Coffee News Club: Week of October 30


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If there’s one thing Gen Z and Millennials agree on, it’s iced coffee. Plus, the US coffee industry is booming, and bamboo-based reusable coffee cups might not be as eco-friendly as advertised.

‘Americans Under 35 Are Reviving Cafes With Their Iced Coffee Obsession’ – via Bloomberg

The younger you are, the colder you probably like your coffee.

That’s according to a report from Allegra World Coffee Portal, which showed that eight out of ten coffee drinkers under the age of 35 bought an iced coffee drink at least once a week. The survey also found that almost a quarter of cafe customers drink iced coffee every day, something that the Bloomberg article credits with “helping US coffee shops bounce back from a Covid hit, and the industry is now topping pre-pandemic levels.” (More on that later.)

Half of “industry leaders” consider iced coffee the most important current market trend, according to Allegra.

The survey builds on several years of reports that Starbucks, the biggest coffee chain in the US with more than 16,000 stores, is increasingly reliant on iced drinks. Cold coffee beverages now account for 75% of the brand’s sales, while up north in Canada, iced coffee makes up 40% of Tim Hortons sales.

Recent analysis and news articles point to Gen Z (currently 26 and under) as the main driver of this trend. Previously, it was millennials (27-42) who were considered the iced coffee-focused generation. Allegra’s new survey shows that it’s a shared fascination.

Read the full story here or via Yahoo! Finance here.

‘NCA Economic Impact Report: US Consumers Spend $301 Million Per Day on Coffee’ – via Daily Coffee News

Coffee makes up 1.3% of the entire US economy, according to a new economic impact report from the National Coffee Association (NCA).

Consumers spent nearly $110 billion on coffee and related goods in 2022, the report found, or about $301 million each day—mostly on iced coffee. The total economic impact of the US coffee industry was $343.2 billion, up 52.4% from the last time the report was commissioned in 2015.

Market research firm Technomic compiled the report, which reflects “all economic activity in the US coffee economy,” according to the NCA, “the majority of which is created in the food service sector.” Other elements of the coffee industry measured in the report include the economic impact of importers, transportation, sweeteners and flavorings manufacturers, maintenance, and accounting.

Speaking of those working in the coffee economy, the report found that the industry is responsible for more than 2.2 million US jobs and generates over $100 billion in wages. While Daily Coffee News notes that this comes out to an average of $46,000 per year, that number doesn’t necessarily address the wage disparity between hourly workers like baristas and top executives.

“This landmark study confirms the great news that coffee not only fuels our daily lives, it is a powerful engine for jobs, communities, and the U.S. economy,” said NCA President and CEO William “Bill” Murray (no, not that Bill Murray) in a press release, “all while supporting coffee farmers’ livelihoods in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and around the world.”

The positive message from the NCA stands in stark contrast to two recent reports that warned of income and funding inequalities within the wider coffee industry. A recent white paper from World Coffee Research warned of an “innovation crisis” in coffee and a funding gap of $452 million a year over the next decade to protect the diversity and quality of green coffee.

Meanwhile, the authors of the 2023 Coffee Barometer wrote that “it is crucial to recognize the interconnectedness between globalization of production, natural resource depletion, and the exploitation of marginalized and impoverished communities. While the sector’s total economic value has significantly increased, the benefits seem to be disproportionately concentrated in Europe and North America.”

Read the full story here.

More News

Indigenous Suruí Turn Invaders’ Crop into High-quality Amazonian Coffee’ – via Mongabay

Kenya Woos Starbucks to Buy Coffee Directly From the Country’ – via Zawya

SCA Hosting Third Online Green Coffee Summit in December’ – via Daily Coffee News

NKG Pace Is Now Accepting Applications For 2024-25’ – via Sprudge

Woman Who Burned Herself on Dunkin’ Coffee Settles for $3 Million’ – via CNN

La Marzocco Launches Next-Generation Strada X and S Machines’ – via Daily Coffee News

Coffee Companies That Emphasize Hiring Disabled Workers Fall Short’ – via Non Profit Quarterly

Harrar At 20,000 Feet: Multiple Lawsuits Threaten In-Flight Coffee Service’ – via Sprudge

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

  • Portland, Maine-based Coffee By Design has voluntarily recognized its workers’ union bid and says negotiations over a contract for the company’s 20 baristas will begin soon. “We have always said a great cup of coffee changes lives, and viewed our coffee, and our business, as a catalyst for positive change and solidarity,” said owner Mary Allen Lindemann in a statement. “It is in keeping with this philosophy and our long-demonstrated commitment to our employees that we will work with the Laborers’ Union in support of our retail baristas.” Negotiations will be conducted “deliberately, rather than quickly,” according to a Local 327 spokesperson, who thanked Lindemann while noting that “this is the way it’s supposed to work.” The contract will not apply to the company’s roastery but will cover workers at all three retail locations in Portland.
  • A National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge ruled that local Starbucks supervisors illegally retaliated against organizing workers by threatening to deny them access to abortion travel benefits. “A month after the U.S. Supreme Court voided the constitutional right to abortion in 2022,” CBS News reports, “Starbucks told workers trying to unionize in Wisconsin that they risked losing coverage of travel costs for the procedure.” The company said it is reviewing the decision and “evaluating potential next steps.”

Is Coffee Good For You?

It depends on what you’re drinking it from.

Charities and retailers in the United Kingdom are selling reusable cups made from bamboo, a material that’s often marketed as “eco-friendly.” However, many of these cups contain a plastic resin, which could potentially leach dangerous substances and make the cups difficult to recycle.

An article from The Observer, The Guardian’s sister Sunday newspaperfound that products made from bamboo with a melamine formaldehyde resin were being sold by the charities WWF-UK and the Wild Planet Trust, despite concerns from regulators that they “may allow the accelerated degradation of plastic that can contaminate the food or drink and may be a risk to health.” Both charities removed the cups from sale after being contacted by the newspaper.

In 2019, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment conducted tests on “bambooware” products and found that, when filled with hot liquids like coffee or tea, they could release melamine and formaldehyde. While there are no immediate health risks from using such products, The Observer reports, “repeated exposure to elevated levels of melamine and formaldehyde may be a risk to health, with melamine linked to toxic effects in the kidneys.”

Previous studies have looked at the impact of hot liquids on the plastic lining of paper coffee cups, finding that to-go cups can leach microplastics ranging from thousands to trillions of particles.

Beyond the Headlines

‘Time For a Coffee Cartel?’ by Keun Lee

‘When Consumers Complain About the Cost of Coffee, How Should We Respond?’ by Ashley Rodriguez

‘Bean Ink: Why Coffee And Tattoos Just Might Be The Perfect Pairing’ by Jenn Chen

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Fionn Pooler

Fionn Pooler is a coffee roaster and freelance writer currently based in the Scottish Highlands who has worked in the specialty coffee industry for over a decade. Since 2016 he has written the Pourover, a newsletter and blog that uses interviews and critical analysis to explore coffee’s place in the wider, changing world (and also yell at corporations).

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