Be it espresso, americano, cappuccino, latte, mocha or frappe, we all have our go-to coffee variants. But with new flavours and variants of gourmet coffee hitting the shelves every other day, are people moving out of their comfort zone and trying something new?
“India, primarily a tea-drinking nation, is slowly and unwaveringly liking coffee, making cafés a meeting place for tradition and modernity, leading to a new kind of coffee consumers. But maximum drinkers still stick to their usual cappuccino, latte and expresso,” says Rahul Kumar, founder of Red Mango, Chhatarpur. While Red Mango serves a variety of premium coffee blends from espresso to americano, cappuccino, latte, mocha, white chocolate and a range of frappes. The most picked up at the cafe still remain the first three.
A restaurant, Cicchetti by Mr Beans, Gurugam, occupies a special space as chef Neha Singh and the team observes customer behaviour play out in real time. “On the basis of my experience in F&B and hospitality, customers don’t often experiment with their choice of coffee. In fact, serious caffeine drinkers stick to their usual orders and are not easily swayed,” says Singh.
“There has been an undeniable increase in the global exposure of patrons as discretionary spends have gone up substantially.
These increases, coupled with social media expansion have led to patrons open to experimentation. But any serious coffee drinker still mostly experiments with brands and the type of roasts they can drink, but not coffee styling as much.”
Disagreeing with the above observation is Puneet Gulati, CEO of Barista, who feels Indians are getting more and more drawn towards coffee innovation, leading to excitement in domains like Cold Brew, Pour Over and French Press. “Regular customers are getting evolved whereas new customers are joining the bandwagon. Coffee is the new fad,” says Gulati.
Jai Ganesh Ramnath, MD Lavazza India, observes that customers today are open to experimenting, which is why the trend of ‘aromatic coffee’ is on the rise. “There is coffee in food, in ice creams, in frozen desserts and affogato (Italian coffee-based dessert).
With the introduction of innovative products and methodology of serving it, customers have kept pace and experiment. As long as there will be innovation, we will always find people who are willing to try.”
Indian consumers’ palette is evolving and they are open to adapting and experimenting with innovations. Talking about the current coffee trend, Navin Gurnaney, CEO, Tata Starbucks Pvt. Ltd., says, “Coffee consumption patterns will constantly evolve.
However, the rise of coffee consumption in the country tells us that brands need to go beyond product innovation and build an emotional connect where the consumption habit becomes a ritual, and eventually synonymous with the brand.”
Even gourmet coffee is seeing a rise. This includes artisan, hand blends and high quality coffee, says Rahul Kumar. “People are ready to try more regional and international blends prepared in aero press, French press and more.
Coffee bars have begun to usher in the experiential proposition to coffee drinking, with an ambience that’s inviting, invigorating as well as relaxing,” he shares.
Noting how this 15-year-old market (of artisanal coffee) is doing splendid, Akanksha Chaudhary, marketing head, Foxtrot, a Coffee & Cocktail Bar, has been observing people indulge in the actual flavour of the coffee, and doing away with add ons. “The youth is a large market and lot more open to newer flavours and brewing methods. No wonder cold brews have become significantly popular too.”
Adding to it, Ajai Thandi, co founder, Sleepy Owl, says that now, especially with the entry of cold brews in the market, coffee consumption is not just restricted to a hot cup of coffee.
He says, “More players are recognising the massive potential of the untapped coffee industry in India, and with more consumers from the middle-class spectrum, the discretionary spending will go up and the consumers will spend more on curated consumer experiences.”
Elements to remember
Numerous elements are considered before a packet of coffee is brewed or a new drink to the menu is introduced. “We make an effort to engage with our customers by conducting extensive market surveys.
We try to match the expectations of our guests with respect to beverage flavours and the introduction of different types of milk (dairy, vegan, etc.) that go well with the coffees we have to offer,” Kazem Samandari, founder of L’Opéra. They are currently working on a delectable beverage list especially for the winter season.
When introducing a new drink, chef Singh says she factors in a lot of variables. “So colder beverages in hotter months and vice versa, a little more punched up or spiced drinks in monsoons and drinks with warmer ingredients in winters.
Then chocolate-based drinks work best with younger patrons as well as families, especially with smaller kids.”