By Dr Adam Carr

Seven Miles Coffee Roasters have recently released a Cafe 2025 report, which forecasts shifts the café industry is expected to see over the next five years.

From automation to the increase of cheap coffee and dairy alternatives, there’s much to think about.

Specialty coffee automation

While automated coffee machines are nothing new in places like hotels and convenience stores, cafés and espresso bars have long resisted the advance of robotic assistance.

However, with devices like thePuqPress (an automated tamper) and the Ubermilk (an automatic milk steamer), it seems baristas and café owners are warming to the potential of these laboursaving devices.

When you consider how rising labour costs continue to eat into café profits and the ongoing struggle to retain quality staff, the shift seems inevitable.

In the near future, manufacturers will be launching more high-end machines that combine everything into one such as the Eversys Cameo and the Scanomat TopBrewer. This new generation of superautomatic machines combine the kind of precision brew ratio control that specialty cafés expect, along with the ability to ‘dial in’ these parameters by themselves.

While some cafés will want to adopt this technology as their primary espresso machine, it’s likely that many more will use it as a secondary machine to compete for the ‘fast coffee’ customer.

Fast vs slow coffee
The gap between fast, takeaway coffee and the full sit-down experience looks certain to keep getting wider.

The rise of $1 self-serve coffee is increasingly putting the pressure on smaller, convenience-focused cafés to lift their game. To stay competitive, cafés in this segment of the market will need to take advantage of new technology to speed up their service while also maintaining their quality positioning.

At the other end of the scale, larger cafés offering the full sit-down ‘slow coffee’ experience are increasingly moving into restaurant territory through extended trading hours, an expanded menu and everything that goes with it.

Ultimately, both fast and slow business models have the potential to grow over the next five years. The real danger is for cafés stuck in the middle — not fast enough to meet increasing customer expectations, yet not providing the right space and menu to be a destination for the slow coffee crowd.

Rise of milk alternatives
In Australian cafés, dairy milk is still by far the most popular variety, with both skim and full cream varieties contributing to 77 per cent of all coffees served. However, across the next five years we expect to see a15 per cent decline in dairy milk volume.

The void created by this decline is expected to be filled equally with black coffee sales (7 per cent, including long blacks, filter and cold brew) and alternative milk-based coffee sales (8 per cent).

In terms of non-dairy milks, we expect almond to continue to dominate the category (about 68 per cent of the sales volume). The fastest growing non-dairy milk in cafés is oat milk.

We expect it to overtake soy as the second most preferred option within the next five years, owing to its relatively neutral taste and texture, complementing coffee flavours nearly as well as dairy milk.

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