Not in the so distant future, imagine how you are going to get your daily cup of coffee. While having a nice conversation with a friend, you both decided to get some quick fresh Cappuccinos. You pick up your smart device and fix it onto your glasses which enables you to enter a virtual reality milieu, visualizing in 4D a scene of a your favorite coffee shop, seeing not only all coffee and snacks options, you are also enabled to smell them. In front of your virtual scene, you check in and out a variation of rich coffee options; Caf/Decaf, with cinnamon/no cream, Ethiopian Sidamo coffee or that one that is cultivated in a green house on the top of a New Yorker sky scraper, know-your-farmer options….etc. Once you select your favorite coffee, your actual coffee shop receives your order and send it to you using a drone that reaches your exact location in less than 5 minutes. An experience as such can not only be time-wise efficient, it also brings within all the qualities we think it relates to the coffee experience today, qualities such as socializing over a Nespresso or enjoying the pleasant smell of a coffee place.
Our future coffee needs to follow our future social and cultural trends. As part of our keenness to reach the top status of health and wellbeing, we are rapidly moving toward tailor-made and personalized food options. So why not thinking that every cup of coffee we take, can be specially tailored to boost our bodies’ status quo? This can happen if the caffeine amount in your Macchiato is regulated according to your current blood pressure, sugar level and amount of calories which are measured by your health app. This way, you don’t only enjoy a delicious coffee, you also make sure that it’s specially designed for your current body needs.
Future scenarios as such can be very appealing, but I don’t think that they are the very next step. So let’s come back to our times and have a quick look at the past and then think what could be next.
Portioned coffee is booming
In last 20 years, we witnessed a new level of a coffee boom. Famous portioned coffee brands such as Senseo, K- Fee and Nespresso became popular worldwide. One reason for this huge success is the low price for a capsule coffee machine that enables the affordability for the masses. Before, if users wanted to drink an Espresso at home, they had the only choice to afford an automatic coffee machine that is 6 to 10 times more expensive. Another reason for the capsules’ huge success lies in the perfect interaction between machine and capsule to provide an excellent cup result. This effect becomes even stronger, when the coffee capsules is blended with premium coffee. So for the first time in history, in a regular household you could drink a better Espresso than in an Italian bar and for a relatively cheap price.
Many coffee roasters therefore set up their own coffee capsule systems incompatible to each other to lock in the users. Coffee machines were then sold for the cheapest price possible to gain fast distribution. Many were even given as gifts. Counting a consumption of 500 capsules per person per year justifies such approaches to reach ROI within short time. But not all capsules systems could really penetrate the market in the way it was expected to. As fast as they appeared, as fast as they disappeared from the shelves and from the minds. Meanwhile, Nespresso became the industrial standard for premium coffee capsules and clones from various companies try to get a share of the pie with a less glamorous success.
So the question is, what could be next?
I think, we are at the beginning of the coffee revolution 2.0. It starts with the cultivation of the coffee beans and the further processing that give the characteristic flavor of the raw green coffee. New methodologies in sustainable cultivation and new technologies in coffee cherries’ processing could provide new properties in the cup, therefore, offer new opportunities for the countries growing coffee, resulting in higher prices and fairer trade for their crops.
Let us also not forget that sophistication in blending and the creation of new roasting profiles will help unlocking the roasted coffee beans` hidden wonderful flavors. Improving grinding technologies can enable a higher extraction yield and lead therefore to a fewer consumption of ground coffee per cup. Thinking about a fully automatic coffee machine that needs approx. 8g to 10g ground coffee per cup, while Nespresso operates with approx. 6g and in the future maybe with 4g for the same cup quality.
So when less coffee is needed for a cup, the coffee producing countries can ask more premium prices for their crop. And if the crops providers offer something outstanding, this can enable taking much people out of poverty and helping securing the supply chain in a sustainable way. Users today ask for sustainable and fair trade products. Even if we are living in a label jungle where it is often unclear for what a certain label really stands for, more and more companies switch away from conventional qualities toward labeled. It would then make sense creating a super label that covers all aspects of sustainability, fair trading and other relevant criteria. Not only for the coffee, but this holistic label should include the capsule packaging and the coffee machine as well.
Another important point is the digitalization. Equipping the coffee machines with sensors and connecting them to the internet and personal apps could help to reduce failure rate by gaining user insight and facilitate new e-commerce opportunities for the coffee roasters. Digitalization is just the beginning for a new era featured by Augmented Reality (AR), by which we could provide new, exciting and enjoyable experiences to the user.
Mirko Stanic is an expert in food innovation and has written a book about it. Download it on Amazon