Coffee Brands Have Nearly Doubled Sustainability Claims

Nearly half (48%) of all new coffee product launches in 2020 share at least one ethical or environmental claim – a 25 percent increase since 2012, according to Mintel Global New Products Database’s (GNPD) report.

The report identifies the claims made by coffee sellers of hot and cold products based on the packaging, not its reflection of meaningful, sustainable actions.

Jonny Forsyth, associate director of Mintel Food and Drink, said sustainability would be a defining issue for the coffee industry in the next two decades. Consumer expectations are shifting as their awareness of the environmental problems and impact grows. The younger generation will not tolerate waste, especially for rarely recycled pods, with launches of 'greener' pods expected to grow.

According to the report, pod/capsule coffee was the least motivated category regarding sustainability or ethics claims. Whilst making up nearly a quarter of coffee product launches in 2020, only 39 percent claimed to be recyclable, 11 percent claimed to be biodegradable, and 10 percent claimed to be compostable.

Packaged coffee product launches increased by eight percent in 2020, which Mintel attributed to increased consumption at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The trend was most apparent in North America, Europe and Australasia.

However, according to the Mintel report, the number of global RTD coffee product launches declined by 15 percent compared to 2019.

Overall, the report suggests sustainability and ethics will continue to be a factor coffee companies can leverage against competitors, especially as they target younger audiences.

Again, the report does not evaluate the merit of these claims.

Forsyth noted that the pandemic has made consumers more aware of inequality within the coffee market, as most farmers are underpaid despite the massive profit margin on coffee and efforts from Fair Trade. Brands will need to be more hands-on and help their farmers through the changing global climate, putting sustainability values and actions at the heart of their brand.