Go further – create a new category

Coffee has been brewed for over 500 years, yet the brewing methods have not ceased to be improved upon.

In 1975, Eric Favre noticed that one coffee shop near the Pantheon in Rome had an exceptionally long queue. He observed that the only difference between their coffee and the plethora of surrounding coffee shops was that, during the making of the coffee, the barristas pumped the piston many times whilst the other coffee shops pumped it just once. This slightly different brewing method pushed more water and air through the ground coffee, resulting in more oxidation, which led to an increase in flavour release from the bean and better foam on top of the espresso.

Eric wanted people to be able to have the same experience in their own home. He came up with the idea for Nespresso – coffee pods, sealed to keep them fresh, that when used were pierced allowing the flow of pressurised hot water through the capsule. This mimicked the multiple pumps of the Italian coffee house.

Fast-forward to the 90's and Eric's inventioned led to a whole new category of capsule coffee. The market exploded.

In 2005, Stanford professor, Alan Adler noticed that coffee afficionados preferred a Melitta cone – a device with a filter that you place over your cup and pour water into. With the Melitta cone, the longer the water takes to filter through, the less acidity and bitterness leaches into the coffee. But that meant that it could take 4 to 5 minutes to brew one cup of coffee. Adler thought that if he could use air pressure, he could speed up the process.

After a year of perfecting the process, Adler devised the Aeropress, a device that uses a plunger to create air pressure that forces water through a coffee filter. The bonus part is that the device is self-cleaning and is small enough to be carried around with you.

Adler invented a whole new category, the Aeropress coffee. Intially his strange device was rejected by the industry, but Adler knew that his product was solving the problem of a long-wait for a decent single cup of coffee. When he finally did bring it to market he revolutionised the coffee industry and sales skyrocketed. Now, when you enter a coffee shop often you are asked if you want your coffee ground for an Aeropress or another device.

If you're looking for a way to find a space in a crowded market look for ways you can grow a new category. You don't need to be first to market, you just need to be better for a small group of people.

Further reading

Why it pays to be a category creator – by Eddie Yoon and Linda Deeken on Harvard Business Review

The Difference Between a First Mover and a Category Creator – by Eddie Yoon , Christopher Lochhead and Nicolas Cole on Harvard Business Review

The best entrepreneurs don’t start companies, they invent categories – by Jordy Leiser on The Next Web

The Invention of the AeroPress on Priceonomics

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