Starbucks has been usurped by Costa Coffee as the UK's largest coffee-shop chain, according to a new report.
The study, by Allegra Strategies, revealed that the Whitbread-owned chain now has 24.7% of the market with 555 outlets, compared with 24.1% (540) for Starbucks.
However, industry sources immediately cast doubt on the numbers, suggesting that Costa includes many of its concessions as "outlets", unlike Starbucks, and Jeffrey Young, managing director of Allegra, admitted the statistics were not "entirely clear" as the numbers provided by Costa were not broken down.
The report also predicted that the UK coffee-shop market was expected to nearly double in size over the next decade. Having grown at more than 15% annually for the past eight years, the market is set to expand further to 6,000 outlets, with estimated turnover of more than £2.5b within seven to 10 years, it said.
A survey of more than 6,300 people conducted by Allegra for the study revealed that consumers are visiting branded coffee chains more frequently than ever before, and that 11 million now visited a coffee shop at least once a week.