Hello from sunny Los Angeles! I was supposed to be attending the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim between the 3rd and 6th of March. It's my favorite food industry expo to attend. It brings in over 85,000 people annually. This is the expo where I look for up-and-coming trends and get ideas for product development. Unfortunately, they chose to postpone the expo until further notice due to Coronavirus concerns.
Rather than buying a new one-way flight home for almost $600 (I couldn't refund or exchange my ticket), I was asked to explore coffee and tea trends in LA. That's how I spent Tuesday and Wednesday and then I took PTO Thursday and Friday. It's a bummer that I couldn't attend the expo, but this was still a fun little project for me!
So without further ado, here are the places I went and the trends I found.
Let's start with the grocery stores. I went to two different Whole Foods stores, Sprouts, and Trader Joes. Whole Foods had the widest variety of beverage items by far. I was looking for trends in coffee, tea, and other beverages. The products could be in any format including roasted coffee, tea leaves, powders, ready-to-drink, refrigerated, and more.
The biggest coffee trends that I saw were single origin products and claims such as Organic and Fair Trade. I also saw a lot of cold brew and alternative milk lattes such as almond, coconut, and oat. A few of the more niche things I saw in coffee were mushroom/coffee blends (Four Sigmatic), high pH coffee, and keto coffee (Bulletproof). Nitro coffee in cans is also an up-and-coming trend.
The largest category I explored was tea. Tea is becoming a more popular beverage among younger consumers, but they don't just want a plain English Breakfast tea. To cater to Millennials and Gen Z, companies are coming up with lots of creative flavor combinations, mixing in herbal ingredients, and making health claims.
Matcha was all over the place in the grocery stores and at the coffee shops. It was paired with turmeric, blueberry, pineapple, ginger, and mint. It was also commonly used in lattes. Yerbamate, moringa, ashwagandha, and other adaptogens were included in a variety of different teas claiming to help with Detox, Women's health, immunity, and more.
Some of the most interesting flavor combinations I saw in tea were dandelion mint, cascara grape, guava gingerblossom, hop tea, and peach jasmine. Some of the most common flavors I saw were hibiscus, lemongrass, ginger, chai, berry, and mango. There were a lot of sparkling teas and cold brew teas as well.
Other non-coffee and tea beverages that were popular were keto proteins and creamers, plant based milks and creamers, energy protein shakes, fat water, kefir, preworkout, and collagen. A trend that seems to be spread across all beverage categories was monochromatic, simple packaging and pastel colored packaging.
I visited lots of coffee shops to look for trends and taste different types of coffee and tea beverages. The biggest trend that was present in all coffee shops I went to was that various types of plant based milks and creamers were available for people. Almond, oat, coconut, and soy were available at nearly every coffee shop I went to.
Blue Bottle is known for focusing on coffee. It's a no frills coffee shop with high end, single-origin coffees. It's the place to go if you want a great black coffee. This isn't exactly the place to go to find flavor trends or teas.
While Starbucks is a worldwide company, the products they serve aren't always the same in every part of the country. In LA, there were a lot more Refresher products on the menu. While most of these don't have caffeine, I did see an Iced Pineapple Matcha drink.
La Colombe specializes in Draft coffees. It looks more like a tap room than a coffee shop. All of there coffee is nitro making it so smooth and delicious. Some interesting flavors they had were coffee with lemon and an oat milk nitro latte. This was my favorite coffee shop, I highly recommend!
Coffee Tomo was a small, local coffee shop with two interesting product of note, a red bean latte and a sweet potato latte.
Blackwood Coffee Bar had several matcha latte options including original, blueberry, and ginger.
Fresh on Sunset was a Vegan restaurant so all of there lattes were made with oat or almond milk. They also had a super mushroom latte which tasted somewhat like a rich hot cocoa product with slight umami flavor and a bit of bitter coffee.
The coffee and tea categories are adapting and changing. With a consumer emphasis on health, the environment, and adventurous flavors, companies are responding with plant based alternatives, ingredients that have health benefits, unique flavor combinations, and different consumption formats.
I still have a few days left before I fly home. Let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations of coffee shops to try!