Our love of a fresh brew or crafted cup of coffee has not diminished since lockdown, in fact, the ritual tea break has become a fundamental part of daily life. Whether it is a regular “cup of joe” to get going in the morning, or the meditative process of making tea to provide normality and comfort in an otherwise chaotic world, the reopening of our cafés and coffee shops has never been more timely. The everyday escapism provided by cafés to meet friends or find a corner for contemplation has been missed by the public, with 42.6%1 citing it as the social outing they craved the most during lockdown.

Since lockdown measures eased, the demand for hot beverages and teatime treats has not returned to the usual patterns and businesses are seeing mixed results. Inner city areas or business zones are suffering from lower foot traffic than normal, whereas tourist locations and residential areas have been busier, picking up custom from those working from home and a vibrant staycation market.

It would be forgiveable for a business to overlook trends within the “coffee and cake” market – a simple activity most of us perform every day – however this sector is booming with trends, opportunity and a customer base seeking solace and comfort in not just a cup, but the environment in which it is served.

The Latte tops the coffee leader board, accounting for a 57% market share in sales, closely followed by the Cappuccino, Flat White and Americano. Syrups have supported coffee sales (and profitability) for a while now, enticing new coffee drinkers with caramel and vanilla flavours and creating seasonal interest with gingerbread, cinnamon and Tate & Lyle’s most popular seasonal syrup, pumpkin spice -a clear influence from the US.

Since the h heady days of the Starbucks explosion, independent coffee shops have fought back with artisan blends, creating an experience that can
only be compared with drinking fifine wine. There are many examples of this in practise throughout the country, one of which is Bould Brothers Coffee who batch-brew coffee from different sources throughout the year depending on what tastes best at the time. The team take their coffee seriously, using double filtered water and organic milk. This may be a step too far for some, but with 43%2 of consumers likely to pay extra for a high-quality drink, there clearly is untapped profit in the hot beverage market.

Amidst the serious coffee connoisseurs is an emerging fun element, creamers featuring flavours such as maple, marshmallow and peanut butter are now available, toppings drink with clouds of flavoured foam. With the variety if syrups, coffees and milk on the market, making a simple cup of coffee can turn into something akin to a laboratory experiment, but
for coffee aficionados and experience seekers, this knowledge and attention to detail is what makes it all worthwhile.

Caterers in the education or healthcare sectors and small businesses needn’t fear though, there is a burgeoning range of catering coffee shop favourites for operators where the only equipment available is a kettle. KENCO have added a 1kg Speciality Flat White tin to their range, removing the need to compromise on quality or flavour. “With a century of coffee
expertise, our focus on speciality coffee and investment in bringing new experiences to the instant category positions us perfectly to meet the rowing demand for high quality beverages that can be enjoyed in catering environments.” Says Martyn Bell, Category Marketing Manager, Jacobs Douwe Egberts.

Coffee may never have been more fashionable, but tea is where our heart is at. Britons consume around 165 million cups of tea per day – 70 million more than coffee. Black tea is the market leader, with Breakfast Tea the firm favourite, however herbal and fruit tea is once again seeing a resurgence. One of the key drivers for this is an increasing focus on healthy eating, supplementing diets with teas to help you sleep, digest food, relax or focus.

Chamomile, mint and jasmine tea have long been a staple on a hot beverage menu, but Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda is inspiring blends and ingredients which provide non-prescription solutions to mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression as well as physical concerns such as diabetes, high blood pressure and weight loss. As a result, we have witnessed the rise of turmeric tea and “superblends” combining green tea with botanicals, vitamins and minerals.

For cafés, hotels or restaurants offering afternoon tea, a tea menu can elevate the experience from the everyday to a special occasion. A single trip to Fortnum and Mason or Sketch will demonstrate the power of a tea sommelier – watch the delight and wonder on consumers’ faces as they are advised on tea and cake pairings. If you choose to go down this route, stocking these unusual blends to take away in artisan packaging will be the
perfect upsell.

When it comes to our regular cuppa, quality and consistency win the day, so opting for a blend that is familiar will be ideal, especially in the care sector. “Getting this offer right is crucial. Yorkshire Tea is the nation’s number one tea brand by value in grocery retail, and as consumers will be looking for the brew they know and love at home, Yorkshire Tea should be a central part of any out of home offer” comments Natalie King, OOH Manager at
Taylors of Harrogate.

Hot chocolate is the perfect indulgence for adults and kids alike as the weather gets colder. A staple on most hot beverage menus, it comes into its own in winter. Whether topped with marshmallows and cream or served in small cups as a thick, luxurious Parisian style treat, it soothes the soul and is the epitome of Christmas. Try switching up your menu this year with matcha hot chocolate or adding a syrup shot such as salted caramel, mint or orange. For the artisan in you, experiment with colour and flavour, introducing red velvet hot chocolate or white chocolate served in glass jars. Callebaut and Van Houten have a range of hot chocolate options including milk, white, dark and gold caramel which can be made with steamed milk or non-dairy alternatives.

Teatime is not complete without a sweet treat and homemade baked goods are a temptation most of us cannot resist. From staples such as Victoria sponge, carrot cake, brownies and millionaires shortbread to the unusual delights of gin and tonic loaf and Biscoff cupcakes, pretty displays of beautifully finished cakes are a customer-magnet.

Cakes and bakes do not have to be homemade, high quality freeze-and-thaw options can be ideal solutions. “Pre-prepared frozen pâtisserie could play a key role in any kitchen – helping to reduce unnecessary waste and providing a super convenient way for operators to offer a tempting
snack menu to accompany their beverage options” comments Marie-Emmanuelle Chessé, international development project manager, Tipiak.

Teacakes or spiced fruit bread which are versatile and can be toasted to create aromas, enticing customers to add to their beverage order will also reap rewards. “The KaterBake fruit bread is the perfect accompaniment to a hot beverage and can be dressed up with fruit, cream, nuts and other fillings to create a tempting grab and go snack” suggests Gordon Lauder, MD of frozen food distributor Central Foods.

Allegra forecasts the UK branded coffee shop market will exceed 10,000 outlets by 2023. Retail pressures, changing consumer habits and deep uncertainty following the pandemic and the outcome of Brexit will slow the pace of this segment after such a rapid period of growth. Amid the chaos, innovation will continue to drive businesses forward, whether it’s Pret A Manger selling coffee on Amazon or independent coffee shops hosting classes on how to craft the perfect coffee at home, this is a £6 billion market fed by strong consumer demand for one of life’s little luxuries.

Top Tips

• THE FOCUS ON OBESITY by the government will undoubtedly drive demand for healthy treats and beverages so bear this in mind when curating your menu. Install clear labelling to identify low sugar, plant-based and nutritionally rich options
• MAKE SURE YOUR MENU IS WELL ROUNDED, offering options for Vegans and customers with allergies (such as gluten free)
• SUSTAINABILITY IS OF KEY INTEREST to consumers. We have long seen Soy and Oat Milk in the market but cafés are now adding coconut, macadamia and rice milk to their menus
• PLUG IN TO PESTER POWER – Offer a kid’s option to your hot drink menu with a Babyccino. Warm milk with the addition of cinnamon or cocoa powder will be a profitable addition and encourages repeat custom by parents who feel their whole family have been considered
• SPICE IT UP – Winter is the ideal time to expand your hot beverage menu. Think mulled apple juice, caramel apple cider or kinderpunsch