By Amber Gallegos
When it comes to Millennials and coffee, there is a definite trend towards specialty coffee. As a generation coming of age in the era of Starbucks, the group leans more towards espresso-based beverages than the grocery store coffees preferred by older generations. They are also more likely to drink coffee away from the home than other generations. What this means for the coffee industry is yet to be seen, experts say, but in the meantime, manufacturers of coffee brewers are taking varied approaches to potentially serve the large population of Millennials.
The Pew Research Center defines Millennials as adults that are ages 18 to 34 in 2015. The 2015 National Coffee Drinking Trends Report (NCDT) from the National Coffee Association, finds that at-home coffee consumption is directly related to age. Younger consumer are more likely to consume coffee out-of-home than older consumers, 45 to 46 percent among those aged 18 to 39, versus 18-35 percent of those aged over 40.
“Millennials are a unique consumer demographic for our industry as they tend to come to specialty coffee much earlier than their older counterparts,” says Heather Ward, Research Analyst for the Specialty Coffee Association of America. “In part, because they grew up in a world where a specialty coffee shop was available to them on every street corner. Historically coffee consumption skewed older, but that was likely due to the fact that coffee consumption meant a brewed cup of commercial coffee made in the home, while Millennials typically first experience specialty coffee in the retail environment where there are more specialty options available to them. It will be important that coffee companies understand the new entry point for these consumers, and how to engage them through their specialty coffee journey.”
The NCDT report surveyed 2,800 adult respondents online and found that daily consumption of specialty coffee was 35 percent among ages 18 to 24 and 36 percent among ages 25 to 39. Among ages 40 to 59 the percent was 30, and dropped down to 23 percent for those over the age of 60. The survey allowed respondents to identify whether they considered the coffee they consumed as specialty or not. Overall coffee consumption among ages 25 to 39 increased to 62 percent in 2014, up from 42 percent in 2000, according to the NCA.
“For the younger generation the espresso-based beverage are oftentimes their kind of gateway into coffee. A lot of the reason behind that is because that’s where you’ll find it’s less about the coffee and more about the milk and the sugar,” says Mark DiDomenico, Director of Client Solutions at Datassential, who helped present the NCDT findings this year and who previously served as Director of Insights for Sara Lee. “Cappuccinos are much more creamy to begin with and much more about the milk than it is about the espresso. So it’s a little bit easier path for them to build that coffee habit around, versus just drinking regular coffee even if you did put cream and sugar in it – it’s still less exciting, if you will, than say a caramel macchiato. It’s really about flavor and sweetness.”
The NCDT data also finds that espresso-based beverages are significantly more popular among those 18-39. There appears to be sustained, if not growing, strength among all under 40, particularly those 18-24. Conversely, an overall decline in non-gourmet coffee consumption is more pronounced among those 18-24.
Companies coming out with home coffee machines certainly hope that they can capture consumer interest by appealing to them with appliances that meet their love of specialty coffee and convenience. Capresso’s On-on-Go Personal Coffee Maker is a compact brewer that brews from ground coffee or soft pods into a 16-ounce stainless steel travel mug and retails for $49.99.
“We found that Millennials were especially drawn to the On-on-Go Personal Coffee Maker during our product testing and development. They liked the small, compact size and the fact that it brews directly into a travel mug. This eliminates the hassle and waste of brewing a pot of coffee and then pouring it into your travel mug, plus there are fewer dishes to wash,” says April Strogen, Capresso Director of Marketing. “Millennials drink more coffee and are more sophisticated in their coffee tastes, so they appreciate a quality product at an affordable price. A key benefit of the On-the-Go is that, unlike many other smaller units, it brews at the ideal temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Millennials also tend to be more concerned about the environmental impact of their coffee brewing choices. They know that pod and capsule systems involve unnecessary packaging and waste. The On-the-Go comes with a reusable permanent filter for brewing ground coffee, and it can also accommodate soft pods, which are more environmentally friendly.”
From the new OXO On[TM] line of small electrics, the Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Brewing System retails for $199.99 and aims to give users more precise control through an intelligent microprocessor that offers precision temperature control, a timed water pump, and the option of brewing a single serving rather than an entire pot. All these controls seek to provide the same hand-crafted coffee in-home that Millennials are so crazy about getting at coffee shops.
“When it comes to coffee, it’s all about brew time and brew temperature,” says Claire Ashley, OXO Kitchen Electrics Senior Product Manager. “Our 9-Cup Coffee Maker has a thoroughly thought brew cycle to ensure optimal extraction and excellent coffee. We wanted to offer the same quality of coffee for a single serve (one mug or two cups). At OXO, we care about convenience; we cannot ignore those mornings when we are rushed but need just one mug before running out of the house. We developed a specific single serve brew cycle that takes into account the smaller amount of coffee in the brew basket for optimal extraction. You will see the water going over the grounds and pausing. This is intentional. We are controlling brew time and temperature for you.”
Indeed, brewing time and water temperature are important components for properly preparing a cup of specialty coffee to its full potential, as well as important factors for the espresso-based beverages that Millennials gravitate towards. Machines like BUNN’s trifecta MB may have a high price point, $599.99 in this case, but offers consumers who are truly passionate about coffee an option to make their coffee at home just they way they like it. BUNN applies its experience in the commercial realm to the trifecta MB so that users can control the turbulence cycle and infusion time, essential factors in extracting the flavor notes of the coffee bean rather than the flavor derived from the roasting process. The machine is particularly suited to single-origin coffees.
“The person that’s buying this machine is very engaged in where they’re getting their coffee beans, is very particular about where they’re going to be sourced and how they’re roasted, and being able to craft their personalized cup,” says Nathan Leitner, Product Manager of Home Products for BUNN. “With the control knobs for the infusion cycle and turbulence time, you can really dial in your specific tastes, so it’s that person that really wants to be able to experiment with coffee …. There’s so many ways to mess up a cup of coffee, so we really want to ensure that if you use our equipment that we can guarantee you’re going to have the best result in the cup.”
“It will be interesting to watch going forward as Millennials transition into the older generations. Right now most of them are working age adults and that’s when we start to see, or we think we’ll see, change in their consumption habits,” says DiDomenico. “That’s when a lot of them move away from those sugary cappuccinos, espresso-based beverages, and pick up a regular coffee habit, so we’ll see if that actually happens or if they keep that habit of getting the espresso-based beverages. I think we’re in a bit of a transition so we can maybe in the coming years see where that trend goes.”