Specialty Drinks Aren't Just For Millennials

Feb. 13, 2018

There is a misnomer that specialty coffee is just for Millennials. While it is true that specialty coffee is the most popular coffee type amongst Millennials, it is also becoming increasingly popular with Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers each year. Coffee is the most popular beverage among Americans, according to the National Coffee Association (NCA), which conducts a National Coffee Drinking Trends study annually. Millennials show slight increases from 2016 to 2017 in specialty coffee, roughly 9 percent. However, in that same year, specialty coffee consumption amongst Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers increased 15 percent, 6 percent more than Millennials.

Specialty Coffee Lovers Age 40-59 

The NCA has set age brackets in its research. The 40 to 59 age group of respondents includes Gen X-ers and also Baby Boomers. When asked about weekly and daily coffee consumption, both increased greatly from 2016 to 2017 for this group. Weekly gourmet coffee consumption, which is how the NCA categorizes specialty coffee (see sidebar), went from 36 percent in 2016 to 52 percent in 2017. This was the largest growth of all the age group’s gourmet coffee consumption. Daily gourmet coffee consumption for this group also increased 15 percent, going from 24 percent to 39 percent. Again, this is a large increase that needs noting. The fact that this group represents Gen X and Baby Boomers shows that their perspective and interest in gourmet coffee is just as valuable, if not more so, than that of Millennials.

All Sorts Of Coffee Enthusiasts: 60+ 

Even among older Baby Boomers there was a noticeable increase of gourmet coffee consumption. For the 60+ age group, both daily and weekly consumption increased from 2016 to 2017 by 10 percent. For a group of individuals that is rarely looked to for what’s trending, they should be considered noteworthy as they have helped to largely shape consumer growth this year.

Specialty Coffee Influencers: 25-39 

This NCA age group contains both Millennials and Generation X-ers. It showed moderate growth from 2016 to 2017 in gourmet coffee consumption. This group’s daily gourmet coffee consumption increased from 41 percent in 2016 to 50 percent in 2017. This is mostly due to the increase in espresso-based drink consumption. Weekly gourmet coffee consumption had less of an impact, but there was still a slight increase of 3 percent from 2016 to 2017. Because this is a mixed group of Millennials and Gen X-ers it is hard to make compelling arguments about age and consumption. However, it is clear that half of this group was drinking specialty coffee daily in 2017 and over half was drinking specialty coffee weekly.

Young Mils: 18-24 

Consumption of gourmet coffee for the 18-24 year old group, which includes Millennials, had the most stagnant growth from 2016 to 2017. Daily coffee consumption of gourmet coffee in 2016 was 36 percent. This went up by just 3 percent in 2017, which was the most minimal of all the groups studied in the NCA Drinking Trends report. As far as Millennials being ‘leaders’ in the trend for specialty coffee, there isn’t much evidence. In fact, weekly gourmet coffee consumption in this group from 2016 to 2017 actually decreased 3 percentage points.

Overall, although there have been many articles and reports showing the interest by Millennials in specialty coffee, there has not been a corresponding growth in coffee consumption, at least not as there has been among other age groups. Therefore, adding more specialty coffee options answers the demand not just of Millennials, but all age groups in the workforce, especially older generations.