Cold Is Hot In The Ever-Percolating Coffee Category


Image above: Brad Pitt looking good in ad for De’Longhi’s new Dinamica Plus bean-to-cup espresso machine.


While almost all CPG categories have enjoyed higher sales throughout COVID-19, very few are expected to benefit as much as coffee going forward.

“The pandemic brought strong growth for the coffee market as consumers tried new coffee products, created their own specialty coffee drinks and upgraded their home coffee bars,” says Caleb Bryant, associate director of food and drink reports at research firm Mintel.

Even when more businesses welcome back employees, working remotely is a trend that’s expected to endure. As a result, at-home consumption is forecast to provide a continued boost for the coffee category and its various iterations.

One of the most noteworthy trends that Lightspeed/Mintel identified in a recent survey of 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18+ is how Gen Z’s preference for cold, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee posts a challenge to hot-brewed. The main reasons for choosing RTD are convenience and flavor.

Asked which coffee drinks they consume most often, 60% of Gen Z respondents cited RTD compared to 54% of millennials, 37% of Gen X and 16% of baby boomers.

According to retail channels tracked by NielsenIQ, RTD was a hit even before the pandemic.

For example, in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 25 of 2018, dollar sales of RTD rose 8.6% compared to a 1.2% decline in ground coffee. Fast-forwarding to the 52 weeks ended Aug. 21 of 2021 shows a 20.1% increase in RTD and a 2.5% decrease in ground.

From a brand standpoint, Starbucks dominates the RTD category, commanding roughly 70% of the market. It’s also the most popular brand across all types of coffee products found in grocery stores, according to shopper marketing and insights platform AdAdapted.

Starbucks is followed by Dunkin’, Peet’s, Maxwell House, Kirkland, Green Mountain, Café Bustelo, STK and Gevalia, according to AdAdapted.

Another pandemic-related trend identified by Mintel is the rise of “home baristas” seeking to replicate the coffee shop experience with brewing machines.

Among 1,669 adult coffee drinkers surveyed by Lightspeed/Mintel, 29% of Gen Z respondents said they had made specialty coffee drinks at home throughout the pandemic. This compares with 28% of millennials, 21% of Gen X and 14% of boomers.

Among the companies seeking to leverage the barista trend is Italy’s De’Longhi, a leader in specialty coffee and espresso machines. The company just launched its first international advertising campaign with a cinematic film featuring actor and De’Longhi “global ambassador” Brad Pitt.

In this 60-second commercial, Pitt buys coffee beans, then rides around Los Angeles on a motorcycle. He stops to buy gas at a Food Mart—glancing at a coffee sign in the window—before returning home to prepare his own beverage using De’Longhi’s new Dinamica Plus, bean-to-cup espresso machine.

For those seeking a cheaper and more portable caffeine option, San Diego-based Wildland Coffee has introduced coffee in a tea bag. It can be prepared by submerging a bag in eight ounces of hot water or soaking it in cold water for up to 12 hours.

This 30-spot encourages viewers to “wrestle the wild, not your coffee.” It depicts a camper waking in the woods and starting a fire by rubbing two rocks together before boiling water for a Wildland cup of coffee.

Then he shares it with a bear.

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