Understanding Millennial Coffee Trends

TJ Grant
January 7, 2021
millennial coffee trends

For specialty coffee roasters, it’s crucial to keep up with trends in the coffee industry, whether it’s the rise of RTD or the development of premium instant coffee.

However, staying on top of things also requires an understanding of the forces behind these trends. Currently, one of the largest target markets for coffee consumption is millennial drinkers, a group consisting of those born between 1981 and 1996.

Tech-savvy, eco-conscious, and inquisitive, millennials are leading a number of changes in the coffee market, from increases in quality and transparency to focuses on sustainability and convenience.

Read on to find out about the latest trends in millennial coffee consumption, and how you can improve your presence in this market.

See also: What Are Drip Coffee Bags?

man using an aeropress to brew coffee

Coffee Consumption Among Millennials

According to studies by the National Coffee Association (NCA), more young people than ever are consuming coffee.

Between 2000 and 2014, they found that the percentage of 18 to 24-year-olds who consume coffee daily jumped from 25% to 51%. Among the same age group, they found that the number of cups per day had also increased, from an average of 2.3 in 2013 to 3.3 in 2014. 

“More people are drinking coffee,” says Bill Murray, President and CEO of the NCA in an article for Daily Coffee News. “And younger consumers appear to be leading the charge.”

The immense influence they have on the coffee industry and its trends should come as no surprise. Millennials are the largest generational group in the United States, one of the most important global coffee-consuming markets, with an estimated population over 72 million people aged 24-39.

Yet advancements in technology and the relentless rise of social media have also played a part. Not only do the majority of millennials now use smartphone applications to order their coffee on the go, they also have a tendency to share the results across their social media.

Heather Ward, a research analyst for the Specialty Coffee Association of America, writes: “Once millennials interact with a product, they turn to social media to review or ask friends for advice on making a purchasing decision.

“From a millennial’s perspective, you do not make a decision without your friends. This is a group of young adults who were raised to be tech-savvy and embrace a fast-paced lifestyle,” she adds.

rtd and cold brew

Cold Brew & Ready To Drink (RTD) Coffee

One of the most significant trends driven by millennials is the rise of “non-espresso-based” beverages.

Sales of cold brew coffee have increased exponentially from 2011 to 2016 by nearly 600%, with millennials drinking around double the amount of cold brew compared to those born between 1965 and 1980.

For the first time ever, the NCA included a non-espresso-based beverage category on their 2017 annual NCDT report, which included frozen blended, cold brew and nitrogen-infused drinks, due to the dramatic rise in demand for these products among millennials.

Ready to drink (RTD) coffee is also experiencing a period of meteoric growth thanks to millennials. Together with cold brew coffee, it is one of the fastest-growing food and beverage market segments in the world, with leading players such as Starbucks and Costa having launched their own line of RTD products in recent years. 

Today, more than two-thirds of 18 to 34-year-olds in the US consumed single-serve RTD coffee beverages, while in 2018, the sales of iced drinks came close to £400 million in the UK alone.

This growth is largely thanks to the speed and convenience of RTD beverage consumption, which tends to suit the on-the-go lifestyles of young people. It also signals a shift away from energy drinks and the potential health risks associated with high sugar content.

As non-espresso-based beverages have become increasingly popular, there has been a renewed focus on their quality. The use of higher quality, specialty in these beverages are gradually becoming commonplace, as third wave coffee consumers switch their attention to quality over price.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer certified sustainable solutions for RTD beverages with the addition of a resealable spout to our shaped pouch, ensuring customers can enjoy their coffee on the go.

coffee packaging

Greater Focus On Quality

The third wave movement in coffee culture is characterised by an ever-greater focus on quality coffee and its origin. 

Millennials are the leading forces behind this third wave movement, with SCA News reporting that 35% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 42% of 25 to 39-year-olds drink specialty coffee everyday.

“A steadily growing taste for gourmet varieties [among young people] is driving a wider trend toward specialty beverages,” Bill says.

Indeed, single origin coffee (a coffee sourced from a single region or estate) has become particularly popular among millennials in recent years. Generally, single origin coffees are defined by unique and distinct flavour notes and aromas, and typically offer a high level of supply chain transparency.

Those who consume single origin coffee and even specialty blends typically want to know more about their coffee, from the origin and variety to the roast date and profile. To cater to this, specialty coffee roasters should include relevant information on packaging labels or using QR codes and separate tasting cards. 

Roasters can also choose to add transparent windows on the front of coffee pouches to allow customers to view the the beans before they make a purchase, or degassing valve to pick up on the distinct aroma of the coffee. 


How Important Is Sustainability To Millennials?

Over the last few years, millennial coffee consumers have made their commitment to sustainability abundantly clear.

More than 80% of millennials say they understand what’s meant by “sustainable coffee”, and 86% of this demographic have declared a willingness to pay more for coffee that’s sustainably sourced and produced.

Meanwhile, SCA News reports that half of millennials say they would purchase products from companies that overtly support causes such as environmental and ethical issues. Young people are also more likely to have heard of organisations such as Rainforest Alliance.

This suggests that specialty coffee roasters should include sustainability certifications on their coffee packaging if they want to appeal to a millennial audience. Certifications such as the Green Dot, Mobius Loop, and Fairtrade should all be added to packaging to showcase a genuine commitment to sustainability. 

Choosing biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable packaging materials could also be an effective way of attracting a younger market and transforming your coffee into an environmentally friendly product. 

MTPak Coffee’s fully compostable, biodegradable, and recyclable packaging range offers viable solutions to these ever-growing concerns for the environment. Our packaging materials, such as kraft paper, rice paper, and PLA, are, when left untreated, 100% biodegradable and compostable.

entre cerros coffee bag and glass pour over

For specialty coffee roasters, it is essential to use products and packaging that cater to millennial consumer demands. Today, this group continues to drive a range of new trends in coffee, not only because they’re the one of the largest age demographics, but also because their purchasing power is reaching its peak.

Whether choosing a stand-up pouch for single origin or a shaped pouch for RTD, MTPak Coffee can help you find the perfect packaging solutions for your coffee. Our sustainable materials and compostable components mean you can create an environmentally friendly product that will appeal to young people, while showcasing and preserving the quality of your coffee.

For more information on packaging for millennial coffee consumers, contact our team here.

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