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Cold brew storms ready-to-drink market

From the June 2016 issue.

It’s the hottest new trend in coffee, but with its shift into the ready-to-drink category, is cold brew about to go mass market?

Peet's cold brew on tap
When pharmacist and entrepreneur Phillip McCrory made his first batch of cold brew coffee in his family’s New Orleans kitchen more than 30 years ago, he knew he was on to something.

In 1987, he sold his first bottle of CoolBrew. Two years later he established the New Orleans Coffee Company. It was more than 20 years, however, before cold brew coffee drinkers started to warm to the unique brew and other brands started entering the market.

Today, this heretofore obscure category of specialty coffee is reaching critical mass, with companies competing for market share and others branching out into ready-to-drink (RTD) cold brew and other innovative brewing and distribution methods.

While overall coffee consumption stagnates in the United States, and the retail coffee industry has grown a mild 3.8 per cent per year on average since 2010, according to industry research firm IBISWorld, cold brew is seeing sales grow by leaps and bounds.

During 2015, retail sales of cold brew coffee jumped 115 per cent, according to market research firm Mintel. Considering that cold brew is relatively new in the greater specialty coffee market, retail sales have been on an astonishing upward trajectory, climbing 339 per cent from 2010 to 2015. That said, RTD cold brew remains only a small part of the overall RTD coffee segment, making up just 0.4 per cent of sales.

Considering 24 per cent of consumers currently drink retail-purchased cold brew coffee, that miniscule market share means a significant untapped market remains for RTD cold brew. What’s more, Mintel’s research shows that one-third of that remaining 76 per cent who are not drinking cold brew are interested in trying it.

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