If you exist largely in specialty coffee circles, this may come as a bit of a shock: Half of the world prefers instant coffee over “fresh” coffee, and instant’s global market share is on the rise.
Moreover, the makers of soluble coffee products have been increasingly borrowing language and marketing tactics from the specialty coffee world to achieve these gains.
These are some of the findings from a recent Euromonitor International study confirming the market share growth of instant coffee products in much of the Eastern hemisphere, especially in countries like China, Turkey and India. It is not a coincidence that many of the countries and regions in which instant’s popularity has risen also still prefer tea.
Less surprising than the volume growth of instant coffee in the global market may be the market share increases — after all, countries like China and India are also helping lead the way in volume growth of specialty coffee. Instant coffee sales have tripled since 2000 to $31 billion in retail sales last year, and that number is expected to increase to $35 billion by 2018.
Check out this map, which divides the world in two by preference: instant coffee or fresh coffee. (Just to be totally clear on our definitions, instant coffee refers to traditional additive-filled, soluble, largely-not-actual-coffee products, while “fresh” here refers to pods and other ground coffee. Additionally, for the purposes of this map, “retail brewed volume” actually refers to retail sales by volume of home brewed products.)
Nescafé Rules the World
Among the other interesting takeaways from the report was the complete world domination of the Nescafé brand in the instant market:
Whereas the brand leader in fresh coffee, Keurig Green Mountain, accounted for just 5 percent of the global market in terms of value in 2014, Nescafé accounted for 44 percent of the instant coffee market in terms of value, and 40 percent of retail volume. The brand’s overwhelming command stems from its expansive global presence. Nescafé is not only the dominant brand in every region, but it is also a leading player in each of the top 10 markets in terms of value sales, with the exception of South Korea, where Mondelez’s Maxim holds the largest value share.
Britons Are Still Buying Loads and Loads of Instant Coffee
Home consumption of instant coffee “continues to record strong growth in the UK,” according to the Euromonitor report. In fact, British consumers account for nearly a third of the instant coffee sold in all of Western Europe:
Like other predominantly tea-drinking markets, instant coffee has long dominated the British coffee market. Even as UK consumers develop a taste for fresh coffee, thanks in part to a robust on-trade culture, instant coffee has managed to remain relevant.
Some of the continued strength of instant in the UK market is attributed to new products that borrow some terminology — and even some traces of coffee — from the specialty world.
For example, there is Nescafé Azera, pitched as a “barista-style” drink. Says Nescafé, “We all love barista style coffee. The intense aroma. The enticing look. The roasted coffee taste. Now you can enjoy all of that pleasure in the ease of an instant.” There is also Kenco Milicano, which is a mixture of actual coffee and soluble powder that the company oddly describes as the world’s first “wholebean instant.”
Euromonitor International suggests these kinds of “hybrid drinks” are expected to lead the instant category’s market growth in the UK and beyond.