It is an understatement to say millennials are into their coffee. Millennials represent the demographic between ages 18 to 35 and they are consistently driving coffee consumption. The United States is the biggest consumer of coffee on a global scale. Within the United States, millennials consume over 44% of that coffee. They’ve learned to love coffee from an early age and the beverage continues to follow them through their work and social life.
However, we are seeing that millennials have very different tastes and preferences for coffee than their predecessors. As a result, they are asking a lot more from their coffee. Preferences have shifted away from traditional coffee consumption. Rather, they are seeking out decaf coffee, cold brew coffees, and sustainably sourced coffee, just to name a few.
So why are millennials shying away from caffeine and reaching for decaf coffee? As a health-focused generation, they are very proactive in choosing what they consume. They want to understand the benefits and potential cons of the food and drink on offer. Millennials are committed to eating right, frequent exercise, and taking care of themselves through a wholesome lifestyle.
This means they are choosing to drink caffeine, but only in moderation. They know there are detriments of too much caffeine and they are aiming to change that. For example, they may start their day with a regular coffee, but turn to decaf options throughout the day and when out socialising with friends. In turn, cafés are responding by having more decaf options on the menu.
Cold Brew Coffee
The emergence of cold brew coffee is brewing with potential for the millennial market. So far, in the United States, over 65% of millennials drink iced coffee versus only 34% of Generation X. Until recently, iced coffee used to be brewed hot and then poured over ice before serving. This meant the coffee was bitter in taste and required ample amounts of cream, milk, and sugar to hide the bitter flavour. With these additional ingredients came additional calories.
However, cold coffee has taken a gourmet turn with the introduction of the cold brew. This method doesn’t heat the coffee. Therefore, it doesn’t release the chemical compounds that produce the bitter and acidic flavours. Rather, the cold brew is meant to negate those flavours and enhance the genuine coffee bean flavour. Millennials love to customise and personalise products they consume. The cold brew is no exception. Not only is it unique and can encapsulate artisanal qualities, this drink can mould to their lifestyle, activities and the weather.
Millennials are consistently after products that can reassure them of their sustainable roots. Not only do they want artisanal flavours, the option of decaf or cold, they want their coffee to have a traceable direction to sustainability. They also want the cups and packages their coffee comes in to be recyclable and produced with renewable materials.
Several years ago, a café’s inventory stock might have been filled with polystyrene cups, but millennials are turning their noses to that. They want sustainability throughout the coffee supply chain, demanding that café suppliers have an inventory stock of recyclable cups. With more social media platforms exploring and voicing beliefs around this matter, it will force a shift towards sustainability. This shift may very well change the shape of café’s inventory stock, with more sustainable coffee and serving products.
As millennials continue to be key consumers of coffee, their demands will shape the industry and the menus of cafés across the United States and the globe.