February 6, 2018

Sean Edwards discusses the Top 10 Global trends in the Café Industry

I personally get to see the best of the best traveling the world visiting thousands of cafés yearly in my role of Head Bean at Café Culture International. I spent several months this year in London, New York and San Francisco observing the market whilst working on launching some innovative Australian products in this space.

For a bit of fun I thought I would throw together my top ten trends that I have seen in the café and coffee industry in the last year and you can compare my results with what you have observed and what your customers have informed you of (as they all know more then you). Some trends do come and go but many innovations often can change a workplace practice or can become a customer habit quickly. Here is my list!

Barista’s are now scientists!

The Barista is now more likely to be in a white lab coat versus a black tee shirt in our top end cafes today. Many are diving into the full sciences of coffee, preparing special coffee water with specialized water systems that will give the optimum water quality for brewing, and it’s not unusual to see a barista have a TDS meter in their coffee kit. They are all weighing in coffee shots and weighing out extracted coffee in espresso to tested taste recipes. The Acaia scale has become another barista kit must have item for optimum accuracy.

High technology brewing equipment.

Coffee brewing equipment has made some amazing innovation in the last year with companies like Sanremo, Rancilio and Compak releasing new high tech equipment to market. We have seen machine companies perfecting temperature and pressure profiling with many installing built-in scales to grinders and espresso machines. Data tracking of coffee profiles is also all the rage, so baristas can now set brew recipes in their coffee machines onboard a computer.
Puqpress has really blown me away, as to how quickly the top end of the coffee industry have taken this product on board into their coffee systems. But as we know every barista strives for consistency and this machine is evolving quickly as the new tamping tool.

Social media platforms

Social media platforms have been on the rise over the last few years but were very much a person-to-person communication tool until now. Social media has really become a financial decision for a café to take part in. Social media now is an integral part of how a café is perceived by the market, with a bigger uptake of customers using social platforms to research a business before they make a buying decision or becoming a customer. Posts on the many Social media review sites can make or break a café business. Social media has also become a great tool for marketing events and daily news from café businesses. Instagram and Snap chat are probably the most frequented platforms in this space. Vlogs and Podcasts are getting more popular as hand held devices get more tech savvy with camera and video functions. Remember customers love to share and tag your coffee and food and to be seen at cool spaces, which is what the café world is all about.

Cloud based solutions

Many new businesses have become mobile and working out of an office space is becoming more and more rare with many people using cafés as their new office space. Cloud based systems for finance have become the new solution. Companies like Xero are leading the way and changing the trends on how businesses track their financials. Xero has done well with designing a system that runs off live bank feeds and is adaptable to other complimenting programs like point of sale and loyalty systems. The best thing about these cloud based programs is you can operate from any location that has Wi-Fi – The hotel pool in Bali for example.


Disposable cups made big headlines this year with a big focus on claims being made by some manufacturers around the actual waste collection systems at the end of the cup lifecycle. The media has been responsible for raising questions and speculation resulting in cup manufacturers being under the spot light with many myths now getting dispelled. The big winner was reusable cups and many café users switched to brands like Keep Cup, Frank Green and Cheeki.

Lifestyle – Health and Well-Being

This year was the big push on the café menu for all things healthy. All the whites got challenged again by the media spotlights. Milk, sugar, white bread and white rice. Alternate products have started to replace the baddies and this has been achieved well through healthy marketing campaigns selected by these new style businesses targeting food service distribution. The alternate milk market worldwide is now up around 20 Billion dollars and growing. Almond milk has taken the coffee market by storm, pushing Soy to the back of the queue. Café menus have definitely changed and Vegan and Gluten free is now on offer at most smart cafés that don’t want to miss a sales opportunity. Salads seem to have come into a whole new space of creativity by café chefs. It is exciting to see new tasty salads on the café menu which also have great margin returns in lowering expensive food costs associated with traditional protein based menus.

Alternate café beverage

This space in café is always changing and we have seen many on trend products reach their peak and disappear. New trends in latte’s like Matcha, Beetroot and Turmeric have come into the café space, running off the Health and Wellbeing trend. Café punters still love their coffee but are switching to other hot and cold beverages at different times of the day like the afternoon and night. Café Beverage innovator Alchemy Cordials have perfected a liquid Turmeric Elixir that is creating a storm globally with the Golden latte craze.

White spirits

Yes I am a fan after gaining lots of extra kilos with the craft beer revolution from the past few years. I am definitely now a Gin Snob having far less calories and I search out local distilleries in my travels. Vodka is also popular and has slipped its way into café breakfasts as the old favourite Bloody Mary, which now has many new twists in its creation.


Every barista and coffee geek in the world wants to be a coffee roaster. What we are seeing this year is huge growth in the up take on new roasters in the market. We believe we have seen a 20% growth in new roasters coming in to the market this year. In the past the roaster growth was controlled by the difficulty in learning the skill and also how hard it was to buy a coffee roaster. Both these setbacks have been resolved with many roasting equipment companies coming into the market and there are a number of well-recognised trainers like Anne Cooper with her short roasting courses at Equilibrium Roasting.

Fit outs

Move over Night Clubs, cafes are the new high spend fit out spaces! With cafés seeking high foot traffic in major city locations paying massive rents, Landlords are expecting expensive décor to match these locations. We are seeing builds well over the million dollar mark in major cities, which for a volatile industry like cafés it is raising the risks of success.


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