2003/2004 witnessed the introduction of manual pod brewers that offered the possibility of overcoming this minimum population barrier. Besides requiring a lower capital investment, the pod systems incorporate most of the benefits of portion control, brew-by-pack systems but do not require a proprietary product.
Pod brewers can brew pods from a variety of roasters. Several well established equipment manufacturers introduced such systems.
Pod brewers challenge operators
But pod brewers have not gained a significant presence in the two years they have been available, leading some to conclude the systems are not reliable.
Others believe the growth will come with time; operators are naturally reluctant to invest in unproven machines, and they have been no slower to embrace pod systems than they were to invest in other single-cup systems when they were first introduced.
The key benefit the pod system was designed to provide — versatile product sourcing — has proven to be its (possibly temporary) stumbling block. Operators want to be sure that machines will brew a consistent tasting product, and given the diversity of pods available, many feel they lack this assurance at the present time.
The growth of single-cup systems represents the OCS industry's strongest effort to respond to the consumer's rising taste for better quality coffee. While the rate of expansion has been consistent, the percentage of operators using these systems remains small in relation to the opportunity at hand, as indicated by the faster growth in foodservice coffee sales.
For OCS operators to gain their fair share of the rising coffee market, more operators need to invest in the product, equipment and personnel that state-of-the-art delivery systems require.