Despite economic pressures, coffee category is resilient

Highlights from the Coffee Association of Canada conference.
Michelle Warren smiles
Paige and Robert at CAC conference
Paige Entwistle and Robert Carter

Members of the Coffee Association of Canada gathered in Toronto at The Globe and Mail Centre on November 9 to network and take stock of the industry and larger trends, while looking ahead to opportunities in 2024.

CAC president Robert Carter welcomed guests and kicked things off with a tribute to the organization's long-time executive assistant Paige Entwistle, who is retiring.

Tony Chapman hosted the event, which was packed with learning and insights from a wide range of panelists.

The overarching message was that Canadians are (no surprise) very concerned about the economy and this is influencing spending at all levels. In fact, 47% of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque (Leger).

On the bright side, however, seven in 10 Canadians report having had a coffee yesterday (Dig Insights), emphasizing the category’s resiliency in the face of economic instability.


The Food Professor on stage at CAC
“Coffee is what the economy needs more than ever—coffee unites,” say Food Professor, Dr. Sylvain Charlebois. “There is something about coffee that is really quite powerful. I think there is a bright future for the industry.”

Coffee is an affordable luxury that Canadians are holding on to—in fact, there are several opportunities for growth when it comes to tapping into coffee drinkers, including population growth, smaller households, multicultural tastes and focusing on millennials, who are surpassing boomers in terms of influence and spending power (Ipsos Canada).

As consumers tighten wallets, the focus is on promos and getting a good deal with private label offerings—both of which are tools that convenience stores can use to drive traffic and boost coffee sales (Nielsen IQ).

Coffee drinking habits are largely influenced by changes in daily routines—overall, consumers are moving away from on-premises occasions and towards home and on-the-go coffee (Circana).

In addition, coffee servings are shifting away from traditional coffee towards cold and specialty beverages.

RTD cold brew beverages are huge and cold coffee is gaining marketing share—it’s now a year-round thing. In typical form, Gen Z is proving they are going to buy what they want when they want it.

There’s a significant opportunity to grow cold brew and iced coffee: This is good news for the away-from-home providers, like convenience stores, which continue to invest in updated equipment that can create a specialty brew with the touch of a button.

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