Three key insights on the independent cafe industry

Last march we organised a coffee cupping session at the Assembly Coffee roastery down in Brixton and had a chat with Michael Cleland, Co-founder of Assembly Coffee.

During these sessions (yep – we had two), we learnt a lot about coffee, the independent cafes’ market and their associated consumers’ needs.

Here are our three key learnings on the industry:

1. There is a discrepancy between the value of coffee and the perception consumers have

The coffee industry is one built on taste and quality of product but consumers don't know/care enough for that to be differentiating. A lot of choices, a lot of origins… consumers can feel lost.

For instance, consumers value the origins of the coffee (i.e Ethiopia being the birthplace of coffee) but don't know what the coffee value is. To prove his point, Michael Cleland made us smell a perfume that we all thought was a cheap common smell. It turned out it was one of the rarest and most expensive perfume in the world.

So, the first thing we could keep in mind is that no matter how much a coffee maker wants to share its passion of coffee, they need to adapt how they approach the mainstream.  

2. Referring to the senses can be a good way to connect with consumers on the coffee market

As consumers don’t know what good coffee really taste like due to a lack of different reference points (some would argue that Starbucks is the norm), marketers have to find other ways to connect with them.

We know that taste can be objective as well as subjective; so using other cues like colors and visuals instead of words can be a really good way of communicating to consumers who don't know much about coffee.

This is what Assembly Coffee did by branding all their coffee packs in a way people could feel what it would be like to drink this coffee i.e pale pink for a floral scent or a sharp brush stroke for acidity.

3. Collaboration all along the supply chain is key to understand the consumers’ behaviours  

Making coffee is not easy; there are many stages to the supply chain and the beans, the roaster and the cafés are all separate industries with different objectives and ways of working.   

Assembly Coffee is convinced that collaboration needs to be encouraged across all these stages so that feedback can run along the supply chain in order to get a better idea of what people love. Shared objectives across industry members and co-creation of coffee with cafés could help to adapt even more the offers the demand is asking for.

Thank you so much to the Assembly Coffee team and particularly, Michael and Ruta for their enthusiasm, brilliant knowledge sharing and warm welcome.

Bonus learning:
Coffee tasting is a true art, between tea ceremony and wine testing. Check this out.