SPECIALTY BARS BRIGHTEN LUKEWARM COFFEE MARKET

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Coffee consumption in 1993 is estimated to have been flat to slightly down, though a positive impact came from favorable media attention and baby boomers entering middle age, when coffee drinking tends to peak.

The total market value of the coffee industry fell 3% last year to $3.2 billion. Dollar sales for regular coffee fell 2.6% to $2.24 billion. Instant coffee showed slightly greater losses, with sales at $960 million, down 4.2%.

Supermarkets and grocery stores continue to be the leading outlet for purchases of regular coffee, but a growing number of consumers are turning to specialty coffee and gourmet food stores as well as "shoppers club" stores and discount stores for their coffee purchases.

The away-from-the-supermarket trend has also been evidenced by the increasing number of retail specialty coffee bars popping up across the country. Seattle-based Starbucks Coffee Co. is currently the segment leader with 300 units. However, others, such as Gloria Jean's Gourmet Coffees and Coffee Beanery, are rapidly gaining ground.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America projects some 10,000 coffee cafes and espresso bars and carts will be operating in the U.S. by 1999, with total annual retail sales of $1.5 billion.

Among supermarket brands in 1993, Procter & Gamble Co. regained ground, with its share edging up to 31.8%, as did Chock Full o'Nuts, at 4.5%. Philip Morris Cos.' General Foods USA declined slightly, while Nestle USA lost more than 1 share point, falling to 16.7%.

In the instant coffee segment, P&G, General Foods and Nestle all lost share.

Mr. Maxwell is managing director at Wheat, First Securities, Richmond, Va.

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