The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was disastrous for the office coffee service channel. Sales declined 75% to $1.5 billion. But, as more employees return to the office, the data for 2021 shows an upward trajectory of $2.05 billion in OCS revenue.
Moreover, 75% of operators report that sales rose in 2021, compared with 2% in 2020. And, about 30% of OCS companies added staff in 2021, so signs of improvement for office refreshment services are evident – due to the ability of OCS operators to adapt and meet business challenges.
And, as this year’s Automatic Merchandiser State of the Vending and Micro Market report also showed: 2021 and beyond still face a combination of lingering at-home work patterns, rising inflation, product shortages and supply chain disruptions.
Full ReportTh 2021 Automatic Merchandiser State of the Office Coffee Service Industry Report was featured in the 2022 September/October issue.
Click here to download the report.
High costs and high demands
According to the data from the International Coffee Organization, green coffee prices reached a 10-year high in late 2021 and continued into the first half of 2022. Weather, both drought and frost in 2021 in Brazil, as well as global supply constraints and other pandemic-related issues, have had a substantial impact on the coffee market. For 2022, inflation is an additional factor in the rising cost of coffee.
OCS operators tried to combat the challenges of rising costs in products, equipment, coffee, fuel and shipping. Some raised prices, and others absorbed costs. A small percentage of operators chose to divest their OCS businesses. Many adjusted their product mix and began selling additional services. About 14% of operators added pantry and water service, and 7% added micro markets. Of those that added micro markets, bean-to-cup brewing was the dominant choice of coffee service system.
In 2021, whole-bean varieties showed an increase from 2020, and frac packs were also among the dominant coffee products sold in the OCS channel. Operators continue to provide high-quality coffee, with local coffee brands familiar to clients (25%) as the top-selling OCS product, then nationally branded coffee (20%), private-label products (15%), whole bean (15%), and single-cup at 10%.
Almost 39% of respondents said brand is fairly important to customers, 50% said important to some and not others, and 11% said it’s not important for the majority.
For OCS product categories, ice machines showed a notable jump in 2021 sales due to customer demand.
Technology is also among the new services that some OCS operators are adding. Nearly 78% said they offered online ordering of coffee or related products in 2021. And a little over 30% said they are using industry-specific software to manage OCS business; 16% are using the same software for vending.
Trends in sustainability and environmental concerns also affect the products that OCS operators offer to their customers. More than half of the respondents said they offer recycled products (cups, filters, pods, utensils), 16% said they offer water filtration devices to reduce bottled water, and a little over 11% said they supplied coffee with attributes such as organic and fair trade.
Cold brew, another trend in the office coffee service channel, shows an upward trajectory by the respondents with over 66% offering cold brew coffee options to locations. Among those, 22% offer on-draft kegs and 16% offer single-serve bottles.
About 42% of operators said the number of locations of their coffee service accounts increased in 2021; 26% said the number remained the same; and 31% said it decreased.
In 2021, the typical location population of coffee service accounts from respondents had 30-49 employees (26%), followed by 20-29 employees (21%). There was a moderate decrease in white-collar workplace populations and an increase in blue-collar locations. Data also showed an increase in schools and colleges, as well as other locations such as heathcare/hospitals, hospitality and auto dealerships.
What’s to come
For trends that OCS operators are seeing, respondents said companies are trying to entice employees back to the workplace with incentives such as free snacks. Customers are also demanding more high-quality coffee choices, including bean-to-cup and liquid creamer options, single-drink coffee packs, and overall, new products and many options.
About this study
Data in Automatic Merchandiser’s State of the Office Coffee Service Industry report are collected through a 50-question survey sent to OCS and vending operators. The annual report examines responses from small, medium and large OCS providers, as well as full-line vending operations offering office refreshments. The State of the Office Coffee Service Industry analyzes performance in various product and equipment categories. Data from the 2021 survey looks at the prior year. Caution should be used when comparing year-over-year numbers.