To Be Or Not To Be … A Coffee Drinker In The UK

published Jul 23, 2015
1 min read

Is the tea culture in the UK in danger and are the British people on the path of becoming a nation of coffee drinkers?

Coffee or Tea

Britain has been considered as a tea drinkers nation, but now coffee industry in the UK is increasing rapidly. Is the tea culture in danger and are Britons on the path of becoming a nation of coffee drinkers? According to the numbers – Maybe.

Research made by the Grocer magazine on the shop sales in the UK in 2013 shows that while the volume of sales of tea bags decreased with around 6 % for a 12-month period, the sales of one of the leading instant coffee brands – Nescafe, increased with almost the same rate for this period. The consumption in cafes and restaurants for the same year shows similar tendency. Coffee sales in restaurants are about two-and-half-times higher than tea sales according to Nigel Travis, chief executive of Dunkin Brands, owner of Dunkin Donuts. The same trend appears in high street stores where as reported by the market research specialist, Mintel, coffee sales hit the £1 billion mark in 2013, which is more than twice the level of tea bags with £480 million.

Despite the statistics showing the rapid growth of the coffee market, still 80% of British drink tea in quantity two times bigger than coffee. While Britons drink approximately 70 million cups of coffee per day according The British Coffee Association, they consume 165 million cups of tea daily according to The UK Tea & Infusions Association. An interesting fact is that although the coffee shop market has continued to grow, coffee consumption per person hasn’t. Namely, consumption levels in 2013 are lower than they were in 2006, but the number of coffee shops increases. What does this mean?

IBISWorld expects coffee shop industry revenues to grow at a compound annual rate of 7.3% for the five years period 2011-2016. Then shouldn’t the coffee consumption per capita increase with similar rates? Not really, statistics show. Analysts explain this phenomenon with the changing coffee culture in the UK.

Unlike big coffee chains such as Costa and Starbucks that are leading the coffee shop market, small artisan coffee shops are striving for excellence offering high quality coffee products which are not intended for the mass production. However, many customers consume products with less or no coffee such as smoothies, shakes, coffee drinks with syrup and cream and many more varieties available especially in the big coffee chains. Furthermore, drinking coffee is becoming a social habit and coffee shops – social venues for social gathering. Many families with children are visiting coffee houses and more of half of the customers of Costa cafe are women according to Andy Harrison, chief executive of Whitbread that owns the Costa brand. A large number of people are spending hours in a coffee shop on their laptop with only a single drink. These are some of the reasons for the increasing number of coffee shops opposing the more stable levels of coffee consumption. After all, coffee culture in the UK is changing and coffee is being prefered over tea more and more often.

While three leading brands are occupying 87.3 % of the coffee shop market in 2013 as Telegraph shows, small coffee shops are getting popularity among the coffee lovers. One can find several lists collecting worth visit coffee places in the UK to gather the attention to the local artisan cafes. Such lists can be found from several sources such as The Independent, Telegraph, The Evening Standard, Market Inspector and many more.