TORONTO — As sales of coffee beverages continue to percolate and competition for the coffee consumer intensifies, the Coffee Association of Canada held its annual conference in Toronto recently. The one-day conference, held at the Toronto Reference Library on November 8, brought together a collection of coffee operators and suppliers to hear from a wide ranging mix of panels and presenters. John Betts, president and CEO of McDonalds Restaurants, and the man who spearheaded McDonald’s successful foray into the coffee market, kicked off the day with a keynote address touching on how the fast-food giant is connecting with Canadians.
Robert Carter of the NPD Group joined Neilsen’s Sophie Morisseau, manager, Marketing Effectiveness, and Michael Edwards, co-founder, DIG Insights, for a statistical overview of the key coffee trends impacting the market. Carter told the audience that Canadians will spend $155 billion on food in 2017, making 287 annual per-capita visits to grocery and restaurants.
According to Morrisseau, “We have a fragmented path to purchases. Food is available anywhere anytime.” She said online shopping is forecast to triple by 2020 with 39 per cent of Canadians now shopping online, adding that over the past five years $4.1 billon has shifted to online sales. With a heightened focus on healthy eating, Morrisseau said that 65 per cent of Canadians now consider healthy eating important, and 54 per cent of Canadians are willing to pay more for drinks that don’t contain artificial ingredients. Interestingly, almond milk has grown by four per cent, while coconut milk has spiked by 20 per cent. Edwards touched on the results of his company’s online survey of Canadians, which showed that coffee consumption at home has declined while out-of-home coffee consumption has grown. Interestingly, traditional coffee sales have remained flat, while espresso-based drinks have grown from 13 to 23 per cent.
Following the Coffee Trends Report panel, F&H editor and publisher Rosanna Caira, moderated a lively panel of three millennials, who provided an intriguing perspective into the millennial mindset. The panel demonstrated that while this cohort is increasingly important to foodservice operators, their tastes, spending patterns and behaviour are not always easy to pinpoint with the disparity dictated by the cohort’s wide age differences. The one item the panel did agree on was that there is no threshold for how much money they would spend on a good cup of coffee, adding that social media plays a huge role in where they choose to spend their money.
In one of the afternoon panels, Danielle Brisebois, president of the Retail Council, touched on the impact of Amazon in changing the way people shop. “It’s the elephant in the room,” she stated, adding there’s a great deal of uncertainty in the retail marketplace, fuelled by the growing interest in online shopping. “The portion that used to go to grocery (traditional shopping) is shrinking.” According to Jason Chong, Insight & Category Development lead, Starbucks, it’s become more important to “meet the shopper where they are.” Chris Elliott, senior economist from Restaurants Canada, touched on issues such as minimum-wage increases and rising costs, both of which are significantly impacting the foodservice industry.
Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of Civic Action, brought an interesting perspective to the conference as she talked about the increasing importance of mental health in the workplace. With one out of two Canadians struggling with mental-health issues, “It’s a crisis,” said Palvetzian. “It’s not silent anymore.” According to the president of Civic Action, 32 per cent of Canadian leaders are now taking action to address workplace mental health. As an example, “Earlier this year, Starbucks increased its benefits to include more money devoted to mental health. In the past Starbucks allocated $450 to each employee for mental-health benefits; that’s now been increased to $5,000 for each employee, translating into 25 psychologist visits.