Forget Specialty Blends -- Half the World Prefers Instant Coffee

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For most Americans, instant coffee is just gross -- a far inferior substitute to an organic fair-trade blend or their local Starbucks. But it seems the rest of the world disagrees.

In a new report, research firm Euromonitor says the world is split roughly 50-50 on its preference for fresh vs. instant coffee. And, instant coffee is on the rise: sales have nearly tripled since 2000. Last year, the world consumed nearly $31 billion-worth of instant coffee; in 2018, we’re expected to drink more than $35 billion.

According to a Euromonitor industry analyst interviewed by The Washington Post, the rest of the world just doesn’t share the same disgust for instant coffee that is common in the U.S., where instant coffee makes up just $960 million of a more than $30 billion market. Even in areas that prefer fresh coffee, such as Europe, instant coffee is an accepted go-to at home.

Related: Reversing Course, Starbucks Says It Will Raise Coffee Prices

In fact, areas that see instant coffee not as gourmet, but as a quick and convenient go-to are key to instant coffee’s continued growth. Euromonitor predicts that the U.K. and Mexico, traditional markets for instant coffee, will be two of the top market for growth from 2013 to 2018, growing retail value by over $400 million and $350 million, respectively.

However, areas where coffee is still catching on are also key to instant coffee’s global domination. The world’s current biggest consumer of instant coffee is the Asia Pacific region, with major growth countries including China, the Philippines and India, which accounted for almost half of the world’s instant coffee retail volume in 2013. While the region’s volume share is inflated by the Asia Pacific’s love of instant coffee mixes, instant coffee has the benefit of becoming the “gateway coffee” for new coffee drinkers due to its easy format and variety in flavors. With Euromonitor predicting that China’s retail value growth will increase by over $600 from 2013 to 2018, instant coffee may prove to be a very profitable way for companies like Nestlé to increase Asia’s caffeine consumption. 

Related: How Fair Trade Went From a Crazy Coffee Concept to a Global Sustainability Trend

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