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Unlock the potential of tea, iced beverages and food in coffee shops

Cakes, Shakes & Tea Breaks UK 2023 is World Coffee Portal’s annual analysis of tea, iced beverages and food sales at UK branded coffee chains. Drawing from a total of more than 6,000 UK consumer surveys, the report unlocks how coffee operators can generate new business from these opportune – yet often tricky to execute – complementary menus

Download the infographic | Photo credit © World Coffee Portal 

A strong coffee offer is essential for any coffee shop, but high-quality ranges of tea, iced beverages and food can elevate operators to the next level. However, with the cost-of-living crisis placing extraordinary pressure on consumer spending power, it has never been more essential for coffee shops to go the extra mile to demonstrate value-for-money for complementary menu items.
Can tea turn over a new leaf?
Premium and specialty tea remains difficult for coffee shops to master, with differing brewing times and temperature requirements making the category challenging to execute in fast-paced hospitality venues. When it comes to tea, British consumers have highly individual preferences, with 46% surveyed indicating they’d like more say about the temperature of their beverage in coffee shops.
Nevertheless, with nearly half of UK consumers surveyed making an out-of-home tea purchase at least once-a-week, the beverage is an important sales channel for coffee shops. The average spend for a single tea purchase increased £0.21 to reach £2.93 over the last year and rises to £5.97 among the 61% surveyed who typically purchase other food and beverages alongside tea. However, just 26% believe tea served in coffee shops represents good value for money – 7% fewer than 12 months ago.
Black tea remains the favourite among UK consumers, with 71% of coffee shop visitors surveyed making a purchase over the last 12 months. However, with 36% of UK consumers surveyed agreeing they like to try new tea beverages in coffee shops, there is an opportunity for operators to innovate their tea offer.
Boosted by iced tea menus at major branded coffee chains, including Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Caffè Nero and Pret A Manger, the proportion of UK consumers surveyed purchasing iced tea out-of-home over the last 12 months has risen 9% to reach 25%.
Bubble tea is also gaining significant ground in the UK. With 20% of consumers surveyed making a purchase over the last year – an 8% rise – the category has the potential to become a major new beverage trend in the UK. In 2023 Costa Coffee became the first major UK branded coffee chain to offer a bubble tea range. Meanwhile, Taiwanese bubble tea chains, such as Chatime, Yi Fang, Gong cha and Chun Fun, are all making headway in the UK market.

Bubble tea has significant potential in the UK branded coffee shop market, with a fifth of UK consumers surveyed making a purchase within the last 12 months | Photo credit: via Shutterstock 

Iced beverages crack the mainstream among younger UK consumers
While hot coffee remains far more popular in branded coffee shops year-round, cold and iced beverages continue to build momentum in the UK. Nineteen percent of UK consumers surveyed indicate they drink more cold coffee than hot overall, 4% higher than 12 months ago.
Unsurprisingly, cold and iced coffee demand peaks in the summer, but the proportion of UK consumers surveyed only making a purchase during hot weather fell 7% to 56% over the last year. World Coffee Portal’s Cakes, Shakes & Tea Breaks UK 2023 report recorded notable increases in spring, autumn and winter consumption, a dynamic led by the under 35s, nearly a quarter of whom indicated they purchase iced beverages between December and February.
Standard iced coffee is the most popular type of iced beverage, with 71% of iced beverage consumers making a purchase over the last 12 months. However, coffee-based frappé beverages are more popular than non-coffee – 56% vs. 29% respectively.
With 61% of UK consumers surveyed indicating they like to try new iced beverages in coffee shops, there is ample potential for coffee shops to grow their iced offer. However, high expectations and constrained consumer spending means iced menus must be on point – 60% of UK consumers surveyed indicate they are purchasing fewer iced beverages than they otherwise would have during the cost-of-living crisis.
Presentation, fresh ingredients and preparation time also influence the value perception of cold and iced beverages. Ninety-three percent of UK consumers surveyed indicated a freshly prepared iced beverage is an important factor behind their purchase. With nearly three-quarters valuing barista skill as important to overall beverage quality and half expecting 3-4 minutes as reasonable preparation time, operators must ensure service, preparation and presentation is razor sharp.
For those operators with limited scope to prepare and customise iced beverages on site, there could be a further sales opportunity among the one in five consumers who purchased ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee over the last 12 months.

Food for thought: 67% of UK consumers surveyed indicate they are satisfied with the quality of food in coffee shops, but just 20% believe food menus represent value-for-money | Photo credit: Eaters Collective 

UK consumers give operators food for thought on value
Despite sustained efforts by many UK coffee chains to improve the range and quality of their food menus, just 20% of UK consumers believe food ranges in coffee shops currently represent good value for money – although this is likely a result of recent price rises.
There has also been a steep decline in the proportion of consumers who indicated coffee shop food has improved over the last 12 months – 27% compared with 43% during the same period in 2022. However, there is some good news for operators, with 67% of purchasers indicating they are satisfied with the quality of food on offer​ in coffee shops.
In a trading landscape where consumers are increasingly reducing spend on non-essential items, operators should heed these concerns, especially when competing with value-focused food-to-go operators with a significant coffee offer, such as Greggs and McDonald’s. Sixty-seven percent of consumers surveyed indicated they are purchasing less food in coffee shops than they otherwise would have due to the cost-of-living crisis​.
‘Fresh’, ‘handmade’ and ‘locally sourced’ were identified by UK consumers as the top three phrases on packaging that most encourage purchase. Meanwhile, buy one get one free, discount vouchers, end of day price reductions, free samples, and loyalty points were also cited by consumers as attractive added-value propositions that influence purchase.
UK consumers surveyed consider savoury pastry products as representing the most value-for-money at branded coffee shops, followed by paninis and toasties. Croissants and brownies are considered the least value-for-money.

Cakes, Shakes & Tea Breaks UK 2023 tracks the changing trends of UK consumers in the out-of-home setting, ranging from consumption patterns through to flavour preferences and future purchase intentions. This unique report builds beyond its predecessor Project Iced UK, Project Tea UK and Project Food UK report series, and is dedicated solely to consumer research, featuring over 6,000 UK respondents.

To purchase the report or to make an enquiry, please contact: enquiries@worldcoffeeportal.com | +44(0)20 7691 8800

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