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Half the world actually seems to |prefer instant coffee [Sunday Independent (South Africa)]
[July 20, 2014]

Half the world actually seems to |prefer instant coffee [Sunday Independent (South Africa)]

(Sunday Independent (South Africa) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Americans' taste in coffee might be getting more high-end - with a growing fixation on perfectly roasted beans, pricier caffeinated concoctions and artisan coffee brewers - but it turns out a big part of the world is going in the opposite direction: towards instant coffee.

Sales of instant coffee - the kind that dissolves in hot water - have nearly tripled since 2000, according to data from market research firm Euromonitor. The world consumed nearly $31 billion-worth (R331bn) last year and is expected to drink more than $35bn worth by 2018. Instant coffee accounts for more than 34 percent of all the retail-brewed coffee consumed around the world.

The rise has been as steady as it has been substantial.

Who is drinking instant coffee? A lot of people. Also, a specific type of people: amateur coffee drinkers.

"The markets where instant coffee is most popular tend to be the ones without a strong tradition of coffee drinking," Dana LaMendola, and industry analyst at Euromonitor, said. "It's… an entry point." As the firm's industry report puts it: "In newer coffee-drinking regions, instant coffee is appealing because of its ability to satisfy the needs of new coffee drinkers and their evolving tastes. Unlike established coffee markets, where coffee is a product with well-defined perceptions of taste, strength and origin, in emerging coffee markets, coffee is viewed as a multipurpose product with endless functional and flavour possibilities." Perhaps that helps explain why India and China are two of the fastest growing markets, or why Asia Pacific is the world's largest instant-coffee consuming region by sales. But the appeal of instant coffee hasn't been lost on other, more developed markets. Almost half the world actually prefers it.

Australians like the stuff more than anyone else - instant coffee accounts for more than 75 percent of retail-brewed coffee consumed in Australia and New Zealand, the highest percentage registered for any region. Even those regions more often associated with coffee snobbery are guilty of giving in to the more convenient kind, too.

Europeans might favour fresh beans, but they appreciate the occasional instant-coffee indulgence. In Eastern Europe, instant coffee accounts for more than 50 percent of retail-brewed coffee consumption; in Western Europe, it accounts for more than 25 percent; and together, the two regions drink 40 percent of the world's instant coffee.

The only real exception to the instant coffee craze is the US. Americans have proved pretty exceptional in their disinterest.

"The US is unique in its aversion to instant coffee," LaMendola said. "Even in Europe, where fresh coffee is preferred, instant coffee is seen as acceptable," she said.

Instant coffee sales in the US have barely budged since 2008 and even fell marginally last year to just over $960 million. While that might sound like a lot, it's actually a paltry fraction of the $30-plus billion US coffee market.

Instant coffee accounts for a smaller percentage of all retail-brewed coffee by volume in North America (barely 10 percent) than in any other region. By comparison, it accounts for more than 60 percent in Asia Pacific, more than 50 percent in Eastern Europe, more than 40 percent in the Middle East and Africa, more than 30 percent in Latin America and more than 25 percent in Western Europe.

The instant coffee market in North America isn't merely the world's smallest - it's also the world's slowest growing. What's so bad about instant coffee? It's a bit unclear. The rise of the American coffee house, on the one hand, is emblematic of a growing desire for a quick cup and a willingness to pay more for that convenience. International coffee behemoths like Starbucks have thrived off the country's thirst for a quick cup of joe.

And the rise of coffee pods is likely the best example of how impatient Americans can be about their coffee. About 13 percent of Americans drank coffee made with a single-cup coffee machine daily last year. Instant coffee might be even more convenient to make than that. Which is likely why big American coffeemakers have been so tempted by the country's untapped instant coffee market - and disappointed by their inability to boost demand. Starbucks launched its premium instant coffee line called Via in 2009, which it sells in about 26 countries. Globally, Via has been so successful that the coffeemaker is looking to expand, a company spokesperson said. But America is anther story.

Nescafé, the world's largest instant coffee brand, has seen its US sales remain stagnant for years. Just about every major coffee brand that has put instant coffee on supermarket shelves in the US has suffered a similar fate.

While millions of Americans might never grow to appreciate it, billions elsewhere are content with picking up the slack. "The only thing growing faster in the global coffee world is coffee pods," LaMendola said. - The Washington Post The Sunday Independent (c) 2014 Independent Newspapers (Pty) Limited. All rights strictly reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (

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