A solid decade of growth, increased venture capital investment and increased consolidation among manufacturers and other companies catering to the coffee industry came to a screeching halt almost overnight in March of 2020.
The pandemic’s effects were most apparent in the coffee retail segment, where many temporary closings turned into permanent ones, operators scrambled to make do, and unfortunately mass layoffs ensued. According to the latest United States labor bureau statistics, some 1.9 million U.S. people who were working in “food services and drinking places” last November were unemployed in November 2020.
Yet, as Americans insisted on drinking their daily coffee — pandemic be damned — the industry responded, adapted, and, in some segments, grew. The year 2020 saw notable moves in the home coffee equipment and roasted coffee subscription segments, while there were also some big news in coffee-adjacent categories such as alternative milks, barista robotics, ordering technology, and even a coffee-like beverage born in a lab.
Here is some of the biggest coffee business news of 2020:
Australian multinational small appliance seller Breville Group has acquired United States-born grinder maker Baratza for $60 million USD, including $43 million in cash and $17 million worth of Breville shares.
Family-owned Italian coffee giant Illycaffé (branded by the company as “illycafé”) has announced a minority sale of the company to global equity firm Rhône Capital as it moves towards international retail expansion.
The agritech company Atomo Coffee, which claims to have developed the first bean-free “molecular coffee,” has announced it has closed an additional $9 million more in seed funding.
Yesterday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a “Global Lockdown” recession that would be far more devastating than any recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. A base scenario put forth by the IMF, in which the virus is largely contained by the second half of this year, predicts a global domestic product decline by 3% in 2020, which would be followed by a 5.8% recovery in 2021. By comparison, the 2008/9 recession saw a global GDP decrease of 0.1%, according to the IMF.
Los Angeles-based Califia Farms has completed a $225 million funding round, representing one of the largest capital investments in the history of the branded natural foods segment, and certainly the largest surrounding the categories of plant-based milks and packaged cold brew.
Beverage syrups and sauces giant Torani has completed its move across the bay from South San Francisco into a state-of-the-art manufacturing and office headquarters called the Flavor Factory in San Leandro, California.
The expansion occurred over the course of two years within a historic building in the city’s Wandsbek borough next door to where Mahlkönig has been making grinders for more than half a century.
Innovative home coffee equipment maker Espro — styled by the company as ESPRO — has been wholly acquired by Wisconsin-based kitchenware seller Regal Ware. Inventor and product designer Bruce Constantine is leaving Espro, the company he co-founded 16 years ago in Vancouver. Regal Ware has been a majority shareholder in Espro since the Spring of 2018.
The terms of the acquisition have not been made public, although Ryoma has confirmed that it now holds a majority stake in Macap, whose commercial-grade espresso grinders can be found in coffee shops and restaurants primarily throughout Europe.
Tacoma, Washington-based commercial coffee equipment leasing company Specialty Coffee Finance has been acquired by Southern California-based Alliance Funding Group (AFG), which has provided equipment financing and capital services for a wide range of industries since 1998.
For as long as air travel is curtailed by the widening spread of the novel coronavirus, the airport terminal robot coffee wars are likely to remain cold. Outside of airports, however, the demand for higher-quality, contactless coffee experiences may be on the rise, the latest sign of which came over the summer with news of UK-based coffee giant Costa Coffee‘s acquisition of Briggo, the Austin, Texas-based provider of automated coffee kiosks.
Spanish home and commercial espresso machine maker Ascaso has expanded and re-launched its brand in the United States in partnership with Olympia, Washington-based coffee equipment supply company Espresso Parts.