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The 2019 Square Australian Coffee Report

The 2019 Square Australia Coffee Report is here — it’s our annual sneak peek into one of Australia’s most competitive industries, an analysis of the millions of cups of coffee sold at thousands of Square cafes and coffee bars across the country.

Australia’s unique coffee culture means serving up the perfect cup is big business here, $8 billion dollars big to be precise. And while some things remain consistent in our caffeine addiction, like the latte reigning supreme as our favourite drink, there are some coffee-buying habits that have changed drastically among Australian consumers over the past year. 

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Sustainability efforts are up

It turns out the country’s focus on more sustainably sourced goods has also hit our coffee industry. Consumers are no longer just conscious of cutting down on plastic waste and researching where their food is coming from, they’re also actively trying to reduce the footprint of their daily coffee habit. 

The use of bring-your-own (BYO) cups at coffee shops increased a massive 292% in 2019 compared to the year prior. Lachlan Ward, General Manager at Melbourne coffee chain Sensory Lab, says businesses are also starting to realise the benefits of ramping up sustainability efforts — it’s not just good for the environment but also for their bottom line. 

“There has been a massive increase in BYO cups this year and we’ve noticed they are particularly prevalent in our city locations where there are lots of corporate buildings,” said Lachlan. “It’s great to see that big businesses are encouraging their staff to minimise waste so there’s a more collaborative effort on the seller and buyer side. We offer a discount to all customers who bring their own cup and two of our city stores are also testing cup exchange programs.”

Sustainability has also been linked to the rise of non-dairy milk alternatives over recent years, with the trend not slowing in 2019. This year saw almond officially take over soy as the country’s favourite non-dairy milk alternative. While almond may be the most popular overall, oat milk made the biggest surge year-on-year, increasing in popularity a whopping 500% between 2018 and 2019 — a trend which doesn’t surprise coffee experts.

“We’ve definitely noticed the rise of oat milk among our coffee drinkers. It’s neutral flavour and creamy mouthfeel pair pretty perfectly with coffee, so I’d imagine we are going to see that trend continue,” said Lachlan.

We’re ditching cash at all costs

Australia’s increasingly cashless economy is leaving no industry untouched, with this year’s report highlighting just how quickly our spending habits are changing. Even the low price tag of coffee is no deterrent for tap-and-go loving Aussies, who handed over cash only 33% of the time when paying for their coffees in 2019. This is a significant drop in cash use from just three years ago, in 2016 we still used cash for 86% of coffee purchases!

While the way we’re paying for coffee is consistent across the country, it seems how much we’re paying is not. Coffee drinkers in the Northern Territory (NT) are still spending on average $1 more on their coffee based beverages than consumers in New South Wales (NSW) and the ACT, who fork over the least. 

The latte retains top spot

While the latte is still the best-seller across the country, its popularity has declined over recent years. While it was making up 43% of total cups sold in 2016 its popularity has dropped almost by half to just 27% in 2019.  

The other big surprise this year is the resurgence of the time-honoured cappuccino, with sales almost doubling in popularity since 2016 to make up 20% of total cups sold this year — it’s also now the most popular coffee sold in NSW.

“I’m not surprised the cappuccino is on the rise. A lot of specialty operators push the cappuccino as the default milk beverage of choice because it’s a great balance between coffee and milk, with more of the delicious foam,” said Lachlan.

While the trendy matcha and turmeric infused coffee are still the most popular orders in the ‘growing trends’ category, Vietnamese coffee burst onto the scene in 2019 as the new kid on the block, with sales jumping up 99% from 2018. 

Data insights driving smarter decisions

This report was pulled together using Square Dashboard, with data collected and analysed from the millions of cups of coffee sold on the Square platform at thousands of cafes and coffee bars across the country between October 2018 and October 2019. 

Data insights are extremely helpful for business owners to make smarter, more informed decisions about how to run their business. That’s why we provide Square Dashboard, a free and powerful reporting toolkit available to every Square seller to access their sales data in real time. Sellers can instantly access information that tells them what products are selling the best, the average transaction size per customer, the frequency of customers, sales per employee and how other locations may be tracking. 

Square Point of Sale: Simple to set up, intuitive to use.

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