Have we reached "peak coffee"? Eight stirring facts and stats

30 April 2015 -


Costa’s stellar UK figures this week showed strong growth and even stronger forecasts. Has Britain’s appetite for coffee become insatiable?

Jermaine Haughton

Coffee has hit a giddy caffeine high in the UK market, with the release of figures showing that high-street chain Costa sold a staggering 464 million cups of the stuff to Britons last year. The brand’s surge, which has sent UK like-for-like sales on a 6% rise, has taken place amid equally impressive global results, with 219 new Costa branches opening up around the world, 777 branded machines going into service in shops and restaurants and total sales growth reaching 17.9%.

But the UK figures are most impressive of all. While Sting touted a national stereotype in his 1980s song “Englishman in New York”, with its famous opening line “Don’t drink coffee, I take tea my dear”, Costa’s numbers show just how much times have changed. Coffee has been firmly established as the main draw in the nation’s sprawling mass of café chains, in which it fuels an increasingly busy middle class. Meanwhile, tea – once the staple of the cosy, independent cafés and bakeries that the big brands are replacing – has seemingly been left on the shelf as an unglamorous relic of older tastes.

Here are eight impressive facts and stats on the UK’s coffee craze to perk you up…


1.7 billion

…cups of coffee are quaffed by UK consumers every year in café chains, with the nation picking up a total tab of £941 million. With 15 million cups sold to thirsty Britons every day, the latte ranks as the UK’s Number One beverage. (Source)


…of espressos consumed in the UK are sold in the South East. Indeed, southern males comprise the UK’s biggest group of coffee drinkers. On average, British men drink 1.7 cups per day, compared to 1.5 for women. (Source)


…has been raised for Fairtrade’s premium scheme through UK retail sales of coffee. The funds help to support more than 1.5 million coffee bean farmers and workers in 1,210 Fairtrade-certified producer organisations across 74 countries. (Source)


…of UK retail coffee sales in 2011 were for instant products, compared to just 4% in France. This clearly suggests that Britons prize quantity over quality. (Source) However…


…of revenue was generated last year by UK sales of “pod” coffees, which enable consumers to make their own, café-style beverages at home – so it looks like Brits are cleaning up their act. (Source)


…of UK coffee drinkers take theirs with a splash of milk – a much higher figure than in the US or Continental Europe, where drinkers prefer it unadulterated. That doesn’t even include the Britons who like to add chocolate, lemon or whiskey. (Source)

One third

…of Germany’s coffee scene roughly equals the size of the whole UK market – showing that no matter how coffee crazed we become, our population will only get us so far. (Source)


…coffee outlets sprang up in London in the 1660s, marking the first time the nation experienced a “coffee boom”. However, following a campaign by disgruntled women who complained that the beverage had robbed their husbands’ virility, Charles II banned it in 1675. (Source)

Following the release of Costa’s figures, Andy Harrison – chief executive of parent company Whitbread – announced growth-forecast “milestones” for the brand of £2bn for 2018 and £2.5bn for 2020, compared to this week’s results. We trust they’ll need a few cups to keep them going en route to those bold projections.

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Image of Costa cup courtesy of urbanbuzz / Shutterstock.

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