Beverages At Work: Now More Than Ever!

July 22, 2014
New research confirms that a core group of customers are increasing their consumption of coffee and bottled water in the work place.

Coffee drinkers, especially frequent coffee drinkers, consider availability of coffee at work to be “very” to “extremely” important. This was one of the findings of the research conducted by Harris Interactive on beverage consumption trends presented at the National Automatic Merchandising Association Coffee Service Education Summit in Cherry Hill, N.J. earlier this summer.

Another significant finding was that consumption of bottled water at work has increased dramatically over the past year, outpacing all other beverages. During the same period, coffee consumption held steady overall while there was a drop in soda/iced tea, hot chocolate/iced tea and specialty coffee drinks.

The Harris Interactive research reinforced some of the findings reported earlier this year in Automatic Merchandiser’s “Case for Vending” series, beginning in January. Automatic Merchandiser extracted some of the findings of the Harris Interactive research to formulate part 6 of “The Case for Vending,” specifically those findings regarding how consumers view the importance of beverage refreshments in the work place.

One takeaway from the Harris Interactive research is that in the past year, heavy coffee consumers are increasing their consumption of coffee and other beverages in the work place. The growth could be driven by the desire to spend less money on refreshments outside of the work place due to the recession.

The Harris Interactive information revealed that a cadre of consumers place a great premium on the availability of workplace refreshments. This finding supports Automatic Merchandiser’s report in January that a minority of consumers make the majority of vending purchases, and among this select group, vending sales have not declined as much as sales in other venues.


The Harris Interactive findings concerning specialty coffee reveal an opportunity for refreshment service providers. The research found that specialty coffee consumption at work, unlike regular coffee consumption, declined in the past year.

However, the decline in specialty coffee drinks at work was likely due to a drop in availability, which the survey also found. The consumption of specialty coffee in all retail channels continues to hold steady, according to various industry sources. The lack of availability in the work place represents an opportunity for refreshment service operators to add sales.

The Harris Interactive research, which is based on an online survey among a stratified random sample of employed American adults, age 18 and above, was conducted in June of 2009. A total of 1,438 respondents participated in the survey.


The research found that having coffee in the work place makes coffee drinkers feel like their employer cares about them, making them feel appreciated and valued at work, the researchers claimed.

The researchers further claimed coffee availability in the work place reinforces these employees’ sense of stability, confirming that they are working for a successful firm, which many feel is important in these times of economic uncertainty.

The research found that employees utilize coffee to manage their mental and physical states; it provides a boost of energy throughout the day, keeping them focused and on-task.

Conversely, coffee at work also can give employees a break from their workload and reduce stress. This ability to manage their moods makes them more productive at work, the researchers claim.

Given the heavier work loads that many employees are carrying with the recent downsizings and layoffs, the researchers claim refreshment service providers should not underestimate the value of beverages that make employees more productive. Employers are constantly looking for ways to increase productivity in their workforce. Employers may need to be reminded of the impact of coffee on productivity and, therefore, profits, the researchers claimed.


The researchers noted that all coffee drinkers are not the same.

“Heavy” coffee drinkers depend on coffee to get them through their day. Given the amount of coffee (and other beverages) they consume, they are likely to be the most appreciative of coffee availability in general, and even more so if the coffee is free. Companies that provide this benefit should communicate this value added to their employees.

The survey revealed several characteristics of “heavy” coffee drinkers:

• They are most likely to have free coffee at work.
• They are most likely to have increased their coffee consumption in the past year.
• They are most likely to drink coffee at work to achieve a physical and mental state change.

Those who bring coffee from home or purchase it en route to work do so because they want a better product or due to lack of availability at work. They also drink the most beverages at work overall.

Bottled water is the most frequently consumed other beverage, followed by soda, iced tea, coffee drinks and juice.


Interestingly, there has been increased coffee consumption at work among younger employees. Further exploration of the reasons behind this change in behavior may provide marketing opportunities for increasing this trend, the researchers claimed.

In summarizing opportunities available to refreshment services industry, the researchers noted the majority of employees depend upon coffee availability at work, as they do not bring it in from home or purchase it en route. In fact, fewer employees are purchasing coffee en route, which may be a function of the economic crunch.


The researchers noted there is an opportunity for employers to ensure the enhanced productivity that coffee provides, as well as increase employee morale, by ensuring the availability of coffee at work.

At the same time, those employees who bring in or buy coffee on the way to work are looking for a better product, which may provide an opportunity to upsell clients to a higher quality product.

There may also be an opportunity to provide a broader selection of coffee drinks in place of the hot chocolate/tea offerings, which do not serve a broad audience, the researchers noted.

A key point was that specialty coffee is now reaching the mainstream through fast food restaurants. While this is happening, specialty coffee remains the least available beverage in the work place. The research identified a big opportunity in replacing hot chocolate and tea, which have limited audiences, with specialty drinks.

Heavy coffee drinkers also tend to consume more beverages at work than other segments, specifically bottled water.

Talking Points

* The recession has increased many consumers’ reliance on refreshment beverages at work.
* Employees who value beverages at work are highly appreciative of employers who make them available.
* Consumption of regular coffee and bottled water has increased in the work place.
* Specialty coffee in the work place offers an opportunity for refreshment service operators.