PLANO, TEXAS – The way consumers are drinking coffee today — one cup at a time instead of brewing an entire pot — has been evolving as new applications and equipment have been introduced. The trend accelerated and became more complicated once many consumers started working from home because of the pandemic and craving barista-quality coffee.

For environmentally conscious consumers, one such complication was the plastic waste generated by conventional coffee pods. That created demand for such eco-conscious single-serve options like pour-over and tea-bag applications and an opportunity for NuZee Inc., Plano, Texas.

NuZee is a co-packer of pour-over- and tea-bag-style coffees. The company has production facilities in the United States, South Korea and Mexico.

Coffee consumption has soared to a two-decade high as Americans continue COVID routines developed during the pandemic, according to 2022 consumer research from the National Coffee Association (NCA), New York. Sixty-six percent of Americans now drink coffee each day, more than any other beverage, including tap water, and up by nearly 14% since January 2021, the largest increase since the NCA began tracking data.

At-home coffee consumption remains above pre-pandemic levels. Approximately 84% of coffee drinkers now have had coffee at home in the past day, compared with 80% in January 2020. Picky drinkers want a fresh cup every time. 

“Single-serve pour-over coffee is one of the best ways to enjoy fresh coffee at home,” said Tomoko Toyota, chief marketing officer at NuZee, who joined the company less than a year ago after working for 13 years at Starbucks where she was part of the team responsible for launching and managing the Starbucks Origami single-serve pour-over coffee products available throughout Japan. “And eco-friendly single-serve is one of the fastest-growing coffee categories.” 

After exploding onto the mainstream coffee scene more than a decade ago, the rapid growth of single-cup brewing systems like the Keurig, started to cool prior to the pandemic; however, it remains the second-most popular brewing method after drip in the United States, according to the NCA. Single-serve coffee pods currently make up 37% of all coffee consumed, which is up 15% since 2013. To compare, 41% of coffee drinkers use a drip coffee maker, 9% use some form of cold brew and 8% rely on espresso machines.

Shifting values and expectations are creating new challenges for coffee companies. That’s where NuZee comes into play. The co-packer focuses on environmentally conscious solutions for single-serve coffee brewing. The pour-over format is convenient to use anywhere, uses less plastic and only requires the amount of water intended for consumption. The filter bag format is compostable and the foil wrappers for both formats are recyclable.

Nuzee cold brew

In early March, NuZee completed the acquisition of Dripkit, broadening its portfolio with a new type of pour-over system that sits on top of the cup, versus NuZee’s original pour-overs that are submerged. Each Dripkit pack produces a 10-oz cup using 17 grams of coffee.

“NuZee’s resources, capabilities and continued commitment to sustainability are exactly what the Dripkit brand needs to further catapult its growth and success,” said Ilana Kruger, founder of Dripkit and the patent owner on the technology. “Part of our process has always been to pack and seal our products by hand, as this led to a standard that we knew would make us proud. However, after seeing NuZee’s facilities and witnessing the team’s attention to detail and individual product care, we were immediately impressed with the overall quality and are excited to see our Dripkit brand thrive amid this transition.”

NuZee currently is the only co-packer that offers the three single-serve formats, according to the company. Soon the company will be expanding again with the introduction of a cold-brew single-serve format.