More younger consumers are drinking coffee than ever before

Despite economic challenging times cannot deter American’s love of coffee. Coffee consumption remains high in the United States, reaching new heights with younger consumers, even amid rising concerns over the cost of living.

According to the National Coffee Association’s (NCA) National Coffee Data Trends (NCDT) report, more young adults in the United States are drinking coffee than ever before. The fall report, which was released in September, reveals that coffee has reached record-high popularity with 18-24 year olds — 51% drank coffee in the past day, surpassing the pre-Covid record of 50% set in January 2020. (In each surveyed age group of Americans over 25 years old – 25-39, 40-59, and 60+ – roughly 69% of respondents had had coffee in the past day).

The strong performance is a bit surprising given that the number of coffee drinkers who admitted that their financial situation is worse than it was four months ago has increased by 59% since January. Six out of ten past-year coffee drinkers now say that they are cautious about spending.

Despite this, overall past-day coffee consumption (66% of Americans over 18) remains at a two-decade high first observed in January 2022. Per the NCDT, coffee is more popular than any other beverage in the US, including tap water, and is most popular in the Northeast, where 72% of adults choose coffee each day.

Out of home coffee consumption (28% of past-day coffee drinkers) has nearly recovered to pre-Covid levels (29% in January 2020), and coffee is making its way back to offices with 36% of Americans having an in-office coffee station (up 20% since January 2022). This is notable because as Jennifer Mapes Christ of the Freedonia Group shared in a July NCA office coffee service (OCS) webinar, some companies stopped providing OCS because personnel levels in offices have decreased. Furthermore, many office workers expressed safety concerns regarding OCS (single serve is perceived as the most hygienic). Thus, OCS revenue had dropped dramatically following the pandemic and subsequent return to offices.

The NCDT’s first-time research into the frequency of away-from-home (AFH) coffee purchases found that 33% of past-week coffee drinkers buy coffee away from home at least four times per week, and another 56% buy coffee away from home one to three times per week.

Younger coffee drinkers – especially 25-to-39-year-olds – continue to drive consumption of espresso-based and non-espresso-based specialty coffee drinks, which includes beverages such as cappuccino, espresso, latte, frozen blended coffee, and of course, cold brew, and nitro coffee. To that end, Mintel reports that 65% of Gen Z consumers purchase cold coffee drinks AFH compared to only 33% who purchase hot coffee drinks AFH.

Other key NCDT findings include:

· In the past week, 63% of Americans over the age of 18 had at least one traditional coffee, and 54% had at least one specialty coffee. The top three most popular specialty coffee beverages are lattes (17%), espressos (16%), and cappuccinos (15%).

· 32% of past-week coffee drinkers had flavoured coffee. Vanilla is the most popular flavour, followed by caramel and mocha.

· 30% of past-day coffee drinkers had cold coffee (includes cold brew, iced coffee, and frozen beverages).

The results are noteworthy because at recent NCA webinar, Mintel reported that 72% of consumers are concerned about rising prices over the next six months with 38% saying they would make coffee at home instead of ordering away from home if coffee prices increased.

Commenting on the NCDT findings, NCA president and CEO William “Bill” Murray said, “Continuing its decades-long reign as America’s favourite beverage, coffee is also reaching new heights with young adults. The NCDT’s latest snapshot of consumer behaviors and attitudes reaffirms coffee’s popularity is resilient to even the toughest challenges, like the Covid-19 pandemic and tough economic times.”

Whether an ‘indulgent’ specialty coffee (espresso-blended beverage/cold brew or nitro coffee) or a simple drip coffee, it seems that even in challenging times, consumers – younger and older – must have their daily cup of joe.

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