Brita shows 50% of coffee operators would pay more for sustainable suppliers

In recent years the issue of sustainability has come to the forefront of the coffee industry, but recent research has found that as consumer demand grows, the industry is still facing numerous barriers to going green.

According to new, independent research by BRITA Professional1 on the opinions of coffee operators, almost all (97%) believe that sustainability credentials are important to their customers. When asked about the top priorities for their business, sustainability came second place (48%) only to customer satisfaction (70%).

However, the research also revealed that hot beverage operators feel there are a number of barriers to reaching their sustainable goals:

• Equipment: Almost half think their equipment is letting them down by not standing the test of time (49%)
• Cost is an issue: Over half find it difficult to balance profitability and sustainability within their business (64%)
• Lack of knowledge: About sustainable practices is making it harder (47%)

With nearly half of coffee operators highlighting the importance of working with sustainable suppliers and 56% saying they would pay more for a supplier if it offered a measurable impact on sustainability efforts, it’s clear that the role of suppliers is key in helping individual businesses and the wider industry achieve sustainability targets.

In fact, the research found the top sustainable initiatives coffee operators would like suppliers to focus on are:

• Reducing packaging (79%)
• Sourcing sustainable food (52%)
• Working on machine protection to help it stand the test of time (51%)

The sustainability issue that’s the most important to operators is the one they are also engaging with the most – reducing single-use plastic. Eight in ten (y) say they have already introduced methods to reduce single-use plastic in their establishment, for instance three quarters (79%) have removed plastic straws and two thirds (59%) have eliminated single-use plastic cutlery.

That said, it’s clear that businesses could do more. Less than half (46%) have introduced incentives to reduce single-use coffee cups and only a third (34%) have installed filtered water dispensers to replace bottled water. What’s more, although cutting down on single-use plastic was found to be the biggest sustainable priority, many want to go further:

53% see the energy efficiency of equipment as a top focus but just under half (46%) are using water filters on their equipment, despite it being one of the best ways to ensure coffee making equipment runs efficiently and stands the test of time by protecting against limescale and unwanted minerals
44% believe that working with sustainable suppliers should be a top priority
23% think that emphasis should be placed on disposal of tea and coffee grounds

Speaking about the research results, Sarah Taylor, Managing Director of BRITA UK, said, “Sustainability in the coffee sector isn’t a new concept, the industry as a whole is dedicated to creating a sustainable supply chain – from the beans right through to the coffee served.

'What is new is the significant shift in consumer’ expectations and awareness of the climate crisis. Once viewed as a ‘nice to have’, putting the environment before profit is now expected and this goes beyond the likes of recycling packaging and removing single-use plastic straws.

“For suppliers in the coffee industry, continually improving on sustainable practices to pass the benefits down the supply chain to operators and meet consumer demand is an ongoing challenge.

'Our new toolkit (BRITA Professional – Life is Better Filtered: School of Expertise – Serving Coffee Sustainably) provides practical solutions and advice on how to balance sustainability challenges with other business priorities, as well as the potential gains that can be made from making the right sustainable choices.”