Market Reports

Dutch coffee dreams: The Netherlands’ rising coffee scene

The coffee trade is nothing new to the Dutch. Dating back to the 17th century, the Netherlands has a long history in the coffee trade, with the Dutch West India Company playing a central role in bringing beans grown in exotic locations to Europeans. In terms of the country’s specialty coffee scene, however, only in the last decade has the Netherlands seen a trickling of third wave cafés arrive on the scene. Jonathan Tao, from the Dutch-based coffee chain Doppio Espresso, says that recent years have seen that trickling turn into a wave, with an onslaught of domestic coffee chains on the market. Although still behind their British European peers, Tao says the market shows vast potential for growth. “If you look at Holland 10 years ago, there was no third wave scene at all, the cafés just didn’t exist,” Tao says. “People would drink coffee either at home or at the workplace.” Tao explains that this sudden taste for quality coffee followed the release of single-serve systems on the market. He says this changed people’s perspective, opening their eyes to quality coffee. “With the single serve systems, I think it really opened the market to a broader variety of coffee, paving the way for specialty coffee,” Tao says. “People started to experiment with their coffee, with different qualities, origins and blends. This was driven into the café by a few early independent espresso bars. And those early places did their jobs very well.” With domestic brands leading the way, Tao says the country has largely stayed off the radar for foreign coffee chains, except for Starbucks’ recently renewed interest in the country. As such, domestic coffee brands have had time to claim their stake. Doppio Espresso plans to have 20 stores open by the end of the year. Douwe Egberts, which purchased fellow Dutch-owned coffee chain Coffee Company in December 2011, counts a network of 60 cafés in the Netherlands. The majority of these cafés, however, are concentrated in the capital, and Tao says the market shows plenty of opportunity for growth around the country. “Amsterdam is the only place that is starting to reach the saturation point, the market is still very open,” Tao says. Tao’s comments are confirmed by figures released by Allegra Strategies last year. The London-based strategic research consultancy found that the branded coffee shop market in the Netherlands increased by 37 units in the 12 months to October 2011 – an outstanding growth of 27 per cent.
“This reflects strong growth potential and a burgeoning market,” the report noted, and forecast a 12.7 per cent per annum growth over the next three years. Allegra Strategies Managing Director Jeffrey Young says that experience in the Netherlands is characteristic of what he’s seeing all around Europe, with the artisan-inspired third wave coffee scene spreading, and bringing with it increased opportunities for branded coffee chains. “We can see the trends that have happened in the United Kingdom, and can follow how they are spreading in other European markets,” Young tells GCR. “The pattern moves from poor quality coffee, to the growth of chains, the growth of artisian independants and quality spreads through to coffee chains.” Young says the Netherlands is a prime example of a country embracing trends in artisan coffee that have proven popular in the UK. With Douwe Egberts leading the Dutch field, Starbucks is now following, and as such, continued growth in the Netherlands can certainly be expected, especially as their coffee quality continues to improve. “When you start to drink [better coffee] you simply can’t go back,” Young says. “These branded coffee shops are taking up these artisanal trends. They’re delivering something that tastes better than before, and they’ll succeed as a result.” The Netherlands isn’t alone in showing a resilient branded coffee shop market. Allegra’s Project Café11 Europe report found that in the 12 months to October 2011, the number of outlets in Europe increased by 6.8 per cent, representing faster growth than the 4.6 per cent found the year prior. The 2011 report predicts that the European branded coffee shop market will grow at a compound annual rate of 5.4 per cent in the next three years to exceed 13,700 outlets by 2014. Young says today’s modern culture is ideally set to continue to fuel this growth, with the public aching for increased mediums for social gathering.
“If you look at what a coffee shop is, it’s not just about the coffee,” he says. “It’s an environment of engagement and social interaction. It’s a place where people meet up. That’s an incredibly compelling force at a time when people are so involved with social media they spend most of their time staring at computer screens and their phones.” In their 2011 survey, the Allegra report found that this out-of-home consumption was increasingly popular among middle-aged professionals, as well as younger, trend-conscious consumers. Dutch coffee leaders surveyed said that a more mobile lifestyle and the continued growth of specialty coffee were the most important trends in 2011. European coffee leaders will be experiencing the Netherlands’ growing coffee culture first hand at the European Coffee Symposium, organised by Allegra Events. The symposium is taking place from 20 to 22 November at The Passenger Terminal in Amsterdam. The symposium will explore these themes of quality and experience, looking at how they lend themselves to customer loyalty. The program will cover brand differentiation; regional success and opportunities aboard; cross-cultural challenges; the role of coffee shops in community; and more, including the launch of Allegra’s Project Café12 Europe report.  Young says Amsterdam was a fitting choice for the fifth European Coffee Symposium. His vision for the European Coffee Symposium is to “take people on a journey through coffee over a long period of time”. As an educational process, the symposiums have followed both modern trends of coffee and its historical evolution, starting in London, following by Vienna, Rome and Berlin. Young says Amsterdam’s historical links to coffee, coupled with emerging trends, makes it an ideal choice. “It’s an international city, and has an incredible heritage of coffee,” Young says. “It made good business sense coming to Amsterdam. We do believe Amsterdam is a place that people need to see.” GCR

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