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Iced beverage, tea and food sales trends in UK coffee shops

Every superhero needs a sidekick and coffee is no exception, with food, iced beverages and tea providing important additional sales channels for coffee shops. New data from World Coffee Portal’s Cakes, Shakes & Tea Breaks report reveals the key dynamics shaping the UK market today and how operators can maximise sales

Only 22% of UK consumers surveyed by World Coffee Portal agreed that coffee shops are effective at promoting their tea product range | Photo credit: Ahmed Aqtai


Tea still steeped in poor value perceptions

Despite the UK’s reputation as a tea drinking nation, World Coffee Portal’s Cakes, Shakes & Tea Breaks report found that 37% of UK consumers surveyed perceive tea served in coffee shops as poor value for money.

Just 22% of tea beverage consumers surveyed agree that coffee shops are effective at promoting their tea product range, 3% fewer than in 2021, with respondents highlighting a lack of advertising around the range of teas and tisanes available.

Moreover, most consumers surveyed typically purchase tea out-of-home less than once a month, indicating that operators could do more to encourage in-store tea sales.

With more than 60% of consumers surveyed regarding tea as healthy, serving a range of functional and wellbeing-focused varieties, including turmeric, matcha and green tea, could help tea sales turn over a new leaf.

Black tea, chai latte and herbal tea were the top three varieties purchased in coffee shops over the last 12 months.

Presentation is also key to tea’s value perception in coffee shops. With 28% UK consumers surveyed indicating they regularly use a teapot or infusion pot when drinking tea in-store, a greater range of loose-leaf varieties could further boost value perceptions.

Although execution can prove challenging for operators, 48% of UK consumers surveyed say barista-made tea is important to beverage quality.

For those operators trading on convenience, the proportion of consumers surveyed who have tried a ready-to-drink (RTD) tea product rose 7% to reach 9.5% over the last year, indicating these easily executed ranges could help cafés tap into a more successful tea offer.

Blended iced coffee, handmade iced coffee and blended smoothies were the top three iced beverages purchased by UK consumers | Photo credit: Thomas Vimare

Iced beverages crack the UK mainstream

The UK’s largest branded coffee chains have fully embraced iced beverages, indicating the once niche segment is now fully ensconced in the UK mainstream. 83% of respondents surveyed in Cakes, Shakes & Tea Breaks UK 2022 ordered an iced beverage from a branded chain in the last 12 months compared with 42% from an independent.

79% of those surveyed said they purchased an iced beverage from market leader Costa Coffee over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, 58% indicated they had purchased an iced beverage from Starbucks and 38% from Caffè Nero.

Blended iced coffee, handmade iced coffee and blended smoothies were the top three iced beverages purchased by UK consumers surveyed on their last visit, with average spend per item increasing £0.39 over the last year to reach £5.80.

Consumers report positively on the variety of iced beverages available in UK coffee shops, with 66% indicating coffee chains effectively promote their iced beverage menu. Preparation time should also be a consideration for operators – most consumers surveyed expect their iced beverage to be ready within 3-4 minutes.

Iced beverage purchases remain heavily dependent on warm weather in the UK. Whereas consumers in the US increasingly embrace iced beverages as a year-round staple, the Cakes, Shakes & Tea Breaks UK 2022 report found that most UK consumers buy iced beverages less than once a month (37%), and purchases remain overwhelmingly more frequent during warmer months with sales declining from September.

Burgers/baps ranked as the third most popular food item purchased in coffee shops | Photo credit Jiroe Matia Rengel

Food sales for thought

Delivering both convenience and quality can be a delicate balancing act for coffee shops seeking to enhance their food offer. Nevertheless, with 89% of UK consumers surveyed purchasing food from a branded coffee shop in the last 12 months, a varied and well-executed menu can pay dividends for operators, with average spend increasing £0.11 over the last year to reach £6.79.

Consumers cited ‘fresh’, ‘locally sourced’ and ‘handmade’ as the top three phrases that would encourage them to make a coffee shop food purchase, indicating that a sense of authenticity is crucial to successful food offers.

With more than 2,400 stores across the UK, it is perhaps unsurprising that Costa Coffee was the most visited coffee shop for food purchases in 2021.

Indicating the positive impact of its tie-up with UK supermarket Marks & Spencer, which now supplies its food offer, 33% of UK consumers surveyed made their last coffee shop food purchase from Costa, 6% more than the previous year.

Despite the significant marketing firepower of UK branded coffee chains, independent coffee shops were consumers’ second most frequent venues for their last coffee shop last food purchase.

Cake slices, sandwiches and burgers/baps were the top three food items purchased at coffee shops, with all three categories gaining ground on the year before.

Pastries, croissants and sausage rolls – often regarded as staples of a coffee shop food offer – appear far less popular, ranking seventh, eighth and ninth out of ten options and all declining in purchase frequency compared to the previous year.

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