KANSAS CITY — Keurig Green Mountain’s pioneering of the single-serve coffee market should be lauded as a true innovation. Other companies had tried, but the introduction of the original Keurig brewer identified a consumer need and provided a convenient solution. As one industry observer noted, before the introduction of the Keurig single-serve brewer, the largest consumer of coffee may have been the drain as consumers poured what was left in their coffee pot down it.
Today, single-serve coffee is a staple for millions of consumers, and Keurig Green Mountain and other manufacturers are striving to grow their share of the market through flavor variety and new, more sophisticated brewing systems. Both of these efforts have taken a toll on all of the competitors in the market.
On Aug. 5, Keurig Green Mountain released its third-quarter fiscal 2015 financial results and they were not positive (Click here to read the story). Revenues for the quarter fell 5% and net income for the quarter fell 27%.
Drivers behind the challenging results included a slowdown in brewer sales and increased competition in the coffee pod market. Basically, there is only so much shelf space in supermarkets to accommodate too many companies that want a piece of the single-serve coffee market.
To maintain and even grow its position in the market, Keurig Green Mountain has introduced a variety of brewers and brewer accessories. Today, consumers have a plethora of choices to make between the Keurig 2.0, Keurig Mini, Keurig K200, etc., or they may opt to choose another system that has the capability of brewing Keurig licensed products.
The increased competition in the market, which has been driven by the expiration of some of Keurig’s patents in 2012, is forcing the company to consider the development of more sophisticated brewing systems. During an Aug. 5 conference call with financial analysts, Brian Kelley, chief executive officer of Keurig Green Mountain, said the company is researching and developing interactive brewers and those that may connect to the Internet using wireless technologies.
“We’re looking at all of that, because we believe the next step in the evolution of having the ability to read individual pods involves much of this. And I’m not going to go into any more detail than to say that we’re working on it and we’re excited about what it can do to give consumers even more benefit by pod, by s.k.u. (stock-keeping unit) and really reward our partners with information and capability that will really be the envy of other systems out there.”
An appropriate question is how do these added technological benefits improve the consumer experience? The beauty of the single-serve hot beverage brewing system is it allows the consumer to quickly make a cup of coffee. That is the market segment's core attribute and many of the efforts currently being undertaken have less to do with the consumer’s experience and more to do with manufacturers trying to protect or grow their market position.
Simplicity was at the heart of the original Keurig hot system and that consumer need has not changed. What is changing is the intensity of the competition in the market and it is making companies try to differentiate through innovation that may not improve the consumer’s experience.