Between 2007 and 2012, total consumer expenditure in Spain decreased by 4% in real terms. While such a decline in consumer demand adversely affected Spain’s retail soft drinks market, which decreased by 12% in value over the period, the country’s retail hot drinks market recorded substantial growth, increasing by nearly 26% in value over the same five years. The primary driver of this success is the ongoing transfer of coffee consumption away from foodservice outlets like cafés and bars and into the home, as consumers seek to economise. Fresh ground coffee pods are responsible for the bulk of growth in the retail coffee market, increasing by US$ 426 million from 2007 to 2012. Despite their premium positioning, (in 2013 the average unit price of pods in Spain was over five time that of standard fresh ground coffee) coffee pods appeal to Spanish consumers because they provide a home-café experience which, in contrast to on-trade consumption, is still perceived as an affordable luxury.
Robust On-Trade Coffee Culture
Spain has one of the most vibrant café cultures in the world, with the third largest number of cafés and bars, trailing only Brazil and Japan. Coffee is a cornerstone item at Spanish cafés and bars, as drinking coffee is one of the most common and essential part of everyday life. In addition to a coffee in the morning (generally served with milk) many Spaniards will go to the café for mid-morning and mid-afternoon coffee break (generally without milk). Consequently, Spain has historically had one of the highest percentages of on-trade coffee sales in the world, ranking fourth in the world in 2008 in terms of total on-trade coffee volume.
However, the struggling Spanish economy has taken a huge toll on consumer foodservice industry, as the austerity habits adopted by the majority of Spaniards to make the most out of tight incomes, are limiting out-of-home expenditure. More nearly 28,000 bars and cafés have closed since 2007, leading consumer foodservice sales to drop by 11% or US$ 12.3 billion between 2007 and 2012.The cocooning habits spurred by the recession has caused this number to drop dramatically, with Spain recording the biggest lost in on-trade coffee volume between 2008 and 2013 than any other global market. Indeed, in 2013, the percentage of coffee sold through foodservice was 37%, compared to 47% in 2008.
The biggest benefactor of the Spain’s contracting café culture is fresh ground coffee pods, which accounted for 87% of Spain’s retail coffee growth in 2012/13 and 67% of the growth of Spain’s total retail hot drinks market. Although pods are the most expensive retail coffee category in Spain, they are still generally less expensive than an on-trade coffee. However, more than price, it is the quality and single-serve format of coffee beans that offer the greatest appeal to Spanish consumers shifting from foodservice coffee to retail coffee. Although espresso is the preferred style of coffee served in Spain, espresso machines, because of their hefty price tags, have never accounted for more than 21% of Spain’s total coffee machine sales – a peak they have not reached since 2001. Pod machines are more attractive to Spanish consumers than traditional espresso machines because they can brew espresso drinks more conveniently – in terms of both time and clean-up, and are more economical. Accordingly, between 2008 and 2013 the number of coffee pod machines sold in Spain increased by 91%, with pod machines accounting for more than two-thirds of all coffee machines sales in 2013.
Fresh ground coffee pods not only offer Spaniards an affordable luxury during this period of economic hardship, but pods are also changing the way Spanish consumers perceive and consume coffee. Despite having such a robust coffee and café culture, historically, the standard of coffee in Spain has not been particularly high. With a variety of single-origin and gourmet roasts from the leading brand, Nespresso, which accounted for 59% of retail sales in 2013, pods are educating and elevating Spanish palates. Thus, while pods offer an appealing alternative for consumers looking for ways to cut expenses, the relatively high quality of coffee pods compared to some café coffee may in turn, hinder recovery in on-trade channels even after the economy improves.