TORONTO — The Canadian Coffee & Tea Show returned to Toronto this week, bringing together baristas, tea experts, distributors and industry influencers.
This year’s event, which took place at the Toronto Congress Centre on Sept. 24 and 25, featured morning education sessions and more than 130 exhibitors. For the first time, the event also featured a selection of interactive workshops on the tradeshow floor, including latte art demonstrations, pour-over coffee tutorials and cupping seminars presented by Toronto-based De Mello Palheta.
During the morning sessions, Stephen Gray, national Business Development director, Canada, Monin Gourmet Flavourings, highlighted key trends in café-beverage sales. In particular, he stressed the power of seasonal limited-time offerings to drive sales at cafés and attract consumer attention — pointing to research indicating 37 per cent of North American consumers are willing to spend more to try unique flavours.
Gray also indicated beverage customization as a trend, especially among millennials, with more complex and layered flavours being a key area of interest. “These are indulgent flavours that [are making] consumers say ‘yes, I want to try that,’” he explained.
Growing interest in non-coffee beverages also offers an opportunity to operators, Gray notes. “In general, we are seeing more non-coffee drinks sold in coffee shops than coffee drinks,” he said. “[This] is a great opportunity to focus on a new growth area.”
Iced teas, flavoured waters, hand-crafted sodas and lemonades are key products that can provide operators with an edge and bolster sales. These offerings also offer a prime opportunity to dazzle customers with visual appeal. Offering variety is particularly important given millennials penchant for visiting cafés and coffee shops during all dayparts, he added.
“What we’re seeing, especially in that millennial category, is [consumers] want an experience and they will pay for it, so don’t be afraid to work that in your favour,” said Gray.
Adi Baker, executive assistant, Tea and Herbal Association of Canada (THAC), hosted a “Tea Industry Update” session, which highlighted consumer habits, as well as recent developments within THAC.
According to Baker, the profile of the Canadian tea drinker is very diverse. In particular, the tea traditions of immigrants has fuelled growth in specialty-tea (tea besides black tea bags) sales, however “we are predominantly a black-tea drinking country,” she adds.
This said, millennials are also major influencers when it comes to tea. “Looking at [Canada’s] total tea drinkers, 58 per cent of them are female and 70 per cent are between 22 and 31,” Baker explained. “[Millennials] perceive and like tea and coffee equally. There is a time for tea and coffee in each of their days.”
Like Gray, Baker also noted millennials’ preference for variety and different flavours, which is driving sales of both specialty and herbal teas.
In the “Tea and Coffee-infused Cocktails” session, Tata Global Beverages and Brad Gubbins, owner of Cordial & Company Consultancy, highlighted how incorporating tea and coffee into restaurant cocktail programs can grow profit margins.
Gubbins walked attendees through key in-house techniques and recipe examples that can help bring unique flair to a restaurant’s beverage program.
The show also featured education sessions on coffee-roast profile development, tea tasting, tea blending and coffee and tea trends for grocers.