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    Coffee habits in Belgium swing towards capsules

    The coffee habits in Belgium are moving more and more towards capsules and away from traditional filter coffee, according to market researchers GfK, De Tijd reports.

    Last year the Belgian consumer bought 248,000 traditional coffee machines using filter coffee, a segment overtaken for the first time by capsules, which sold 260,000 machines.

    The prime mover in that segment is the Swiss giant Nestlé, which owns the brands Nespresso and Dolce Gusto, and which also makes and markets Starbucks brand capsules, which arrived in Belgian supermarkets last year.

    According to research bureau Nielsen, the filter coffee market in 2019 was worth €196.9 million, down 2.6% on 2018.

    The capsules market, meanwhile, was worth €99.5 million, 9.3% up on the year before. However that figure is misleading: Nielsen only measures supermarket sales, and Nespresso capsules are only sold though the brand’s own retail outlets of online.

    Nestlé’s direct sales are estimated to be worth another €100 million, placing it just slightly higher than filter coffee.

    Since last year, for the first time in its history, Nestlé is the largest coffee seller to consumers in Belgium,” said Oliver Perquy, CEO of Nespresso Belgium.

    The evolution of the market is a blow to the dominance of JDE Peet, which owns the brands Douwe Egberts, Jacqmotte and Zwarte Kat. It also owns Senseo, in partnership with Philips. And while filter coffee was on the decline in 2019, the market for Senseo coffee pads was also slipping, by 5-5% to €75.5 million.

    The change, Perquy explains, is part of the development of how Belgians approach coffee. In recent years, consumers have developed more sophisticated tastes, looking for better or more exclusive coffee, and turning away from the corner cafe towards an international brand like Starbucks, or the more artisanal approach of the trained barista serving single-origin coffees.

    As quality has become more important, people are switching to capsules,” Perquy said. “The taste of capsule coffee is much stronger. That was not an easy sale at first, because Belgians, like other Northern Europeans, were not used to the intensity of the Italian espresso.”

    Nestlé is now launching its Vertuo brand in Belgium. Also using capsules sold directly online and through the Nespresso boutique outlets, Vertuo offers a range of capsule sizes, from the 40ml espresso to the 414ml lungo.

    Belgians have become accustomed to stronger coffee, but they still prefer larger portions than southern Europeans,” Perquy said. “With Vertuo, which was originally made for the Americans, we are going to convince even more Belgians to switch to capsules.”

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times