For many years filter coffee has been seen as something of a ‘poor relation’ to espresso-based speciality coffees. Recently however, brew bars have introduced German consumers to a new filter coffee experience. Here. Mintel’s Food and Drink Analyst Germany, Julia Buech, takes a look at whether this current foodservice coffee sensation has the ability to revive the in-home brew…

Still the most popular brew in Germany today, traditional filter coffee accounts for two-thirds of the country’s roasted coffee volume turnover. However, sales of filter coffee have declined in recent years, with its popularity suffering as the Italian espresso-based café culture conquered the country, culminating in today’s booming coffee-to-go and pod/capsule sectors.

But despite growing competition from other more fashionable formats, it seems that traditional filter coffee is starting to enjoy something of a revival, driven by Germany’s new wave of specialist café bars. Indeed, across Germany, filter coffee is being reinvented in trendy cafés, where its preparation is celebrated with elaborate brewing techniques.

Brew bars filter into German cities

Originating in the US market, brew bars are increasingly making inroads into German cities, such as Berlin (“Chapter One Coffee”), Hamburg (“Codos Brewbar”) and Cologne (“The Coffee Gang”). Brew bars give particular attention to high quality, single origin beans and claim to delve deep into a coffee’s character, using filter methods such as pour-over, aeropress, V60 or chemex to deliver its most delicate and nuanced flavour profiles.

Celebrated in the specialist coffeehouse scene, the concept of brew bars has – naturally – also caught the attention of the likes of Starbucks, which offers its “drip coffee” in selected international branches. In Germany, the brew bar concept has become a major focus of differentiation for Chicco di Caffè, the country’s fastest growing café bar chain, which in 2014 managed to move into Germany’s top four café bar ranking, behind McCafé, Tchibo and Starbucks. Chicco di Caffè offers fully manned filter coffee brew bars as a premium service to its clients, which include, for example, selected Mercedes-Benz and Siemens branches.

Will the brew bar trend impact the retail sector?

The big question now is whether or not the new hype surrounding filter coffee in the café bar scene can offer a platform for development in the retail sector. Such a platform is needed, considering that over the last few years, ground coffee launch activity in Germany has significantly lost out to other segments, in particular pods and capsules, with its share falling from 24% of total coffee introductions in 2011 to just 16% in 2014.

While elaborate brewing techniques can in theory also be applied at home, they are likely to remain a premium trump card of skilled café baristas. As such retail filter coffee will find it harder to turn the tide, demanding that brands emphasise premium credentials beyond specified origin and high quality beans.

So how can brands work around this issue? It seems the answer could lie in the packaging, with brands likely to profit from giving more attention to home brewing techniques on the label. Moreover, brands should become trendier in pack design and communication to better compete with younger segments.

Julia Buech is Food and Drink Analyst Germany at Mintel. She specialises in delivering insights on issues affecting the German food and drink market, providing analysis across a range of food and drink categories. Previously Trend & Innovation Consultant at Mintel, Julia was responsible for providing tailored product innovation analysis and client support primarily to Mintel’s German speaking clients.

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