Monday, August 31, 2009


Global economic recession has affected literally all human activities and business losses could scale new heights if there is no visible sign of return to normalcy. Food industry and food retail business are no exception to this phenomenon. Shifting from more expensive branded food products to cheaper generic foods is enabling the consumer to cut down on food expenditure as much as possible. It is believed that the days of cheap foods are gone and even manufacturers of generic foods will have to escalate the cost in the light of galloping prices of almost all food raw materials that go into many processed products. Some discerning signs indicate a marked shift in the buying and eating patterns of the population and many consumers seem to be going back to home cooking, considered cheaper under to day's inflationary environment.

Coffee, the classical stimulatory beverage, is consumed all over the world either as black brew or whitened coffee and major coffee growers include Brazil, Vietnam and Columbia. Coffee connoisseurs have their own preferences depending on the origin of the crop and these preferences are not easily correlated to the chemical composition of the beans or the brew. Roasting actually imparts the color and aroma to the final product and here again consumer preferences are at best subjective. There are two dozen coffee beverages going by different names in different countries and the industry constantly tries to add value by developing more and more exciting products based on coffee beans.

Global production led by Brazil (2.3 million tons), Vietnam (1 million tons) and Colombia(0.7 million tons is expected to increase to a high of 8 million tons during the current year and world exports are to cross the 6 million ton mark this year. It is ironical that the per capita annual coffee consumption in major producing countries like Brazil is insignificant varying between 0.7 kg in Vietnam and 5.3 kg in Brazil. In India the corresponding figure is just 0.1 kg. Top consuming countries include Finland (12 kg), Norway (9.9 kg), Denmark (8.7 kg), The Netherlands (8,4 kg) and Sweden(8.3 kg). Caffeine, present in coffee products to the extent of 300-850 mg per liter depending on the way they are prepared, makes people shun coffee due to the misplaced fear of undesirable impact it has on normal healthy persons.

According to International Coffee Organization projections coffee out put in Africa, Asia and South America is slated to increase in the current year and consumers do not appear to have cut down their coffee consumption despite the recession. But consumers seem to be brewing their own coffee at home more frequently instead of patronizing high end coffee shops selling branded products, probably on account of cost considerations.


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