Customize Coffee Offerings For Today's Worker

March 4, 2016
Use consumer research to ensure your office coffee service appeals to your target audience with the types of coffee they want most.

Workplace coffee is booming. Last fall, office coffee service (OCS) operators reported record-breaking revenues in most of the country. Consumers have driven this growth, with their delight and demand for a premium cup of coffee no matter the cost. With the improving economy, businesses are adding OCS benefits to keep their top employees happy and on site for high performance. Companies of all sizes are trying to remain competitive by offering free coffee in the workplace and they need the OCS providers’ help to do it.

By evaluating a work environment by the age of employees and their ethnic group, OCS providers can make the most of this increased demand for coffee.

Millennial work coffee preferences

Millennial employees, the working professionals born between the 1980s and early 2000s, are driving gourmet coffee consumption. As of 2015, Millennials represent about 35 percent of today’s workforce, according to the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics. That is roughly 51,498,000 employees from ages 16 to 34 in occupations that range from professional to service-related.

Assessing Millennial drinking habits, the National Coffee Association (NCA) has found that they are the heaviest consumers of gourmet coffee beverages. Specifically, the 2015 NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends Study reveals that three out of 10 coffee drinkers ages 18 to39 consumed only gourmet coffee beverages during the past week, compared to traditional, not gourmet coffee preferred by the older age groups.

Diving deeper into the type of roast and flavor platform, medium roast was preferred by all groups, regardless of age. However, the NCA data did find the lighter roasts were favored more by younger consumers, especially those ages 18 to 24.

Millennials and the middle-aged consumers are also likely to opt for sugar in their coffee, over their older co-workers. Sugar was added to coffee over half the time by those ages 18 to 39.

The majority of the workforce

Despite the important focus of offering products that fit into a Millennial preference, the bulk of the workforce is made up of Generation X (those from 35 to 51) and the Baby Boomers (51+). This age group likes many of the same things as Millennials, but there are a few differences of which OCS providers should be aware.

According to the latest NCA report, employees ranging in ages from 29-59 are among those that consume the greatest amount of coffee at work. Consumers aged 40 to 60+ were the most likely to drink Traditional – not Gourmet coffee, with less of an emphasis on adding sweeteners than younger coworkers. Sugar was used by 37 percent of those 40 to 59 and even less by those over 60. And while medium roast seems to have the best acceptance across the generations, dark roast is among their favorite. A nice majority, 66 percent of people ages 40 to 60+ brew dark roast coffee, with just 13 percent preferring a light roast, according to the NCA.

Hispanic-Americans top coffee drinkers

A difference of coffee preferences among ethnic groups is also quite common. For years, Hispanic-Americans have been the largest consumers of coffee daily. In 2015, NCA’s data shows that continuing with 79 percent of Hispanic-Americans drinking coffee in the past day -- both traditional and gourmet varieties. Caucasian and Asian-Americans followed with the next highest consumption, but of different types of coffee. Caucasian-Americans drank traditional not gourmet coffee, while Asian Americans favored gourmet coffee beverages. African-Americans, as an ethnic group in the study, were the least likely to drink any kind of coffee with 56 percent of them having a cup in the past day. The coffee drinkers were nearly equal on their preference for gourmet (40 percent) or traditional coffee (38 percent) if they drank coffee in the last 24 hours.

Consumer trends data is important in understanding today’s consumer preferences. By analyzing the particulars of the OCS location, and applying research trends, operators can better present a winning OCS solution. This type of customized service will set OCS operators apart from Internet and office supply retailers that offer coffee purely as a commodity, instead of a full-bodied employee benefit and specialty refreshment solution.