Coffee and tea drinking habits in Asia: when culture matters.

Evening drinking habits differ from country to country, and this is very important when creating customer-centric food Retail concepts, as our DESITA and ECOFFEE projects are. In Singapore, for example it’s not unusual to see coffee shops packed at 11pm/12 midnight every night of the week including weekends. This experience is replicated across many countries in the region from India to Malaysia, Vietnam to Indonesia.

The culture of drinking in Asia is not about alcohol it’s about coffee and tea. It’s still about friends but it’s sober conversation as oppose to drunken ones. There are more coffee shops in Singapore than bars. Coffee shops are growing at a faster rate in India than any other form of F&B outlet. This appears to be down to more affluence, a desire to eat and drink out and a predominantly non-drinking culture. Of course there are a mass of bars in Singapore and across Asia but these tend to be filled with expats and Chinese and focused on certain areas and linked to Karaoke.

Religiously Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists – the main religions across the region – actively prescribe non-drinking of alcohol to their followers. Singaporean’s are just not brought up to get drunk in the way their English and American counterpart’s inparticular are. This in turn leads to a more civilized society, there are no drink related injuries for hospitals to deal with and society to pay for. There is not the violence that happens every weekend in most towns in the UK, no alcohol means that it just doesn’t happen, it’s just not accepted and not desired.

From a marketing point of view it means that if you want to target these people you have to think in a more sophisticated and creative way. Starbucks may be much maligned but they, Costa and other Western brands are growing in Asia at a rate of knots and along with the monster Asia coffee brands like Gloria Jean’s,Café Coffee Day and Coffee Bean are more effective at reaching many Asians than marketing through bars and alcohol. (Source: BrandRepublic; Picture: 4theloveoffood).