The U.S. Market for Specialty Coffee

There’s a bright spot on the horizon

By Tracy Ging

As the latte emerged from the financial crises as the emblem of over-consumption, when media report after media report suggested consumers cut back on that particular habit in order to build a stronger financial future, the specialty coffee industry held its breath. Then the National Coffee Association (NCA) released its National Coffee Drinking Trends 2009 report, showing at-home consumption had increased by five percent. Brands such as Folgers, under new management, regained some ground at grocery this year, and the NCA confirmed that for a small percentage of people, surviving the recession has meant switching to lower-priced brands. Even for the most zealous among us, it’s been hard not to ask the question, even if only in our own minds…is this the end of an era?

Not likely. Despite a challenging year for all businesses, specialty coffee isn’t relenting and in fact, there are notable examples where quite the opposite is occurring. That said, the sector shows signs of maturation and the next 20 years will certainly look different and require a different set of strategies than the past two decades. But that isn’t meant as discouragement because the good news is that specialty coffee has arrived, rising from what was largely considered a niche or passing trend to a legitimate market sector. And, in terms of the world coffee market, U.S. specialty remains the bright spot on the horizon. To read the rest of this article, subscribe to The Chronicle or become a member today! If you’re already a Chronicle subscriber or member, please login.

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