Flavor, Fat, and Fermentation: 5 Coffee Trends You Can’t Ignore

By Kyra Auffermann, NCA


For today’s consumers, it’s more than “just” a cup of coffee. From extra antioxidants to artisanal craftsmanship, the future of coffee is anything but ordinary.

During the recent NCA webinar, “Coffee Outlook 2017,” Datassential’s Mark DiDomenico shared how the latest food trends are impacting the coffee market:



Based on overwhelming scientific evidence, coffee is officially considered part of a healthy diet.  (In fact, according to the 2016 National Coffee Drinking Trends report, 27% of consumers choose coffee when they want an antioxidant boost.)

The perception of “healthy” has changed significantly over the last few decades. From the 1980’s to the early 2000’s, the focus was on low-calorie, low-fat, and low-carb (ex: Atkins). Then, consumers started to shift towards more local and organic options.

The latest trend in healthy eating is functional. Consumers are seeking out so-called superfoods that are specifically marketed to provide additional or enhanced nutritional benefits benefits, like acai or algae.  These overachieving, multitasker ingredients are loaded with protein, antioxidants, and other natural perks.

[Ed. note – for related reading on superfoods, check out “Super Confused About Super Foods? An Educated Consumer Is a Healthy Consumer,” via Food Insight]

Coffee’s healthy reputation may offer new opportunities to reach consumers: 59% of people surveyed by Datassential Buzz said that they would drink coffee at later times of day if it offered functional benefits.

One example is bulletproof coffee (coffee blended with clarified butter), which is endorsed as an all-morning energy “health” drink by nutrition bloggers across the Internet. While the claims may be dubious, the drink’s viral popularity is undeniable.

Consumers are embracing a more holistic approach to what they eat and drink, and value nutritious, unprocessed ingredients that were once considered diet taboos (see: avocados, coconut oil).



Some beverages, like beer and soda, have always been served tap. But lately, we’re seeing new on-tap options, like wine and (of course) coffee.

This trend “taps”* into two additional trends from the specialty scene:


The nitro phenomenon is the latest development in the cold brew coffee craze, and taps into consumers’ interests in discovering new things and exploring brewing as a craft (more on that later).

“What’s important about [nitro] is that it’s not a one-off,”DiDomenico says. “There are so many iterations. It’s another way to enjoy coffee, but it’s really unique.” And as everyone knows, Millennials love being unique.

Coffee with alcohol

Are two brews better than one? Coffee is an increasingly prominent ingredient in craft-brewed beers. It’s also appearing in cocktails and mocktails.

Alcoholic coffee beverages also tap into the social aspect of coffee shops, creating a hangout that transitions from day to night.

* Ed. note: Sorry ¯\_(ツ)_/¯



We’re seeing localization across menus – it’s not just Italian food anymore, it’s Tuscan (or Sicilian or Roman). There’s a new appreciation for regional variety and variation, even down to particular cities. Consumers want to try authentic items from different ethnic backgrounds, and enjoy experimenting with unexpected flavors and spices.

Examples include intense Turkish coffee, or sweetened Thai iced coffee with cardamom.



Seasonal coffee flavors have gone beyond the infamous PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte).


  • Pumpkin
  • Clove
  • Cinnamon


  • Chestnut
  • Peppermint
  • Winter Spice

Spring/ Summer

  • Berries
  • Cardamom
  • Tumeric

However, even the most popular seasonal offerings rarely crossover into year-round staples, DiDominico says. Demand for these limited-time only flavors is driven by excitement and anticipation.



“Consumers not only want to know where their food is coming from, but that there’s some expertise behind it,” DiDominico explains. With all of the methods available today, the brewing process is elevated into a precise technique.

Education is increasingly important, he adds. People want more authenticity and information about the foods and beverages they consume. And in foodie culture, “coffee is up there with wine in terms of interest.”

Connect with more sophisticated consumers by highlighting your methodology. Emphasize how the right roasting and brewing techniques can help them get the most out of their coffee.

This value of craftsmanship can be seen in the development of new, innovated brew methods and the growth of small batch coffee. Ultimately, today’s consumers are looking for the best possible cup.

What trends are you seeing in coffee consumption – and what do you think will happen next? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


NCA Member Exclusive: “Coffee Outlook 2017” on-demand webinar playback and presentation slides  (Not a member? Learn more about the benefits of joining the NCA!)

For more coffee industry insight, check out upcoming NCA Webinars


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