June 11, 2019

Insights From World of Coffee 2019, Berlin


World of Coffee is Europe’s largest coffee trade show and it takes place in a different city every year. 2019 saw Berlin play host to the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)-organized event from June 6th to 8th.

Alongside four coffee championships and a wide assortment of lectures and events, this year brought new features including an interactive exhibit, Design Lab, and Automating Excellence, which featured innovative new super-automatic brewing machines.

I spoke to producers, roasters, café owners, baristas, and representatives from coffee associations and equipment manufacturers to learn about hot topics and predictions for the future of the industry. Keep reading to find out what they had to say.

Lee este artículo en español ¿Qué Sucedió en el World of Coffee 2019 en Berlín?

Dulce Barrera represents Guatemala in the 2019 World Coffee Cup Taster Championships. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Consumers Are More Knowledgeable

One of the key themes that came up at World of Coffee is the idea that today’s consumers are more informed than ever before and, as a result, have higher expectations of quality.

Joyce Klassen is Marketing Manager for coffee grinder manufacturer Baratza. She tells me that as consumers increasingly understand how variables such as different grind size and brewing methods can affect their coffee’s profile.

“More and more consumers are really getting into coffee and understanding it,” she says. “There is just more knowledge being developed.”

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Attendees sample different plant-based milks at the Alpro booth. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Olivier Minne, International Key Account Manager at Alpro says that “people are more informed in every matter and on every level in coffee and sustainability.”

He explains that with new technology it’s easier than ever for consumers to learn about coffee at each part of the supply chain. His colleague, Dorien Christiaens, Digital Media Coordinator at Alpro, adds that people are increasingly more interested in knowing where their coffee comes from.

An exhibitor prepares to brew with a Kalita device. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Changing Consumer Expectations

With this increased knowledge comes different expectations. Olivier tells me that he thinks consumers will continue to demand new and different products. “Consumers want more and more, they want to be inspired and want variation, and this is something that will continue,” he says.

He highlights recent growth in the plant-based milk sector. Oat, coconut, hazelnut, and rice-based products have grown in popularity, as well as more traditional almond and soya milks.

Gemma Kiernan is Marketing Manager at Marco Beverage Systems, a Dublin-based manufacturer of water boilers and coffee brewing systems. She tells me she sees more demand for healthier alternatives to sugary or alcoholic beverages. In their place, she predicts more herbal and fruit-based drinks and teas.

“You walk in here and you see a lot of people that are doing cold brew, cold drinks, kombucha, and a lot of different types of drinks,” Gemma says. “Coffee, fresh drinks, and cold drinks are going up. I think there’s an opportunity there,” she tells me.

The FRIIA from Marco Beverage Systems dispenses hot, cold, and sparkling water. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Ready-to-Drink & Cold Brew

Gemma isn’t the only person who sees the growth in cold drinks. Olivier says that he sees expansion in cold on-the-go drinks, especially in the big cities. “Iced coffee is a growing business, and ready-to-drink and cold brew are big business,” he says.

Carlos Guerra is the 2019 Honduras Barista Champion and owner of Café San Rafael. He also tells me he sees growth in this sector. “There is a part of the audience that appreciates quality in coffee but also demands options on-the-go,” he says.

Preparing cold drinks from a coffee concentrate using the Marco FRIIA. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Ana Lucrecia Glaesel, Marketing Director at Anacafé, the Guatemalan Coffee Association, says that “there are new preparation methods, ones that weren’t well-known before, plus cold brew is now here, as well as ready-to-drink”.

To further prove the trend, Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters won a Best New Product award in the Open Class category with Moon Brew, a to-go cold brew.

Cupping coffees from Panama. Credit: Miguel Regalado

New Choices From Producers

Producers are also experimenting with new techniques. Ana tells me that she sees more and more producers in Guatemala experimenting with fermentation and different processing methods.

“We’ve always produced a lot of washed coffees but now we see a bigger interest in natural or honey processed coffees,” she says.

Noelia Valladares, Executive Director of the Costa Rican Coffee Event Sintercafé, tells me that she seems similar changes. “In Costa Rica, I think that innovation with different processing methods has stood out,” she says. “Year by year, we can see new processing techniques and new varieties.”

A sample of a specialty quality Robusta from Uganda. Credit: Gisselle Guerra

Natural processed coffees have been popular in recent years due to their sweet, fruity taste. Marvin Wecke, Online Marketing Manager at the German roastery Coffee Circle, tells me that he thinks that their popularity is also because the method is more sustainable for producers, as it uses less water than other processing methods.

He says that in response to climate change, producers are looking for more sustainable methods of processing and considering different varieties. This was supported by several exhibitors featuring fine Robustas at the event.

Attendees try out the Vandola brewing method at Café de Costa Rica’s booth. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Awareness of The Coffee Market Crisis

Among consumers, roasters, producers, and manufacturers, the C price and coffee market crisis were widely discussed. “The number one issue is price,” Noelia tells me.

Ben Weiner is the Chief Famer at Gold Mountain Coffee Growers in Nicaragua. He says, “There is no question that the most pressing issue is that the C price is below the production cost of coffee.” He tells me that if the current situation continues, many farmers could lose their farms in as little as two years.

Ben suggests that direct relationships can help. “By connecting farmers directly with roasters, we are ensuring that they are getting better prices,” he says.

Ana tells me that many roasters are concerned and are trying to improve prices for producers. “This topic is always being talked about, [and] the SCA has great initiatives in finding the roots of the issue,” she says. “Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and other institutions are coming together to work with the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia to see how to overcome these issues.” In fact, Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (also known as Cafe de Colombia) has been doing much more than talking – the organisation is taking a proactive stance in raising awareness of producers’ living conditions.

The Gold Mountain Coffee Growers team. Credit: Gisselle Guerra

Sustainability Throughout The Supply Chain

Environmental and economic sustainability were key themes at the event. The day before World of Coffee opened, the International Coffee Congress took place in Berlin. The event was created by the German Coffee Association in collaboration with SCA and World of Coffee to highlight the topic of sustainability and the effects of climate change on producers.

Mario Cerutti, Chief Institutional Relations and Sustainability Officer at Lavazza, tells me that “sustainability is definitely getting more and more important”.

“Economic sustainability is today one of the most important issues… It’s very difficult to talk about environmental sustainability without [providing producers with] the means to maintain a family. The economic sustainability of coffee is the first important step on which to build other possibilities… if we’re missing economic sustainability, it’s very difficult to imagine that the other types of sustainability are possible,” he says.

A barista prepares a coffee at the ¡Tierra! Lavazza booth. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Joyce tells me that she notices more sustainable options in coffee accessories such as to-go cups and straws. This was evident in the number of compostable and eco-friendly products on show at World of Coffee, such as the compostable cup from Active Difference and the Weducer cup made out of used coffee grounds by KaffeeForm.  

Coffee packaging distributor Savor Brands won Best New Product Award with the Pono 2019. The bag is part of their Zero Waste Coffee Packaging program. Marc Marquez, Director of Branding & Coffee, explains that the company has partnered with coffee shops where customers can return their bags for recycling. The company guarantees that 100% of the collected bags are recycled and made into new materials.

Marc also says that fully compostable bags will also be part of their portfolio in the near future.

The Pono 2019 by Savor brands. Credit: Gisselle Guerra

Automation & Innovation

Jenn Chen is Digital Marketing Manager at brewing equipment company Acaia. She predicts more automation coming to the coffee industry. “These are the items that are meant to ease up on baristas,” she tells me.

Agnija Tilla from the Eastern Europe Sales Department of Ally Coffee tells me that she sees a lot of new machines coming into the specialty market.

“It’s an interesting trend because in specialty it’s all about a personal attitude, brewing coffee and paying attention, really crafting the cup,” she says. “I think that automation allows more space for the barista to work on customer service and focus on that.” She tells me that automatic features can also improve consistency.

An automatic machine from Nuova Simonelli. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Manufacturers are also rethinking how baristas interact with equipment and customers. The Nexus One by Australian company Aremde won the Best New Product Award for Commercial Coffee or Tea Preparation and Serving Equipment. The sleek machine allows baristas to work from behind or in front of the bar, encouraging communication between customer and barista.

Attendees take a look at the Nexus One espresso machine. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Continued Growth

Exhibitors and attendees at World of Coffee predict that despite the challenges facing the coffee industry, the market will continue to grow. “It feels like the show gets bigger and bigger,” Joyce from Baratza tells me. “This is our fifth year and every time we come, it’s larger. So that really tells us what a great interest there is in specialty coffee”.

Davinia Weiner, a coffee expert from Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, tells me that she sees growth in new markets. “I’ve been impressed with the amount of roasters from Eastern European coming to World of Coffee and being very interested in specialty coffee,” she says.

Vivian Vasquez presented a talk entitled Colombia: How The Meta Region Is Getting Back to Quality Coffee Production, which was organised by ¡Tierra! Lavazza. She tells me that the global growth in coffee is having a positive impact in conflict zones in Colombia.

“There is a transition they are going through,” she says, explaining that some farming families have more economic stability and are able to stop participating in illegal activities thanks to growth in the coffee industry.

Lavazza’s ¡Tierra! project is focused on the improvement and development of coffee farmer communities. The Meta region that was highlighted in  Vivian’s speech is one of their initiatives. Since 2015, the Giuseppe and Pericle Lavazza Foundation Onlus and Carcafè Ltda have helped Colombian farmers to restore coffee plantations, created sustainable working conditions on their farms, and raised the coffee quality and productivity of plantations in the region.

A coffee cupping with Ally Coffee. Credit: Miguel Regalado

World of Coffee 2019 was host to thousands of visitors and three halls of exhibitors. Although the C price and its impact was a common topic of discussion, the event felt positive and hopeful, with a real focus on sustainability, solutions, and innovation at every level of the supply chain.

And with Eastern Europe clearly identified as a region of growth, we’re eager to see what World of Coffee 2020 in Warsaw will bring.

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Feature image: Entrance of World of Coffee at the Messe Berlin. Feature image credit: Julio Guevara.

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