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Coffee + Tea Trends: Fuel or Flavor?

Coffee and teaCoffee and tea are versatile drinks. Both can provide an energy boost while serving up interesting and inviting, piquant aromas. Whether it’s to prime the pump to help jumpstart the day or be a small, anticipated treat, coffee and tea work either as a peripheral add-on or the forefront of many a food and beverage occasion. So grab your favorite mug of joe or cup of tea and savor the trends and insights into the flavors and functions of coffee and tea served up by our Hartman Retainer Services’ analysts and consultants.


  • Ethical, equitable supply chains have long been a challenge and opportunity in coffee and tea. More recent developments range from reexamination of fair trade (e.g., Fair for Life) to food waste (e.g., cáscara).
  • Optimal wellness is elevating overall moderation, better-for-you fats and sweeteners, fermented flavors and beneficial botanicals.
  • Fresh, less processed techniques and flavors continue to be prominent innovation areas—from cold brew and raw honey to super fresh nut/seed milks.
  • A broader, exploratory craft beverage movement means increased borrowing and blurring between coffee, tea, cocktails, beer, etc.
  • RTD continues to be a culturally relevant format. Single-serve, ready-to-drink products are aligned with our food and beverage culture’s increasing emphasis on immediacy, flexibility, exploration and personalized/customized wellness.


  • Cáscara tea made from the coffee cherry husk and tea made from coffee leaves are ways that ethical initiatives have translated to new flavors.
  • Accompanying sweeteners can cue higher-quality beverages and health benefits with “less sweet/not too sweet” formulations and better-for-you ingredients like maple syrup, honey and brown sugar.
  • Increasingly, coffee and tea drinks provide energy moderation by lowering overall caffeine content (e.g., incorporating non-caffeinated elements like chicory) and formulating with balanced, clean energy from other plant sources (green coffee extract, moringa, etc.). Alternative energy sources may enhance or even replace traditional coffee/tea preparations.
  • Other trending and emerging botanical ingredients include anti-inflammatory turmeric, adaptogenic maca and mushrooms, and hibiscus/floral infusions.
  • Better-for-you fats, more commonly incorporated into coffee than tea, are viewed by consumers as contributing health benefits like satiety and supporting brain function. Examples include coconut oil and grass-fed butter/ghee.
  • Fermented ingredients and formats, like kombucha or coffee/tea combined with drinking vinegars, refresh the coffee + tea categories and lend fizz, tart flavors and probiotic benefits.
  • Fresh, less processed continues coming to the fore with cold brewed/cold pressed beverages, fresh nut and seed milks, raw honey, raw cacao and more. Consumers link these techniques and formats with a less altered, more inherently nutritious drink—and often a smoother, less bitter flavor profile.
  • The interchange occurring across the craft beverage space is less about function and more about flavor-driven exploration. Examples include RTD nitro-infused coffee and tea (smoother mouthfeel with a beer-like foam), oaked/barrel-aged coffees (adding smoother flavor) and botanicals/extracts associated with alcoholic drinks (e.g., hops, bitters). And alcoholic beverages are increasingly referencing coffee and tea: the familiar coffee stout has been joined by beer/tea blends, tea-based liquor and tea/coffee cocktail mixers.

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Food & Beverage Occasions Consumer Package Goods Retail/Shopper Insights Trends Foodservice/Restaurant


As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.


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