As a coffee professional it’s part of my role to keep up to date with current and potential future coffee trends. Living in Ireland we tend to be slightly behind certain countries. For example, Cold Brew coffee was popular in America and Australia years before we inherited the culture. Keeping up with these trends tends to leave me walking into ‘industry leading’ coffee shops hoping they have incorporated it into their menus. It’s interesting, it always seems nobody does it until everybody does it. One day it’s nowhere, and the next it’s everywhere.
How does this happen?
My current role as Head of Coffee for KSG has given me an insight into how this may happen. KSG has over 100 different sites which gives a good sample size and insight into how trends grow. Different sites pose different challenges but the overall goal is to create a coffee culture throughout all of our sites.
For a new drink to do well, there needs to be exposure and education around it. I find it interesting how a drink ends up on a menu, whether it be in an independent cafe or a MNC like Starbucks. Personally I love when Starbucks introduce a range as it forces independent cafes to follow suit due to customers requesting it. Recently, they introduced Cold Brew Coffee. Starbucks have a variety of customers, ranging from students, professionals and shoppers looking for somewhere to sit for 20 minutes to take a break. This wide variety of clientele are now all being exposed to Cold Brew. Maybe they see it on the poster and try one, love it and then ask for it in their local coffee shop. The local coffee shop receive enough requests which pushes them to offer the drink.
This local cafe played it safe and waited until there was enough demand for the product they want to sell. While this can be a safe way to play it, it also means people outside your customer base won’t really have any incentive to go out of their daily routine to head to your cafe and try something new. You could potentially miss out on growth by being an early adapter.
The Early Adapters.
On the flip side, you can introduce the drink before there is demand, and work on creating the demand. The demand is then created around education and exposure. Something isn’t popular until it is which we refer to as the tipping point. If you would like to read more about the tipping point, Michael Gladwell explains it brilliantly in his book – ‘The Tipping Point‘. The coffee shops that start serving the drink before it is popular would be classed as early adaptors. It sounds daunting, risky and quite overwhelming, but I am here to tell you it isn’t, you just need the right outlook.
Control your Bubble, The Rest will Follow.
The coffee shop owner shoudn’t be looking at Ireland as a whole and wondering if the drink will do well. It should be looking at it’s customer base. Your goal is to expose and educate your current customer base to try and convert a % of them to the drink, think of your customer base as a bubble. This is how I view each of our sites. My job isn’t to create a coffee culture for the company. It is to work slowly through each bubble with small gains in coffee culture such as improved training, equipment, seasonal drinks and more. Then create events where the bubbles interact, with the hope of one day the bubbles all merging. You control your bubble, you create the market in that bubble with education and exposure. Customers don’t like something until they do. Naturally the bubbles will interact, that % you converted may go to a different cafe on weekends or for lunch and ask for the drink there which will in turn push other coffee shops to do it.
There are so many examples of this in every single industry, but we will stick to coffee. In recent years we have seen the growth of Iced Coffees, Filter Coffee, Cold Brew and Lightly Roasted Coffee. In my role I am trying to push Nitro Coffee. Many equipment companies we have approached say there is no market for it in Ireland. My thoughts aren’t we will wait. My thoughts go to one site, that site has 500 people, 400 come to the coffee dock daily, 300 order coffee. My goal now isn’t to make a market in Ireland for Nitro coffee, it is to introduce 300 people to it with the correct exposure and education. My place to start would be to offer a sample of it to anyone drinking Cold Brew. I replicate this throughout multiple sites, creating a market within a bubble. It doesn’t need to be popular in Ireland to be popular in my unit. Create the market, don’t chase it.