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The UK’s premium automated coffee market doubles in size over five years

The Automated Coffee Report 2021 is World Coffee Portal’s industry-leading analysis of the UK’s rapidly developing premium automated coffee market. It reveals the UK premium self-serve coffee segment* comprises 14,628 units, more than doubling in size since 2016, with advanced technology delivering benefits across quality, consistency and efficiency for hospitality businesse

The Automated Coffee Report UK 2021 reveals the UK's premium self-serve beverage segment has more than doubled in the last five years and now comprises over 14,000 units across the nation | © World Coffee Portal

Technology raises the bar on quality for automated coffee

An increasing number of coffee shop operators are reaping the rewards of reduced staff costs, operational efficiencies and enhanced data capture provided by premium automated coffee machines.
Supporting this dynamic, technological advancements have transformed poor quality expectations associated with self-serve in recent years, with fresh ground coffee and fresh milk replacing instant and powdered formulas while delivering greater convenience for customers.
Reflecting elevated quality expectations in the UK automated market, consumers increasingly expect self-serve beverages to be on par with the high street experience – more than 80% surveyed seek to emulate their typical coffee shop order when using a self-serve solution.

Role of the barista to evolve as more automation moves in-store

Automation is growing in the UK coffee shop segment and wider hospitality space, with super automatic and bean-to-cup machine adoption driving the role of the barista into a more service-oriented, front of house position.
With post-Brexit staff shortages proving costly for hospitality businesses, a long-term strategy towards automation could also alleviate recruitment pressures for many hospitality businesses.
One-third of UK consumers surveyed are open to a fully automated coffee shop experience with no human interaction. However, those favouring hand-prepared beverages appreciate the skill, interaction and personalisation offered by baristas, indicating the role could be set for a more specialised and premium focus in years to come.

Convenience remains a key concern among UK premium self-serve consumers

More than half UK consumers (53%) indicate convenience is the main benefit of using a self-service beverage concept, with 51% making a purchase because it is the only option available.
Petrol and service stations (62%) are the most frequently utilised locations for self-serve coffee, followed by convenience stores (39%) and supermarkets (35%)​. These high footfall and low dwell time sites remain the most opportune locations for operators investing in self-serve coffee solutions.
Highlighting an opportunity for automated solutions following months of Covid-19 trading restrictions, 20% of consumers surveyed indicate their use of premium self-serve machines increased during the pandemic.

Costa Express continues to dominate the UK premium self-serve segment

Costa Express is by far the largest brand in the UK premium self serve segment, operating 10,390 units and holding a 71% market share. Supermarket giant, Sainsbury’s, has the UK’s second largest premium vending presence with 810 units, with the Starbucks We Proudly Serve automated concept operating 750 units across the UK.

Automation set for greater role in UK coffee shops

World Coffee Portal anticipates further fully automated coffee machine growth in the UK branded coffee shop segment, particularly in the food-focused sub-segment where coffee is not the primary product sold. Nine UK coffee chains currently use super-automatic coffee machines. Most notably, coffee and bakery chain Greggs has deployed Thermoplan machines across its 2,078 locations.
The use of super-automatic machines across all UK industries is forecast to grow at least 10% CAGR over the next five years.
Commenting on the report findings, Allegra Group Founder and CEO Jeffrey Young said:
“Automated technology is generating many great business opportunities across the UK coffee industry. Not only are automated solutions helping operators provide more convenience and choice for consumers, they are also enabling baristas to focus more on customer service and can provide long-term solutions for hospitality staff shortages. 
“Our research also shows UK consumers firmly embracing automated coffee, meaning operators have more opportunities to serve high-quality beverages in a wider variety of locations than ever before.
“As technology evolves, there’s no doubt that we’ll see more innovation in both super-automatic and traditional machines, enabling baristas at all levels to perfect their craft and ultimately deliver a better customer experience.”

* The premium vending and self-serve segment is defined as high-end automated machine producing a cup of coffee using freshly ground beans and fresh milk. Figures are correct as of May 2021


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