Single Serve Decreases Coffee Consumption

We recently addressed the issue of who drinks the most coffee and it is the USA. Now it would appear that the USA is steadily consuming less coffee, not because anyone is cutting back but because of the single serve revolution. Bloomberg Business reports on how single-serving pods have decreased coffee consumption.

Single-serve brewing machines popularized by Keurig Green Mountain Inc. are now used by more than one in four Americans and are altering the way coffee is consumed. Almost every brand, from Folgers to Dunkin’ Donuts, is sold in disposable 2-inch-by-2-inch plastic pods that yield just one serving. They’re more efficient than drip-brewing pots capable of making 10 cups, some of which isn’t consumed and gets dumped.

While Americans still drink more coffee than any beverage except water, expanded use of single-serve machines has slowed demand growth for a $52 billion market in the U.S., the world’s biggest consumer. That’s hurt sales at a time when ample inventories of the commodity have sent prices tumbling.

One observer says that coffee farmers have lost their most lucrative consumer, the kitchen sink where unused coffee poured.

Who Started Single Serve?

Keurig is an American manufacturer of coffee brewers and producers of K-cups.

Each K-Cup is a plastic container with a coffee filter inside. Ground coffee beans are packed in the K-Cup and sealed air-tight with a combination plastic and foil lid. When the K-Cup is placed in a Keurig brewer, the brewer punctures both the foil lid and the bottom of the K-Cup and forces hot water under pressure through the K-Cup and into a mug or cup.

From small beginnings this single serve revolution has moved into one in four US homes as well as offices and hotel rooms.

And Lots of Plastic

Those of us who like healthy organic coffee also care about the environment. As single serve decreases coffee consumption it should be a good thing. But the single serve plastic pods are an environmental disaster according to the Montreal Gazette.

The increasing popularity of single-serve coffee brewing technologies is not only decreasing overall demand for coffee in North America, but also producing colossal volumes of un-recyclable and non-compostable plastics. While the efficiency of these machines (which help reduce coffee waste) can be seen as an improvement from conventional methods of brewing coffee, arguably, this is offset by the excessive plastic waste generated from their use. Not to mention the amount of fossil fuels used and burned in creating the plastic cups. The amount of coffee wasted from old-fashion coffee machines could be mitigated through a fundamental shift in the North American economic system. If coffee prices included environmental externalities, they would undoubtedly rise and consumers would be more economically inclined not to waste their precious coffee.

If you like organic coffee and are friendly to the environment consider buying whole bean roasted coffee, grinding just enough before making coffee and enjoying fresh coffee every time. Along the way you will not be cluttering up the world with single serve plastic containers.


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