areas of the coffee industry that I’ve been collecting data on. Looking to the future, I’m sure 2018 will be eventful and interesting as ever.

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New research project – From the Grounds Up: The Coffee Shop Industry and the Circular Economy

There have been a number of posts over the last year on the ‘cafespaces’ blog which have discussed topics related to sustainability and the coffee shop industry. I’m delighted to have received funding from Coventry University to be able to research this area in more depth in the form of a new project: From the Grounds Up: The Coffee Shop Industry and the Circular Economy.

The project aims to explore how businesses in the coffee shop industry, and consumers can engage in the circular economy, the facilitator and inhibitors for doing so, and the importance of these actions for sustainable economies and societies. The UK and Germany will be used as two case studies for exploring how and why the coffee shop industry takes part in the circular economy. The investigation is driven by the following research questions:

  • To what extent is the circular economy evident in the coffee shop industry?
  • In what ways do businesses and consumers in the coffee shop industry engage in the circular economy?
  • What are the enablers and inhibitors for coffee shops and their consumers to adopt circular economy practices?
  • What impacts can engagement with the circular economy have for coffee shops and its consumers?

There will be more updates on the blog as this project develops, but as background there are already a number of related blog posts:

If you know of a coffee shop or coffee business that engages with the circular economy, in whatever capacity or scale (or country), from recycling to energy generation, I’d be really interested to hear about it.

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The coffee shop market in Europe: growth and the future

Allegra Strategies one of the leading coffee industry market research companies recently published the newest version of its Project Café Europe. The 2018 version according to this article from the Independent indicated that 21 out of 25 European countries experienced growth in the branded coffee shop market, with 18 of these more than 3%.

It suggested that the UK continued to be one of the most developed markets in the region, and continues to be a strong driver of growth. The number of branded outlets in the UK grew by 643 in 2017 an increase of 6.4%. Other countries in Europe with significant growth included Turkey, Russia, Romania and Poland. Although some countries were experiencing a decline, including Spain, Bulgaria and Austria.

Starbucks in Prague
Flickr user Greger Gronroos

The growth in coffee shops in Eastern Europe was also the focus of a recent article from Bloomberg which highlighted how the market for coffee in Eastern Europe grew by 5.3% (worth around $7.45 billion), compared to only 1.8% in Western Europe. Starbucks is emerging as a strong competitor in Czech Republic and Hungary while it is also entering into new markets including Slovakia. Given there are already so many Starbucks stores across Western Europe, turning its attention to Eastern Europe where the concentration of coffee shops per consumer seems is lower, seems like an inevitable move. The specialty coffee industry too is seeing growth with the number of specialty coffee shops rising in many Eastern European cities – the article suggests in Poland the number has risen from in 2010 to 40 by 2017.

While the growth in the region is seen to be driven by rising incomes the Bloomberg article highlights that income is a potential barrier to a faster pace of growth as the cost of drinks will be higher than in other regions in Europe making drinks in coffee shops ‘a special purchase’.

An article from Global Coffee Report provided even further detail of some of the wider European growth patterns:

  • In terms of market leaders Costa Coffee remained the largest chain in Europe, adding 243 stores to reach 2755 outlets.
  • Starbucks remains slightly behind, adding 251 stores in 2017 to reach 2,406 outlets. 2017 has been a year Starbucks has started to try different activities to engage the consumer, opening its Reserve Roastery in Milan for example.
  • The article refers to the influence of the ‘third wave’ scene, i.e. specialty coffee, growing across Europe (largely led by independent coffee shops), with many brands trying to adapt to this introducing new stores designs (often to look less like chains), offering single origin coffees and different brewing methods, as well as more freshly prepared food. It is suggested that where these trends are not being embraced market growth tends to be slower.

The report also argues that the 5th wave of coffee, ‘the business of coffee’, with ‘high quality artisan chains adopting a more advanced set of business practices and higher standards of professionalism in order to deliver boutique concepts at scale’, will be key to growth in future years (Global Coffee Report, 2017).

Overall the outlook from Allegra remains positive (as you would expect from a coffee market research company), suggesting that market growth will continue across the continent, and that in particular consumer demand for higher quality coffee will be an important driver of growth and change.

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Coffee reading in 2017

La Caféothèque, ParisI’m often asked about where to read about coffee and coffee shops, and I’ve written a few book reviews on here, plus a blog post about some of the books out there. There’s a huge range of literature out there related to coffee, coffee cultures, coffee shops, and there’s more becoming available all the time. This post highlights ten of the books I’ve read this year that I’ve found interesting and useful (not all released in 2017).

New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History by Erin Meister (2017)

new york city coffee

This book which has been nominated for a 2017 Sprudgie award for ‘Best Coffee Writing’ explores the story of coffee in New York, showing how the history of coffee and the city itself are intertwined. I wrote a short review of this book back in October.




Coffee Dictionary by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood (2017)

Coffee Dictionary

An A-Z of coffee from growing and roasting to brewing and tasting from the UK Barista champion and also co-author of Water for Coffee. There are a lot of terms used in coffee related to the varieties, preparation methods, equipment to how it is sourced. This helps demystify some of the language you might come cross.



Where to Drink Coffee by Avidan Ross and Liz Clayton (2017)

A global insight into some of the worlds best coffee shops according to 150 baristas and coffee experts. It’s not a book to read cover to cover, and the coffee shop landscape changes so much this really is just a snapshot of interesting cafes around the world.



London Coffee by Lani Kingston and David Post (2017)

This book explores the history of coffee and coffee shops in London showing how the London coffee  scene has developed into what it is today, covering a range of the key places and people that have created it.



Everything but the coffee by Bryant Simon (2011)

everything but the coffee

A book which explores the Starbucks company, and how it ingrained itself into the lives of the American population.  For more on my thoughts on this book, see this blog post.




How to make coffee: the science behind the bean by Lani Kingston (2017)

how to make coffeeThis book explores the chemistry of coffee and the scientific principles (written for non-scientists) behind it. It covers the bean, the chemistry, roast and grind, brewing, extraction and balance, coffee and technology providing insights into the science behind how to make your favourite coffee beverage.


Coffeography by Stephen Leighton (2017)

CoffeeographyWhile many other coffee related books focus on the coffee itself, this one takes a different approach to illuminate the people behind the coffee. Drawing on the authors experience in HasBean Coffee the book includes a series of profiles of different producers he has worked with, exploring their stories. If you have an interest in coffee, its important to remember the people who make it all possible, and this book does a great way of doing this – particularly if you’re a fan of HasBean Coffee.


What I know about running coffee shops by Colin Harmon (2017)

What I know about running coffee shops

This book also nominated for a Sprudgie award for ‘Best Coffee Writing’, written by the founder of 3FE in Dublin is a compendium of advice about running coffee shops. Even if you never intend on opening a coffee shop it gives a lot of insights into how coffee shops work, and the complexities involved too – from choosing the location to how to hire people. I wrote a brief review of this book back in June.



The Best of Jim Seven by James Hoffman (2017)

best of jim seven

A collection of blog posts from 2004-2015 written by James Hoffman, co-founder of Square Mile Coffee and author of the ‘World Atlas of Coffee’. Even if you’ve read some of the jimseven blog before it’s interesting to read in book form to see how the issues in the coffee industry have changed over time. Covering issues from the espresso, coffee brewing, coffee business to coffee careers, this compilation provides a narrative of issues in the coffee industry during this time period. I wrote a brief review of the book highlighting how it has been useful in my research back in July.

Paris Coffee Revolution by Anna Brones and Jeff Hargroves (2016)

Paris Coffee Revolution

Paris is a city considered to be rich in café culture, and coffee history, but with a more recent development of a specialty coffee culture. The book explores the history of café culture in Paris before considering how it is beginning to be transformed by the development of specialty coffee businesses, and how the Parisian approach to coffee is being transformed. I wrote a more detailed review of the book back in August.

2017 has been a year with lots of coffee books appearing, and with such a growing interest in coffee and coffee shops, this trend is likely to continue in 2018; two I’m look forward to in particular are The Philosophy of Coffee by Brian Williams, and the second edition of Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, Beverage, and the Industry edited by Robert Thurston, Jonathan Morris, and Shawn Steiman. The books covered here are just 10 that I managed to find time to read, with lots of others joining my bookshelves. Did you have a favourite coffee book that you read this year?




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Data Insight: World Coffee Production and Consumption

Through investigating the coffee shop industry, it is impossible not to get pulled into what takes place in the global coffee industry more generally. Recently I’ve been doing some writing about coffee production and consumption globally and how this relates to the patterns in the coffee shop industry. In doing so I’ve been exploring the production and consumption of coffee using some of the recent ICO trade statistics (which cover exports, imports, re-exports, production and consumption of coffee). I ended up producing a few maps and charts in Tableau to explore change in world coffee production, and a few other data sets, and the highlights of some of these are  included in this blog post.

Coffee Production

Globally it is estimated that 157 million (60kg) bags of coffee were produced in 2016 up from around 152 million in 2013. The global distribution of this production is shown in the map below (with the darker shades of green indicating higher production). It’s easy to see that the production of coffee tends to cluster in countries around the equator, where the growing conditions are conducive for coffee plants to grow. It should be noted that there are more countries that grow coffee than are shown here – but for those that produce small amounts of coffee they have been aggregated in the ICO data in an ‘Other’ category.

ICO Coffee Data

  • In 2016 significantly more Arabica coffee was produced (around 102 million bags), than Robusta coffee (around 56 million bags).
  • The largest producing country by far, was Brazil as can be seen in the chart below with 55 million bags in 2016, up from around 50 million in 2015.
  • Other leading producer countries include Colombia (14.5 million bags), Indonesia (11.2 million bags) and Honduras (7. million bags).

ICO Coffee Data

  • The large production volumes that emerge from Brazil naturally make South America the largest producing region (even without including Mexico and Central America), as is shown in the chart below (data indicates thousands of bags).

ICO Coffee Data

Change in Global Coffee Production 2015

The coffee harvests each year naturally fluctuate due to climatic conditions, trading conditions and a number of other factors, but it is still interesting to look at how the pattern of production has changed between 2015 and 2016. The map below charts percentage change with the green countries experiencing growth in production, and the red countries, decline.

ICO Coffee Data

  • The greatest increase in production was experienced by Papua New Guinea (64.5%), followed by Uganda (34.3%), Honduras (33%), Peru (27.8%) and Mexico (24.1%).
  • Papua New Guinea has witnessed significant growth in the last few years from 835,000 bags of coffee in 2013, to nearly 1.2 million bags in 2016. Production in Honduras has been steadily increasing over recent years too. The situation in Peru and Mexico however has been of fluctuation, with Peru’s production dipping in 2012, and yet to return to levels from 2013, with Mexico experiencing a fall in production of around 700,000 bags in 2015.
  • The greatest decline in production was experienced by Yemen (-33.4%), Thailand (-29.8%), Cameroon (-27.5%), Togo (-25.9%) and Rwanda (-24.4%).
  • Decline in Yemen, Cameroon and Togo has been steady since 2013, while Thailand and Rwanda had a bumper year in 2015, and a subsequent fall the following year.ICO Coffee Data

Global Coffee Consumption

While global coffee production was generally concentrated around the equator, the appetite for coffee is truly global.

  • The amount of coffee consumed in 2016 in importing countries (107 million bags) dwarfs that consumed by exporting countries (48 million bags).
  • The ICO data published here, does not break the EU countries down individually, and so as a group, they dominate the consumption charts included here. The countries with smaller consumption amounts have been aggregated into an ‘other’ category. The chart below shows how distribution of coffee consumption across global regions (data is in thousands of bags of coffee).

ICO Coffee Data



  • ICO Coffee DataOther countries with high coffee consumption amounts include the USA (25.3 million bags), Brazil (20.5 million bags), Japan (7.8 million bags) and Indonesia (4.5 million bags).

ICO Coffee Data

  • Looking at changes to consumption 2012/13 to 2015/16 there have been a few changes. Increases in consumption have been experienced in many countries, with the greatest being in Turkey (10.5%), Philippines (8.9%), Taiwan (8.5%), Vietnam (8.0%) and Saudi Arabia (7.6%). While falls in consumption have been experienced in Argentina (-11.5%), Ukraine (-5.1%), Egypt (-5.0%), and Madagascar (-4.9%).

The coffee production system fluctuates for a variety of reasons as has been mentioned before, and so its usual for fluctuations to take place, however it has been a useful exercise for me to examine global distribution of coffee production and changes to it, as well as global coffee consumption patterns. This data will be explored in more detail in future work.




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Thoughts on ‘Everything but the Coffee’

everything but the coffeeThere are a lot of books out there about coffee, coffee culture and cafes. I’ve spent years working through them but there’s always so much more to read. I was recently recommended ‘Everything but the coffee’ by Bryant Simon. It’s a book which explores not only the Starbucks company, but how it ingrained itself into the lives of the American population. At the beginning of the book Simon talks about the ‘Starbucks moment’ in history, the point at which we started to see the company logo appear everywhere, not just in the stores, but online, in TV programs and films – it became a symbol of popular culture. It then goes on to explore the rise and fall of the ‘Starbucks moment’ and the changes that took place in the company that were related to this. The book also moves through different themes exploring how part of the appeal for consumers its predictability, how it might be considered a third place, how the brand fits in to modern retail therapy, how music fit into the business and issues of sustainability.  There were many areas of the book that were useful to my research, a couple are explored here, but in general this book would be of interest to those with an interest in coffee shops and coffee cultures. Whether you like Starbucks or not, its been a very important influencer in the global market for coffee and coffee shops.

seattle-starbucks-and-needleThe book explores how the growth of the company in many ways has little to with just the coffee. Some of its success has been around the style and status that was attributed to visiting its stores, and in particular carrying around the branded Starbucks cup, it became a popular form of everyday luxury. The same can be said for other coffee shop chains too. Visiting Starbucks also became about predictability, where the high-priced cup of coffee also provided the price of admission to a place that was reliably clean and would be filled with similar people.

I was particularly interested in the section which talks about Starbucks as a ‘third place’ as many cafés have been called. The term was coined by the sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place. Third places are those separate from work and home, where people can spend time, relax and communicate – typically these are considered to be cafes, coffee shops bookstores, etc. I’ve been exploring the third place concept in some of my recent research into the role of cafes in urban spaces. While for many the coffee shop is the quintessential third space, in reality, for many people the coffee shops are also a place of work, some times an alternative office, and in these cases can’t really be designated as somewhere neutral from work. But that’s another point I’ll go into another time.

The book explores how the CEO of Starbucks tried to highlight how their coffee shops were places of creating community, conversation, connections and debate – ‘third places’. ‘We’re not in the commodity business. We’ve created a third place…almost everywhere we open a store we add value to the community. Our stores become an instant gathering space, a third place, that draws people together’. (Quoted on page 83). As is highlighted, this offers a very rosy picture of what Starbucks provides, for many people the stores don’t offer real connections to people as they dash in and out for their to-go coffee, or sit in isolation in one of the stores, or sit and work, but not necessarily a place to sit and meet people from their neighbourhood.

‘Different kinds of people definitely gather at the coffee stores and sometimes do connect, but more often they are there hiding out from the stresses of their private lives or banging away at the laptop fully engrossed by the own world and no one else’s. Rarely (though that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen every once in a while) do these people doing different things actually talk and exchange ideas, but talk and ideas are crucial to the making of community, the coffee house tradition and third places (page 94).

The book explores the different elements of a third place and the extent Starbucks can really be considered one. I’ve explored the extent coffee shops can be considered ‘spaces of community’ in a recent project and it very much depends on the location of the store as well as the way it operates. But as Simon highlights, ‘under Starbucks reign, the coffee house has become something to consume more than an actual public space. You rent out space for work or a meeting or pay for a chair for twenty minutes of relaxation, or maybe you use it as a place to show off your good taste’ (p.118), but in reality, it is an ‘illusion of community’.

There was also another really relevant chapter for my work on sustainability in the coffee shop industry. The book highlights how it is not only the waste from paper cups that creates sustainability issues – there’s a much longer list from napkins, bags, stirrers, small trays for carrying drinks., plus all the plastic. While highlighting that the Grounds for Coffee program gives away coffee grounds for free (for use in gardens etc as compost), one way the company tries to be more sustainable, it discusses the various ways in which the company could perhaps do more – compostable cups, or those with a higher percentage of post-consumer waste.

A lot of the ideas that are explored in the book would equally have traction with how the company has developed in other markets too, so its not just for readers who are interested in the US context. Given Starbucks’ global imprint, the issues discussed here arguably may apply in may different locations around the world. Whether you’re a fan of Starbucks or not, the company has made a huge impact on the coffee and coffee shop industry on a global scale, and this book is provides many interesting insights into the company and its operations.

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Consumers, reusable cups and convenience

At the end of the November Coventry University published a press release which included some of my research based around the issue of disposable coffee cups and plastic waste. The release came out just after the Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced in the budget that there would be an investigation into how the tax system and charges on plastic items could reduce waste. The issue of the ‘plastic tax’ obviously goes far beyond just coffee cups, but it is one element. Plastic waste as a broader issue on a global scale needs addressing as has been explored in the recent Blue Planet documentary and a number of other channels – the BBC recently reported how the UN recently stated there is a planetary crisis being caused by the rise of plastic waste.

The press release which can be viewed here, highlighted how many consumers find resuable cups ‘inconvenient’, and while discounts from retailers may change the behaviour of some, there needs to be wide scale behaviour change around the frequency of takeaway coffee cups for the issue to be addressed sufficiently.

Jennifer Ferreira Coventry University coffeeRecently the CEO of Pret-a-manger, took to social media to ask customers for their thoughts on rising the discount on drinks for bringing a reusable cup. The call received a a positive response, and the company has now announced that from the first week of 2018 it will be doubling its discount for customers who bring their own reusable cup to 50p- which would make a cup of their filter coffee 49p. I haven’t seen any other chains that offer this much of a discount, although a few independent coffee shops I have been to, have done. It will be interesting to see the imapct it has on consumer habits.

The coffee cup issue goes beyond coffee shops too, it extends to office meetings where disposable cups are used, conferences and many other locations in which the use of disposable cups is still the norm. While a takeaway coffee cup here and there to some people may seem like a small issue, the cups soon mount up, and it is an every growing problem.

It’s the festive season and many coffee shops have their ‘festive cup’ range, which in many ways encourages more use of disposable cups – lots of consumer despite sitting in, still want the disposable cup. But many of the coffee shops, such as Costa Coffee, have a festive reusable range too. A tweet from BeanThinking on Twitter this morning summed it up nicely ‘Could we say ‘a reusable cup is for life, not just for Christmas’?

Next year I have new project starting on sustainability in the coffee shop industry, looking not just at reusable cups but at behaviours and innovations that can make the coffee shop industry more sustainable, with case studies in the UK and Germany.


Posted in Cafe Culture, Coffee, coffee culture, community, Consumers, Costa Coffee, environment, Sustainability, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trends and patterns in coffee, cafes and coffee shops

The Specialty Coffee Association has recently published two news pieces with data (and nice infographics) about the coffee industry, the first looking at specialty coffee consumption trends in the US, and the second on the size of the coffee market in Western Europe.

In the US focused article data from the National Coffee Drinking Trends survey is used to show how there have been consistent increases in the consumption of specialty coffee in the US over the last couple of decades with significant increases in the last year. The article highlights how 41% of adults in the US were drinking specialty coffee daily, people drinking specialty coffee were consuming nearly 3 cups a day, and as an overall indication of consumption trends around 59% of coffee consumed was specialty.  The infographic provides a view of the data trends over time and it’s clear to see how there has been a consistent rise in specialty coffee consumption in the US. It will be interesting to see how these trends continue over the next few years, particularly given articles in the media recently have argued that the market is reaching saturation point for coffee shops.

The article on Western Europe includes an infographics with maps of retail sales in cafes and coffee shops, and the number of cafes and coffee shops using data from Euromonitor. Beginning with the retail sales, data is broken down into cafes and coffee focused shops (defined by Euromonitor as places with a focus primarily on serving coffee but where a wider range of food is on offer). The numbers show the the sheer scale of the industry with 301,593 cafes and 13,344 coffee shops with an overall values of over €50 billion. While I very much like looking at maps to see patterns in data (I am a geographer after all) I wanted to explore the data a little more.

SCA Retail sales cafes and coffee shops

Here it’s possible to see the hierarchy in terms of retail sales across the continent. In part these will be affected by population size, but still, it illuminates where the café and coffee shop consumers are spending their money – countries with a long tradition of drinking coffee along with the United Kingdom where visiting coffee shops has experienced a rapid rise in the last couple of decades.

The data suggests there are nearly 315,000 cafes and coffee shops across Western Europe, What isn’t shown here is the growth dynamics between cafes and coffee shops. Cafes were seen to have decline by around 8% since 2010, while coffee shops grew by 50% in the same time period.

In the second infographic which focuses on the number of cafes and coffee shops, the data is broken down by independent and chain coffee shops, and here some interesting (although not surprising) patterns emerge. Independent by this definition is where there are less than 10 branches, and chains have more than 10 branches.

The data suggests that largely the market is dominated by independents – 98% of cafes were independent. Although for coffee shops only 21% were independent, reflecting the rapid expansion of coffee shop chains across the continent. It will be interesting to see over the next few years if these percentages shift as coffee shops in particular seek to expand their presence.

Posted in Cafe Culture, Coffee, coffee culture, Commentaries, data, Economic Impact, Europe, Reports, research, SCA, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coffee shops, The Conversation and radio

There have been a few articles in the media recently about if the UK is close to reaching peak coffee shop. The BBC asked if the UK was reaching coffee shop saturation point, ITV News ran a short piece on the ‘battle’ in the high street between chain coffee shops and independents. I started to think about some of these things in a blog post last week, but then decided to explore some of these ideas a little more in a short article for The Conversation (an online media outlet where academics and researchers can write about their work).

conversation ferreira peak coffee shop

In the article I suggest that we are likely to see continued growth for a while in the number of coffee shops, although I do find the growth figures predicted quite staggering. Is there really enough space in the UK for another 10,000 coffee shops in less than 10 years? But alongside this growth I think there will be some transformation of the market, with a growing element of specialty coffee and a focus on food and the coffee shop experience than we currently have (at least in a lot of the chain coffee shops). This could potentially lead the way for a greater space for independent coffee shops, although the market is challenging, with such high competition, and rising retail rental costs.

In response to the article I was asked to join a panel of guests on the Kaye Adams programme on BBC Scotland. It was a short segment in the show which you can listen to online here (the coffee shop discussion starts around 1 hour 36 minutes in to the programme). The panel consisted of myself, a specialty coffee shop owner from Glasgow, and a music blogger from Glasgow.  The discussion asked if there’s room for chains and independent coffee shop as part of future growth, and if we are close to saturation point, and what effect this is having on town centres?  There was also discussion of the similarities between coffee and wine in terms of the variety of taste, and how more people are being exposed to this greater variety of coffee available – and the importance of making this accessible to consumers. It was highlighted how many independent coffee shops have sparked a community aspect to certain areas, and how coffee shops have a broader role than just the coffee itself. This was at the heart of where I wanted to start with my studies of coffee shops as economic and social entities in our towns and cities (and increasingly more rural locations too).


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The battle of the coffee shops continues

This week coffee shops have been back in the UK media. A  short piece on ITV news which highlighted how the national chains continue battle with independents for their share of the £9 billion coffee shop market. It was also reported that Costa Coffee pre-tax profits had fallen (in the BBC and the Guardian). Lots of interesting points raised in these pieces and about how the market is growing, and changing.

Costa Coffee Vanilla latte Coventry Coffee ShopI’ve been planning a piece for a while on the whether we have or are close to reaching peak coffee shop in the UK. The rapid growth of coffee shops across the country has had a big impact not only on the make-up of high streets, but of consumer behaviour related to drinking coffee out of the house. But how many is too many, and how many coffee shops can a high street realistically take?  I often visit Leamington Spa, a smallish town in the Midlands which has a busy high street and has a range of great independent cafes (and plenty of chains too). But I was surprised to see that recently two chains had opened opposite each other, (Coffee #1, a growing UK chain, and Second Cup, a Canadian chain), one of which was immediately next to a Starbucks. On the one hand it’s great to see retail space being used, and as soon as these places opened they’ve become pretty busy, but on the other hand, are they really needed, and how will their presence impact on the activity of the nearby independent coffee shops? Something I’ll continue to monitor. According to Allegra Strategies there are already over 20,000 coffee shop outlets in the UK, and this is expected to rise to around 30,000 by 2020, is there really room for this many coffee shops? I realise that not all of these are in the high street, and we are seeing a broader locations for coffee shops, but there has to be a saturation point somewhere.

And the articles about Costa Coffee’s profits suggests that this point may be insight for the standard chain coffee shop its pre-tax profits had fallen 10%, and the rate of like-for-life sales growth was no longer as strong –  despite opening a further 108 stores across the country. Clearly there still seems to be room for more coffee shops, or at least businesses will keep trying to find new places. The Guardian article highlights how chain coffee shops, like Costa, have become too standard, and no longer a novelty in people’s lives, and that actually many people want a higher quality offering. The article suggests that Whitbread hopes the ‘third wave of coffee’ (or the move to a higher quality coffee offering) may continue to drive growth. However, as is pointed out by Allegra Strategies in the article, the coffee shop market has almost moved beyond this already, with consumers desiring more than just quality coffee and food offerings from their coffee shop. If chains like Costa want to keep up their growth targets they are likely to need to do more to cater to the population for whom a flat white with their standard coffee bean is no longer enough. We’ve seen some efforts from the chains to start targeting this market, for example Starbucks opened a Reserve store in London where you can have a broader range of coffees prepared in a range of ways from the standard espresso to the novel siphon, or the new Costa Coffee Coffee House store in Wandsworth with single origin blends on offer, and an enhanced food menu.

In the US it was recently announced that one the largest food companies in the world Nestle had brought a majority stake in Blue Bottle Coffee a growing specialty coffee shop and roaster in the US. It signals that big business had recognised that one trend which may continue to fuel future growth in the coffee shop market is to move more towards specialty coffee. And what a lot of independent coffee shops do so well in the UK, is their fresh food offering; Coffee Architects in Leamington Spa being a very good example, with freshly made cakes and other food.

coffee architects brunch waffles

For many people in the UK, visiting a coffee shop is still that little luxury they choose to continue with despite financial pressures, but for their money they often want quality. For the chains to continue to maintain their position in the coffee shop market, they’re likely to have to start doing something different, or they are likely to reach their saturation point sooner rather than later. So I still need to write my article on the prospect of peak coffee shop in the UK, but the articles in the media this week have given me some more food for thought.

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