Retail Coffee Sales Jump 17 Percent In Last Year; Single Cup Drives Growth

Retail sales of coffee reached $7.3 billion in 2011, an increase of nearly 17 percent over 2010, according to "Coffee and Ready-to-Drink Coffee in the U.S.," a just-released report from market research firm Packaged Facts.

Because coffee is a mature market, dollar sales growth is driven by consumers paying higher prices for coffee products. Four main factors are behind higher prices: rising prices for "green" (raw) coffee beans that have been passed along the entire distribution chain; the "premiumization" of coffee; the nation's still-growing thirst for specialty coffee beverages; and the phenomenal growth of single-serve coffee packet formats.

The Food Institute (Saddle River, NJ,, estimates that wholesale coffee prices rose 18 percent for the first nine months of 2011, while retail prices increased 13.5 percent because retailers did not pass along all of these higher costs to consumers.

Regular (caffeinated) ground coffee, the largest coffee category at retail, accounts for almost 60 percent of dollar sales of coffee through mass-market channels. "Coffee and Ready-to-Drink Coffee in the U.S." reports that single-cup coffee formats, a category scarcely worth tracking five years ago, now claims 7.5 percent of retail coffee sales, with its surge coming largely at the expense of regular instant coffee. Single-serve portion packs typically cost 65¢ to $1.00, making them considerably more expensive than brewing the same brand of coffee from loose grounds, but still less than buying a comparable beverage in a coffeehouse.

According to David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts, a September 2011 survey conducted for the report found that 21 percent of households that make coffee (other than instant) at home own an electric single-cup coffeemaker (based on formats such as pods, K-Cups, or T-Discs), and 18 percent use it regularly.

Although the single-cup market in the U.S. is dominated by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters with its proprietary Keurig K-Cup brewing system, growth in the category has attracted a growing range of participants. In the past year, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks have launched single-cup coffee formats, making Peet's the only major coffee brand that does not yet have a single-cup presentation.

With the continued premiumization of coffee over the past decade, many new packaged coffee products introduced over the past five years have been positioned as "upscale," which was the top package tag for new coffee products introduced from 2006 through 2010, according to data from Product Launch Analytics, a Datamonitor service.

During 2011, however, private-label coffee introductions came to the fore, with new coffee lines or extended offerings pouring in from retailers as diverse as A&P, Dollar General, Trader Joe's, and Wegmans, in keeping with the surging importance of store brands across packaged food and beverage categories.

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