Consumer Watch: Coffee has bruising cost

By Susan Edmunds

Popular capsule machines deliver convenience at a hefty price

Jennie Brockie says her and her husband's Nespresso habit will cost them about $30 a week. Photo / Getty Images
Jennie Brockie says her and her husband's Nespresso habit will cost them about $30 a week. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealanders are snapping up capsule coffee machines, even though the cost of making a cup of coffee can be three times as much as using a traditional machine with beans.

The most well-known of the capsule coffee machines is Nespresso, advertised in television campaigns fronted by actor George Clooney.

But other capsule machines, such as the Map and DeLonghi ranges stocked by Harvey Norman; and Capodcino, stocked by Countdown, are also selling well.

The machines usually sell for between $300 and $700 each, although the Warehouse and Countdown offer models with fewer specifications for about $100.

But it is the 5g coffee capsules that are stinging consumers in the pocket.

They retail for up to $1.10 each and in Nespresso's case have to be ordered online in batches of 50 or more.

Jason Bell, of the Noel Leeming Group, said capsule coffee machines were very popular. Their share of the coffee machine market had increased from 35 per cent to 45 per cent over the past year.

"I would suggest they will become the biggest part of the market."

Sales value had increased 65 per cent year-on-year, he said, and the number of units sold by Noel Leeming was up 73 per cent this year on the same time last year.

"It has grown from 11,000 a year to 20,000 in the past 12 months."

He said customers knew they were paying for the convenience of the capsule machines.

Nespresso said it sold more than 17,000 machines in New Zealand last year. Country manager Guillaume Chesneau said the company had seen significant growth since its launch in New Zealand in 2011.

The 16 Nespresso blends were sourced from the top 1 per cent to 2 per cent of coffee produced globally, he said.

A spokeswoman for Harvey Norman said the retailer had experienced a significant increase in sales of capsule coffee machines over the past year.

"Feedback from consumers include ease of use, speed of delivery and a consistent fresh taste. We believe these key attributes have contributed to the success of the products."

A Countdown spokeswoman agreed coffee machines had become hugely successful in New Zealand.

Derek Townsend, of Karajoz Coffee, said he bought a capsule machine recently to try it and found it a convenient way to make reasonable coffee.

But he said because there was only 4g or 5g of coffee in each pod, it would take at least two capsules to get a full-flavoured coffee, taking the cost to about $2 per cup.

The same coffee made with supermarket coffee beans would cost 40c.

A standard home coffee machine would use about 10g of coffee per cup.

Townsend said it was possible that people would have their instant coffee habits broken by capsule machines, get a taste for better coffee and move into using traditional machines.

Consumer NZ's Luke Harrison said the machines were reliable and easy to use. "One of the things to take into account is the ongoing cost of capsules. Depending on what type of machine you buy, they can be quite expensive."

Some shoppers were turning to generic capsules - The Warehouse offered 10 for $4.95 on special and Countdown charged $6.95. But there were fewer flavours and blends.

No fuss, no mess but it carries a premium

Jennie Brockie and her husband bought their Nespresso machine as a wedding anniversary gift to each other almost a year ago, for about $700.

When they bought it, they purchased the Nespresso starter pack of 250 capsules.

Brockie said they were now getting to the end of those capsules.

She said she was not looking forward to having to pay to stock up with more.

"They are about $1 each so it's getting up there.

"But it's good coffee and easy to make.

"There's no mess, no fuss and no coffee grounds to deal with."

If she and her husband continue to drink coffee at their current rate, their Nespresso habit will cost them about $30 a week.

- Herald on Sunday

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