In the last few months, coffee roasters and cafes in Sheffield have faced a united struggle with product suppliers, staff shortages and tax increase on key items. To compensate for these problems, many businesses have had no choice but to increase their coffee prices.
“I haven’t spoken to one place in hospitality that hasn’t had to put their prices up,” said Olivia Hunt, manager of Copa Caffè on Ecclesall Road.
Sipping a coffee in her cafe early on a Friday morning, Hunt said business was quieter than usual.
The pandemic was already having an impact on the hospitality sector and this week, the price of coffee beans hit a 10-year high. The price increase of coffee is now even more important for the independent coffee scene in the city.
“We’ve had to put our coffee prices up, not through any choice of our own, but simply to compensate for the supplier prices going up and also tax on our products has dramatically increased”, Hunt added.
Copa Caffe raised most of their coffee prices by 20 pence, two weeks ago.
“We’d already spent a few months not getting as much profit as most coffee places and then when all the supplier prices went up, we had to put our prices up to stay competitive,” says Hunt.
“It’s supply and demand at its essence.”
‘Everything has gone up in price’
Although Covid isn’t a direct link to the price increase at Copa, Hunt said the new Omicron variant may become a problem.
“After Boris’ Covid announcement on Wednesday evening, we haven’t been nearly as busy as we usually are. People have started working from home again.
“It wasn’t a factor to consider at the time of our price change, but it may become one.”
Copa’s coffee is supplied by Sheffield Roasters ‘Cuppers Choice‘. Established by two brothers Jasper and Thomas, they supply Copa with fresh coffee every week.
Hunt mentioned that packaging and labour hours were also accountable for their coffee price increase.
“You have to take into accountability that when you pay for a product, you pay for the product itself, but also what the product is put in and the time it take for someone to make it.
“You’re actually paying for a lot of different facets.
“Everything has gone up in price, even the takeaway cups. We can’t physically get what we normally can and we have to buy more expensive products.
“This month I couldn’t get our normal large cups and I had to pay £30 more to get these different cups.”
Hunt said that Copa have tried to be as reasonable as possible with their price increases.
“Coffees like Macchiatos and Cortados, which are smaller drinks, we have actually shaved 20 pence off the price. We are losing money on these drinks but making it back on the rest. I didn’t want to shock everyone with the price increase.”
Albie’s Coffee on Snig Hill, have also tried to keep their costs reasonable by maintaining their latte prices at £2.90.
But, like Copa, they have had to increase their coffee prices to keep in line with industry standards.
The sibling-run business said there were many contributing factors for this decision.
One reason was the cost surge in disposable coffee products like takeout cups, bags and napkins.
“We go through an incredible amount of products and the cost of these have risen significantly.
“We will always choose to buy recyclable and biodegradable products which adds to the price. However, we do not want to compromise our company and personal ethics to keep the product cheaper”, said Robyn Hodges, the co-owner of Albie’s.
Hodges said the increased cost of utilities, in particular the excess cost of electricity, is a huge contributor for the coffee price increase.
‘Demand for coffee is through the roof’
The damage from the loss of footfall due to the ongoing pandemic was another factor.
“Volume will always result in a cheaper product and if we can’t sell the volume, then unfortunately, the individual unit price will increase”, said Hodges.
She said that even though their coffee bean supply has naturally increased, this wasn’t connected to their price increase.
“We are really proud to serve coffee that has been sourced sustainably, where the farmer has been paid fairly.
“We will always support these price increases and often take a hit ourselves instead of passing them on to the customer.”
Hodges said it was important to recognise that many factors caused the price increase on their coffee products and she hopes customers will support this decision.
“We hope that guests can appreciate a business that pays its staff and suppliers a fair price to help. It will create a much more sustainable industry for all parties, and one that can thrive for years to come.”
Karen Close, owner of All is Good Deli in Penistone, said the pandemic and Brexit are the main reasons behind her price increase.
“Demand for coffee is through the roof. There are coffee shops popping up left, right and centre and they’re pulling on all these coffee suppliers and prices are going up.”
At present, Close has not raised her coffee prices but to keep up with the competitive market, said she will in the new year.
“In keeping with our company’s focus on delivering quality products at competitive market prices, the increase will be 10% on coffee products.
“I’ve taken the hit for now as I’ve only just opened this new business and I don’t want to put myself out of the market.
“I need people first to invest in the coffee and taste and see how good it is, so they’ll come back and buy it again.”
‘It’s time to work in solidarity’
Despite having to increase their coffee prices, all three businesses have received positive support from the customers.
Hunt said: “We’ve got a lot of loyal customers that come everyday and we also get lots of new customers.
“They have all been really supportive. I was really worried that customers were going to complain and be upset that the prices had gone up.
“It’s humbling because it has actually been the complete opposite. Some customers have been said they can’t believe the prices were so cheap anyway.”
Close said: “From a retailers point of view, my customers don’t blink an eye when they’re picking up a bag of coffee.
“I think for my particular customers, they are looking for quality and if they want to pay a little bit more for quality, that is what they’ll do.”
Hunt said that with the tax increases, the ongoing pandemic and Brexit, independent coffee businesses in Yorkshire need to work together.
“With everyone being in the same position, I think it’s time to come together and work in solidarity through it.”