In the news, I’ve seen the headline boldly proclaiming that half the world prefers instant coffee to regular coffee. Eastern and Western Europe combined drink 40% of the world’s instant coffee, with Eastern Europe consuming more than twice as much as Western. Australia and Asia account for most of the rest of instant coffee consumption. That sure sounds like the headlines are correct and that people are clammoring for instant coffee!
But what these headlines are omitting is that instant coffee has an almost indefinite shelf life and is significantly less expensive to buy than fresh coffee. Most of the places where instant coffee is “preferred” are places where there is not a huge, developed coffee culture and/or places where the cost of freshly brewed coffee puts it out of reach as a daily drink for those who are not affluent. American coffee drinkers are the least likely to opt for instant coffee, with an almost total (up to 90%) preference for fresh brewed. We have a strong coffee culture and as a result we have a basic expectation for how tasty and fresh our coffee should be (though even “fresh” coffee isn’t necessarily delicious coffee). It is likely that as coffee becomes even more popular globally, consumers in other areas will start to seek out more flavorful options than instant, too.