5 coffee trends brewing in 2021

Segafredo coffee
Photograph courtesy of Segafredo Zanetti®

Foodservice sales are expected to post double-digit growth this year thanks largely to pent-up consumer demand according to The National Restaurant Association’s State of the Restaurant Industry Outlook for 2021. But a lot has changed since the week the world shut down and anticipating consumer demand is key for forward-looking foodservice operators. Hedging bets on America’s most consumed beverage is a good place to start. Here’s a look at emerging trends in coffee service to help bring customers back.

Cold brew continues its charge

Although a regular hot coffee is still the most popular choice preferred by 47% of customers1, cold brew coffee continues to quench thirsts especially among younger drinkers. It’s the fastest-growing coffee drink growing year over year by 4.6%2.

One in five people are already imbibing cold brew regularly according to Coffee Data Trends 2020 from the National Coffee Association. Word-of-mouth is spreading and sampling opportunities abound with 58% of onsumers “aware but not currently drinking cold brew” and 41% perceiving cold brew as “cool and trendy,” according to the Association.

The message for foodservice is clear: put cold brew on the menu, as well as its premiumized version, nitro cold brew, the silky smooth cold coffee full of micro-bubbles. This drink is continuing to trend upwards especially as people are venturing out of the home looking for new experiences they can’t replicate in their home kitchen. Technomic reports 26% of coffee cafe customers say they are more interested in nitro cold brew than they were two years ago1.

Consumers care about wellness for the planet and themselves

Climate change, sustainability and corporate accountability are top of mind for many consumers and inform beverage choices. Nearly half of coffee cafe customers expect transparency about bean sourcing according to Technomic’s 2020Bakery and Coffee Cafe Consumer Trend Report. 

Caring consumers look to responsible companies like Segafredo Zanetti® which is committed to the wellness of the planet and gives back to coffee-producing communities. The company has a Zanetti Foundation that aids children and families in coffee growing regions.

Aside from looking after the planet, consumers are also increasingly looking after themselves. Plant-based milks and natural sweeteners are surging in popularity thanks to their better-for-you qualities. Consumers following wellness trends are eschewing dairy, reaching instead for milks made from almonds, coconuts, oats, cashews, soy, macadamia nuts, rice and hemp seeds and making room for natural alternatives to processed white sugar such as raw brown sugar, honey, maple and agave syrups, molasses and stevia. Enterprising foodservice operators should include some of these alternative elements as innovation around wellness becomes more mainstream.   

Novelty exerts a pull

While many take comfort in a well-crafted cup of premium hot coffee, flavored coffee drinks have strong appeal especially among younger consumers. As noted by Technomic’s Bakery and Coffee Cafe Consumer Trend Report, 42% of consumers say they would like more coffees with unique flavors. While vanilla and chocolate flavors dominate, growth flavors for coffee range from salted caramel, turmeric and chai spices to orange, raspberry, lemon, cinnamon and even s’mores. Enhance this last flavor by garnishing with graham crackers and mini marshmallows for a social media-ready beverage that does double-duty as dessert.

Novelty is not just about flavors, either. Boba pearls in cold coffee is trending as are carbonated sparkling iced coffees. Asian fruits like yuzu are also showing up in coffee concoctions proving that coffee occasions are spanning way beyond the morning ritual.

Sales strategies

The pandemic has necessitated changes in tactics—specifically the pivot to takeout and delivery sales. According to Technomic’s 2020Delivery and Takeout Consumer Trend Report, there is a move toward bundling food with specialty beverages: 27% of consumers (including 34% of millennials) have purchased or are likely to purchase family meal bundles. It’s about adding value and one way to increase perceived value is with a specialty coffee drink. It’s become easy to pair coffee, namely cold brew, with food because of its refreshing qualities and zero-calorie count when served straight over ice.

Offering regular customers an unlimited coffee subscription for a set monthly fee (not unlike streaming video and music subscriptions) has proven to be a popular option at cafes especially among younger consumers: 43% of 18-34 year-olds are likely to join a coffee subscription service1.

Getting a boost

There are many reasons why people drink coffee—to satisfy a craving, to treat themselves, to try new flavors and as a snack.  Increasingly, consumers are looking for functional foods and beverages to help improve brain and body performance. That’s driving beverage purchase decisions too: 29% of café customers want a beverage that will boost their energy levels1. And of course, the caffeine in coffee is a natural booster of energy and acuity. Nearly half of respondents in a survey conducted by mattress manufacturer Amerisleep reported feeling moderately more productive after consuming caffeine and 24.3% said that they were extremely productive. There’s more to the functional story: frozen coffee drinks can often be blended with superfruits such as acai, goji berries and sea buckthorn which all enhance the value-add of wellness. For the adventrous (and where legal), the buzz is cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of marijuana and hemp. The dietary supplement imparts a feeling of relaxation and calm, and innovative baristas are offering CBD tinctures for customers to stir into their coffee drinks. 

Foodservice operators in the hospitality, food and beverage industries have been preparing for a big rebound. It’s time to create new trends and experiences for the world as the wider public enters back into it. To learn more about how Segafredo Zanetti® can help foodservice facilities develop new and exciting coffee programs, visit


  1. Technomic’s 2020 Bakery and Coffee Cafe Consumer Trend Report
  2. Technomic’s Ignite Menu Data



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