AI-based Ideation: Nordic-style coffee

According to a 2020 estimate from Statista, the Dutch were the biggest coffee consumers in the world last year, averaging out at 8.3kg per head.

And while Starbucks remains synonymous with takeaway coffee the world over, American consumption stood at just 3.5kg per person in 2020 (according to Statista), putting them down at 14th on the global list.

Along with the Netherlands and Canada (with 5.5kg per person), Finland, Sweden and Norway make up the rest of the top five, with the latter trio’s estimated consumption (7.8kg, 7.6kg and 6.6kg per person, respectively) a clear indicator as to the booming Nordic coffee scene.

And not only do Nordic consumers love their coffee, their palettes are attuned to a lighter roast. Nordic-style coffee is said to be all about emphasizing fruity, fragrant notes through gentle coffee bean roasting, rather than the rich, ‘roasty’ coffee tones often found in a typical cup.

In the UK (who didn’t make Statista’s coffee top 15), the concept of ‘Nordic’ in retail food and drink is not new, but it is expanding, playing off of strengthening consumer perceptions of health and wellness in Nordic countries.

There are plenty of examples across multiple categories from the past few years, including the emergence of skyr in the evolving dairy category, Carlsberg’s ill-fated Nordic alcohol-free pilsner, Yaar’s quark bar re-brand (to ‘Nordic yoghurt bar‘), and Arla’s high-profile Nordic oat drink launch, Jörd.

When it comes to Nordic coffee, however, there’s very little penetration as of yet.

Norlo, a UK-based artisan coffee brand, is one of a handful looking to change that, with their premium, Nordic-style range positioned as ‘the UK’s lightest organic roast coffee’.

Roasting lighter, the Oslo way

Inspired by Nordic coffee culture and its lighter roast norms, Norlo was founded in 2020 by coffee enthusiasts Steph and Dan Norman following a trip to the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

Said to be unique to the UK market, Norlo claim their light roast profile preserves more of the raw nutrients, naturally occurring minerals and antioxidants found in coffee beans.

“Through our travels we found that nowhere could rival the Nordic nations and their ability to serve the smoothest, most flavoursome coffee,” Norlo co-founder Dan says.

“We are not only passionate about producing the very best quality, best tasting coffee out there, but also about the health benefits you can enjoy from drinking coffee in its purest form.”

A cup of Norlo coffee is said to contain a higher level of antioxidants than even green tea, with the brand ethically sourcing the “very best 100% organic premium coffee beans from around the world” for their operation.

The Nordic-style of roasting also preserves more of the beans’ natural flavour notes, says the brand, resulting in a far smoother and more aromatic coffee blend.

This got me to thinking: Considering the difference in roasting techniques and end flavour focus, what indicators are there that UK consumers are looking for a similar cup of coffee to their Nordic neighbours (broadly speaking)?

Basically, are Norlo on the money with pushing Nordic-style coffee in the UK?

The term ‘Nordic’ currently appears on 0.35% of UK menus, with a monthly average change of +17.6%

Tastewise on… Nordic-style coffee

According to the world’s leading food intelligence platform, Tastewise, who use artificial intelligence to harness billions of data points across recipes, social media, delivery, and restaurants to provide solutions for food & beverage brands; the term ‘Nordic’ currently appears on 0.35% of UK menus.

This, however, is increasing +17.6% MoM (see above graph).

In terms of UK social media conversations around food and drink, ‘Nordic’ currently has very little penetration (0.02%), although this is slowly increasing +2.37% MoM.

And, despite the small penetration, the Tastewise data reveals five ingredient pairings with the term ‘Nordic’ that could be viewed as popular/emerging within the demographic: fish, berry, beer, cake and coffee.

Of the five emerging ingredient pairings with ‘Nordic’, coffee has the highest percentage increase in terms of social media mentions in the past year

Interestingly, while coffee has the smallest social media penetration of the five ingredients when it comes to conversations around Nordic (8.8%), it has the highest percentage change in the past year (+11.56% YoY).

When considering coffee, Tastewise data shows there can be little doubt that a ‘taste-led experience’ remains the key motivator for UK consumers. More interestingly, ‘sweet’ is the standout flavour profile (ahead of ‘rich’, ‘smokey and ‘fruity’).

Finally, when asking the Tastewise AI about ‘Nordic coffee’ specifically, there is currently a very small but evident rise in both UK menu mentions and social media interactions.

There is a small but evident rise in mentions of ‘Nordic Coffee’ on both restaurants menus and social media in the UK

And while breakfast is the standout time of day for UK consumer coffee consumption, this clearly shifts towards both ‘afternoon’ and ‘brunch’ when switching to Nordic coffee.

All in all, while it might be too early to call Nordic-style coffee a UK trend-to-be, there might just be enough indication to suggest that Norlo, with their lighter roast flavour profile, health benefits and Nordic coffee culture focus, could well be on to something.

Tom Gatehouse
Tom is the editor of Pure NPD Insights. He previously spent three years at William Reed’s food insight platform Food Spark, was the co-founder and editor of The Cream, is a former Restaurant magazine columnist and has had chef training in fifty of the best restaurants in the UK and Europe.

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