The UK coffee shop market is continuing to defy the recession, with a current growth rate of more than seven times that of the British economy, research has found.
According to the latest annual report by management consultants Allegra Strategies, the sector grew by 7.5% in 2012 to reach £5.8b in turnover.
Looking ahead, Allegra predicted that the total UK coffee shop market would exceed 20,000 outlets and £8b turnover by 2017, driven by branded coffee chain expansion and non-specialist operator growth.
The sector, which includes branded coffee chains, independent coffee shops and non-specialist operators, now comprises 15,723 outlets, with the total number of coffee shops up 4% over the past year.
Allegra's research found that branded coffee chains such as Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Caffè Nero, Pret A Manger and EAT had shown particular resilience in the face of a very challenging UK economy as consumers continued to gravitate to brands they trust.
The UK branded coffee chain segment now stands at 5,225 outlets, with sales in 2012 having grown 10% to an estimated £2.3b. The market has doubled in the past six years and is now 10 times the size it was 15 years ago, Allegra added.
The three leading chains in the UK are Costa Coffee (1,552 outlets), Starbucks Coffee Company (757) and Caffè Nero (530), which together hold a 54% share of the branded coffee chain market.
Jeffrey Young, managing director of Allegra Strategies, said: "The UK coffee shop market continues to astound even the most optimistic of forecasters by growing significantly in value, in outlet numbers and also in the social psyche of the nation. As consumers gain more opportunity to consume quality coffee through more outlets, they are making it part of their lifestyle. Britain has become a ‘new nation of coffee drinkers'."
He added: "High-quality ‘artisan' independent coffee shops are also fuelling consumer demand and driving the branded coffee shop sector to increase focus on authentic interiors, barista technique and to introduce a wider range of crafted coffees such as flat white and cortado."
Allegra's research, which questioned 25,000 consumers, found that half of British coffee shop visitors said they were maintaining their visits compared with last year, with 20% visiting coffee shops daily.
However, Allegra's 2012 report did highlighted some trading down behaviour as consumers attempted to save money by purchasing less food in coffee shops and switching from high-end independents to branded chains.
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By Kerstin KÁ¼hn
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