What’s next for coffee drinkers in the UK?

You can hardly walk or drive anywhere without spotting a coffee shop in the UK. The selection and availability of one of the world’s most loved beverages has expanded massively in recent years, with ingredients and ways of offering the ‘coffee drinking experience’ becoming more innovative with every new creation.

But, will our affinity for coffee have an effect on how we drink it and what goes into making it? With a great focus on sustainability, organic sources, health-conscious options, and quirky flavours, we look at the rise in popularity of coffee beverages and which trends we can expect to become the standard in UK coffee shops of the future.  

The coffee sector around the world

In the UK alone, the British Coffee Association found that we drink around 95 million cups of coffee a day. When looking further afield, a Mordor Intelligence Global Coffee Market report published in March this year, it was discovered that the beverage is one of the top consumed drinks in developed nations. Also, world coffee production for the 2017-18 period is estimated at around 158.78 million bags — an increase of 0.7% compared to 2016-17 — while coffee’s global market value is anticipated to see a 5.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

Clearly, coffee is on the rise — but what trends will we see in the sector in 2019?

Coffee as you go
Due to the cost-effectiveness of products like paper coffee cups and disposable cutlery, portable businesses are relatively cheap to set up and run — which may be why street food is a popular sector for food and drink entrepreneurs to get into. Head of marketing at KERB — a street food event organiser — Alison O’Reilly, said: “Now a lot of people are leaving nine-to-five jobs in finance, tech and marketing. They see it as a low-risk way of setting up a restaurant without having to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

As a result, you can anticipate a boost in artisan coffee stands and pop-up shops around the UK. Considering the rising popularity of cold-brew coffee — suited to spring and summer — alongside hot-coffee options — ideal for autumn and winter; launching a coffee street food business offers the potential to be a lucrative, year-round venture.

Ethical drinks

Get ready for a surge in eco-friendliness in the coffee sector. Many global coffee brands are making greater strides towards their ethical commitments. Starbucks, for example, announced in March this year that it was launching a new gadget that would allow its coffee farmers to log key information regarding their practices.

“Over the next two years, we will look to demonstrate how technology and innovative data platforms can give coffee farmers even more financial empowerment. We’ll leverage an open-source approach to share what we learn with the rest of the world,” commented Kevin Johnson, chief executive officer at Starbucks, at the Annual Meeting of Shareholders.

It’s likely that more brands will emulate Starbucks’ stance and put effort into offering ethical coffee. Already, America’s National Coffee Association found that coffee drinkers — particularly millennials — are influenced by ethical certificates. Apparently, they tend to purchase coffee if they know that the treatment of workers and processes involved are fair and environmentally friendly.

Be prepared for a significant reduction in plastic and see more traceability when it comes to the source of your next cup of coffee.

Nitrogen coffee

For some of us, it’s a toss-up between heading to the pub and going for a coffee instead — could this change? Nitro-brew coffee is a type of cold-brew beverage served on tap and infused with nitrogen that delivers a creamy, ice-cold drink that has the look and texture of a pint of ale! Recently, Starbucks introduced it to its UK outlets after success in the United States and it’s highly probable that other chains and independent shops will follow suit.


Cold coffee — not simply iced coffee — is also on the up in popularity and availability. Cold-brew coffee is brewed with cold or room-temperature water over 12 to 24 hours. The reason it’s growing in popularity is because it often features a mellower, sweeter, more full-bodied taste with less acidity. More than that, it’s easily bottled and ideal for on-the-go coffee consumers, which makes it convenient for those who don’t have time in the morning to queue and order a hot option.

In the United States, cold-brew coffee sales rocketed by 80% in 2017, and we can expect this emerging trend to pick up pace in the UK as the beverage becomes more widely available. This type of coffee can be made in large batches for a coffee shop owners’ convenience — another reason to get on board.

Flat trends

A flat white is a common beverage to choose from the coffee menu. Called a “staple on the UK’s coffee shop scene” by head of training at Lavazza, Dave Cutler, and a “key innovation” by Jeffrey Young, founder of the London Coffee Festival, more than 10% of orders in premium coffee shops are for flat whites.

So, what’s new? Currently, an emerging trend and set to become a regular entry on most coffee shops’ menu boards, drinks such as flat blacks and even flat mochas are gearing up to challenge the popularity of the flat white — so keep an eye out for it at your local cafe.

Alternative mixers

Alternative milk is expected to go up by more than two-fifths over the next three to four years in the UK, according to data from Agribusiness Intelligence. Also, the plant-based beverage sector — which includes many milk alternatives — is currently worth nearly £7 billion. Recently, the trend for non-dairy foods and drinks and other milk-substitute products that suit lifestyles, like vegetarianism, and conditions, such a lactose intolerance, has grown — and this is affecting the coffee shop industry, too.

Forget standard skimmed, semi-skimmed and full-fat coffee mixers, the choices are going to open up. Oat, soy, rice, almond, cashew, coconut, and macadamia milks will likely grow in availability in UK coffee shops, with greater creativity around how baristas infuse their gourmet and speciality drinks with these alternative mixers.

It’s an exciting time to be a coffee drinker or shop owner in the UK. Which trend are you most on board with?