The breakfast occasion has changed, and so - as a result - has the juice category

The breakfast occasion has changed, and so - as a result - has the juice category

This month, soft drinks commentator Richard Corbett considers how the changing face of coffee consumption in developed markets offers juice companies the chance to reap their rewards.

The more recent growth rates for coffee consumption in Western Europe would suggest that the revolution is over. Having colonised virtually every high street and shopping mall, coffee's threat to soft drinks and bottled water appears to be receding.

However, much as a 3% lift in coffee volumes across the region in the last ten years make the coffee challenge seem over, the figures betray a major upheaval in how West Europeans drink their coffee - and that has changed the beverage landscape.

Western Europeans may not be drinking much more coffee, but they are certainly drinking better coffee. Most importantly, they are also drinking it on-the-go.

The availability of coffee-to-go has exploded. Alongside the high volume of coffee shops across the region - there are now 121 Starbucks outlets in France, 161 in Germany and a staggering 884 in the UK - vending machines serving deluxe coffee have also sprung up everywhere. and you can buy a hot coffee in convenience stores, garage forecourts and other retail shops. Consider also that McDonald's sells 1bn cups of coffee a year worldwide - a figure that could yet still rise, as the fast-food chain continues to push its McCafé brand to compete more vigorously with the big coffee shop chains.

What, to me, is underpinning the on-the-go coffee boom is the trend among consumers to increasingly skip breakfast. Time-starved young professionals are opting to sacrifice their morning meal to get to work a few minutes earlier. Instead, they are buying their coffee as part of their commute.

For juice companies, this means that their key consumption occasion is being eroded. What was once considered the most important meal of the day is losing its status. The numbers for juice sales in West Europe make for sombre reading; GlobalData estimates that the region's juice sales have dropped by a fifth in the last ten years.

Granted, there are other factors at play behind the volume losses, such as concerns over sugar content and a consumer migration to nectars and still drinks. The trend for consumers to bypass breakfast in the week, though, is undoubtedly influential.

That said, it's not all doom and gloom for juice operators: Consumers may be missing breakfast during the week but, at the weekends, they are having a longer, more indulgent breakfast experience. The weekend breakfast is a premium experience and the diner is upgrading their choice of juice for the occasion.

This has helped to lift the demand for chilled and not-from-concentrate (NFC) juice products. While the overall juice market has slumped in the last decade, sales of chilled juice in West Europe have risen by double digits in the same period, while NFC juices have jumped by an extraordinary 40%.

And, it's not just juice that has been affected by the rise of on-the-go coffee consumption; soft drinks sales in general have been impacted. In the convenience channel, soft drinks companies have observed a shift from cold to hot drinks - most notably, when the weather is cooler. This is to be expected: Soft drinks and coffee are today going head-to-head in venues where coffee was not available ten - or even five - years ago.

Should McDonald's et al continue to gain a reputation for supplying a good coffee experience, then that will provide further competition to soft drinks in what is an important channel for the category.

The threat to soft drinks from coffee, then, is here to stay. But, coffee shops should be viewed as less of a threat than an opportunity. They represent another retail outlet in which to sell to. After all, not everybody who enters a coffee shop wants a hot drink.

One fast-rising chain has demonstrated that coffee and soft drinks can work in perfect harmony. Founded by karate champion Kaspar Basse, Joe & The Juice started 15 years ago with one outlet in an up-market furniture store in Copenhagen. Today, the company has 200 stores and is proving a hit with the Millennial consumer. Indeed, the bohemian chain has proved so popular that the concept has already been exported to the US, and has big aspirations to take on Starbucks in its home market.

For Joe & The Juice, the focus is placed squarely on the 'in-house experience', with offerings also playing on health cues. The concept provides a blueprint for the next generation of coffee shops, giving the juice category the opportunity to continue to raise its profile, add value and compensate for shrinking consumption.

That sounds like some welcome good news for juice players.