Everyone is familiar with instant coffee. For many busy families, instant coffee is what we reach for in the mornings for a pick me up. It’s cheap, versatile, and convenient. These qualities are what has helped it account for approximately 25% of all retail brewed coffee consumed worldwide. But how did it gain this popularity and is demand slowing down with the rise of ‘specialty’ coffee?
The history of instant coffee is surprisingly longer than you may expect. The origin of instant coffee dates back to before America was even a recognised country. First invented in the UK in 1771, instant coffee first began as a ‘coffee compound’.
In the 20th century, instant coffee finally found its market. In 1890, New Zealander David Stang developed a ‘soluble instant coffee’, followed by the Chicago chemist Satorio Kato in 1901. However, it wasn’t until 1909, with Constant Louis Washington, that instant coffee found its mass appeal and was offered to the public. Washington accomplished what appeared to be a great invention at the time, but to todays standards was just a novelty with a disagreeable taste.
It wasn’t until the First World War that instant coffee became recognisable to modern day instant coffee, being introduced as ‘caked’ originally as a form of ration for soldiers. After the First World War, disruptions in the global economy meant there was a surplus of coffee across Brazil, as it couldn’t be exported. To help preserve this surplus coffee, Nestle and the Brazilian Coffee Institute developed an instant coffee, which then became popular during the Second World War.
For the past 70 years, instant coffee has been an easily accessible and delicious beverage to have in the morning. Instant coffee has become as common as sliced bread. This beverage has come a long way from being a rationed ‘compound’ in World War II to being something we grab every morning.
The Process of Freeze-Dried Instant Coffee
Freeze drying is the process used in food processing to remove water from food or other edible items to increase its shelf life. This process consists of the instant coffee’s temperature being lowered, by -40°C causing freezing of the free water. After, the pressure in the equipment is lowered and sublimation of the frozen water occurs (drying). This remaining water is removed from the product. Once the temperature is lowered to form a thin layer, the layer gets broken into pieces and is then loaded into a freeze-dryer.
Instant Coffee Production Today
The impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the instant coffee market was significant. In the first quarter of 2020, consumption of instant coffee grew exponentially as consumers adapted to closed cafes and stockpiled perceived essentials. Whilst institutional sales suffered due to closed offices and coffee related businesses, domestic consumption witnessed strong growth.
The growing trend towards e-commerce for home consumption has also benefitted coffee suppliers. This trend is expected to drive growth in the coming years, with the instant coffee market having a forecast compound annual growth rate of 5.28% between 2022-2027.
The Future of Instant Coffee
Instant coffee has come a long way from its freeze-dried-out-of-necessity origins. But where does its future lie?
Specialty Instant Coffee
A trend which began as early as 2015, instant coffee has been leaning towards the world of speciality coffee, promoted by brands such as Sudden Coffee and Voila. Many roasters now have iterations of their single origin and specialty blends in instant form, making specialty coffee more widely accessible.
Increasing Demand for Flavoured Coffee
According to Daymon/Mintel survey in the United States in 2020, 47% of people showed interest in vanilla-flavoured coffee, followed by Mocha coffee with 43%, and 25% of the last give coffee packages purchased among retailers are flavoured.
This focus on the creation of unique, authentic flavours has resulted in the specialisation of the instant coffee market. In the period to 2027, flavoured instant coffee is expected to be a key market trend.
Market Growth in Asia-Pacific
Despite the region traditionally being dominated by a tea drinking culture, the coffee industry has been able to penetrate into local markets in recent years. Instant coffee consumption in India, for instance, has boosted Asia-Pacific sales, with China following suit as its consumption patterns become more westernised.
Many coffee suppliers are expectant to increase their focus in the Asia-Pacific market, bringing new and innovative products to win over market share and influence patterns of coffee consumption.