With the exception of Brazil, none of the top 10 coffee-consuming countries produce coffee.
Although it may seem paradoxical, coffee consumption in producing countries such as Colombia and Peru are low, although it has started to increase in recent years.
Latin America – Export continent, where bad coffee is consumed
The 2 of the 3 largest coffee producers in the world are in Latin America. Brazil is in first place, followed by Vietnam and Colombia.
So, it would be logical that these 3 countries are also the main consumers in the world, right?
In reality, this is not the case, as Brazil is the only Latin American country to also feature in the top 10 coffee consumers.
Brazil is the world’s leading producer and exporter of coffee, with a staggering 60 to 65 million bags a year.
Also, the South American giant rivals the United States for first place in overall consumption (not per capita).
However, at the end of 2021, the United States topped Brazil with a consumption of more than 500,000 bags of coffee.
Which factors are responsible for the low coffee consumption in Latin America?
Historically, Latin America is an export power for coffee, but not a region that consumes much coffee.
One of the main reasons for this phenomenon is that cheap carbonated soft drinks have traditionally been preferred by consumers in several countries in the region.
In other countries like Argentina, mate is the drink of choice, as is tea for Chileans and Bolivians.
The price of good coffee, relative to the income of the local population, is generally expensive.
For example, many people are not willing to pay $5, $10 or more for a cup of coffee because they can buy cheaper drinks like soft drinks or even an entire dinner for a fraction of that amount.
The culture of appreciating coffee has only just begun
Until relatively recently (10 to 20 years ago) in Latin America, unlike other regions such as Europe or North America, there was no culture of appreciating coffee.
True, governments of countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Peru have made major efforts to encourage local consumption of this drink since the mid-20th century. However, the respective inhabitants have long since become accustomed to drinking cheap and not particularly high-quality coffee.
Although it was possible to increase coffee consumption, the quality of the drink continued to be less important for the vast majority of populations.
Only recently have consumers become interested in learning more about and appreciating coffee.
The latter means that only well-informed consumers are willing to pay more money for a good-quality cup of coffee.
Although Latino consumers’ attitudes towards coffee consumption have changed, it may be years before Latinos completely change their perception of coffee.
The high-quality coffee production is destined for export
For decades, the Latin American coffee industry has focused on the production of very good quality coffee, which is then exported to countries with a high appreciation of coffee culture.
Large companies also make higher profits for their products in foreign markets.
However, in recent years, the number of small coffee producers has increased in the hope that these small business owners can break into the local market with a better-quality drink than the average consumer is used to drinking.
Coffee consumption in Latin American countries
First of all, you have to keep in mind that not all Latin American countries produce coffee.
However, non-coffee producing countries such as Argentina, Bolivia and Chile have started to take an interest in the coffee business.
Although coffee is not the most popular drink there, it promises great market opportunities, especially for specialty coffees.
That is why there are more and more people in the region who are interested in the methods of coffee preparation, the technical aspects of roasting and the entire process of coffee production.
Latin American consumers are slowly following the global trend towards more coffee consumption. So, it is not surprising that more and more enthusiasts are interested in professional cupping.
In Argentina, coffee consumption has always been in the background. Mate is the drink of choice.
In recent decades, however, coffee consumption has steadily increased.
Bolivia and Chile are the only two countries in the region where tea consumption has so far exceeded coffee consumption.
In Bolivia, however, coffee consumption is increasing; Instant coffee is widely consumed in the Andean country, but more varieties are expected to hit the market.
According to a study conducted by the Nescafé brand in 2019, coffee consumption in this country has even increased by 21% compared to the previous year.
As mentioned, tea consumption is higher than coffee consumption in Chile. This is due to the large immigration of people of British descent to this country between the mid-19th and early 20th centuries.
British immigrants spread tea consumption, which became popular in Chilean culture.
But as is common in the region, coffee consumption is becoming increasingly popular, especially instant coffee.
Consumption of specialty coffee is only increasing slowly, mainly because of the high cost compared to tea.
Colombia has traditionally been an exporter of high-quality Arabica coffee.
However, in order to meet domestic demand, the coffee industry has used low-grade coffee (pasilla) to do so.
Still, Colombia is perhaps the Latin American country where coffee consumption has changed the most.
According to a study by the country’s National Association of Coffee Growers, coffee consumption will increase to 2.8 kg per capita by the end of 2021.
The study also found that the consumption rate increased from 86% in 2015 to 96% in 2021.
Coffee consumption in Colombia is different than the rest of the region
Coffee consumption also increased among 12-year-olds and slightly older, showing a generational shift in relation to the beverage.
It is interesting that coffee consumption increased in both urban and rural areas of Colombia.
This is in contrast to other countries in the region, where consumption tends to increase in large cities but not in rural areas.
Not only has the consumption of pure coffee increased, but Colombian consumers are also showing interest in other beverages made from coffee.
However, the consumption of specialty coffee remains stable and in line with the regional trend, i.e. it is increasing, but there is still no culture of appreciation that would make the average consumer pay more for good coffee.
So, coffee specialties are only in the large urban centers such. B. Bogotá, so that further market penetration in other regions of the country can be expected in the future.
As in Argentina, mate consumption is higher than coffee consumption. However, the consumption of instant coffee continues to increase. This also applies to coffee imports.
Rest of South America regions and Central America
The coffee consumption situation in the other South and Central American countries follows the same trend as in the other countries mentioned above.
In other words:
- Instant coffee consumption has remained stable for decades. The consumption of coffee beans, on the other hand, is only now beginning to establish itself in these countries.
- Countries like Costa Rica increased imports of high-quality coffee.
- The main trend in Latin America is to increase domestic coffee consumption.
- The production companies are mostly small producers. It will therefore take time for the change in consumer habits to take hold.
Brazil is a special case
Brazil is the largest coffee consumer in Latin America, with a per capita consumption of 0.6 cups per day, and is the second largest coffee consumer in the world in terms of total volume, behind the United States.
However, more coffee is consumed per capita in Brazil than in the United States, because according to Statista Consumer Market Outlook, around 5.4 kg of coffee per capita and year will be consumed in Brazil at the end of 2021. In the United States, the per capita consumption was 3.7 kg.
This means that while the US market imports a lot of coffee, the North American public consumes less than in the South American country, as most of the production is used to make by-products rather than to prepare pure coffee.
According to the Brazilian Association of Coffee Industries (ABIC), coffee consumption in Brazil has increased by more than 1 million bags per year over the past decade.
This means that despite the increase in prices, which is a consequence of the increase in costs in the production chain, coffee consumption has continued to increase for the end product.
Despite the global economic crisis, coffee consumption in Brazil has remained stable and, according to Euromonitor International, even recorded an increase of around 3.2% at the end of 2017.
2/3 of the total Brazilian coffee production is Arabica coffee, the rest is Robusta coffee. On the domestic market, however, Robusta coffee is the most popular.
The tradition and social impact of coffee in Brazil
In Brazil, coffee is of great cultural importance and the Brazilian coffee industry has been able to adapt quickly to the new consumption habits of consumers who are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the product.
According to a marketing study by Euromonitor International, Brazil was even the largest coffee consumer in the world until 2014.
But in the years that followed, the United States overtook the South American country.
The Brazilian public prefers already ground coffee. This correlates with the relative interest in consuming coffee capsules, since in Brazil owning a coffee maker is viewed as a social status symbol.
However, the coffee machine market is reserved for a very small segment of consumers due to the high cost of both coffee machines and coffee capsules.
On the other hand, the trend of drinking coffee in specialized cafes has declined due to the impact of the economic crisis and COVID-19, so the purchase of coffee in retail stores is increasing.
Note: According to ABIC, under-30s are more likely to drink their coffee out of the home, although they often look for the cheapest deals on the market.
Changes in the Latin American coffee industry
As already mentioned, in recent years the Latin American coffee industry has undergone a transformation aimed at selling high-quality coffee to the local markets (at least a small part of them).
The renewed interest in high-quality coffee also benefits coffee farmers, as it means higher profits on the sale of all production.
In addition, the informed consumer is looking for more and better product alternatives and is therefore willing to pay higher prices.
In addition, the commitment of coffee producers (whether large or small) to marketing strategies such as B. Special events related to coffee consumption, one of the causes that have most favored the growth of coffee consumption.
For all these reasons, coffee consumption in the region is expected to continue to increase, especially in terms of specialty coffee.
The trend is that consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the product and are therefore demanding better quality from the coffee they buy.