No 30

Millennials: a Driving Force of the Specialty Coffee Industry

October, 2016


Millennials: a Driving Force of the Specialty Coffee Industry

Young people between 18 and 34 years old lead out-of-home consumption in the United States and consider themselves experts in food and coffee, which represents a great opportunity to educate them and invite them to origin.

In the last issue of Bean & Beyond, we supplied readers and program members with the interesting findings of a study by the company S&D Coffee and Tea on Millennial’s consumption of specialty coffees.

But this learning did not remain on paper. In the latest edition of ExpoEspeciales Café de Colombia, the most important specialty coffee expo in Latin America and the Caribbean, we had the opportunity to deepen even further on the study’s findings.

With the lecture “Speaking to new generations about specialty coffees: Millennials and coffee consumption,” the Corporate Social Responsibility director of S&D Coffee and Tea, David Piza, was one of the speakers invited to the academic agenda of ExpoEspeciales.

Breaking down basic, enhanced and elevated needs of millennials, Piza reminded that young people aged 18-34 lead out-of-home consumption in the United States and consider themselves experts in food and coffee. “This is an opportunity to educate them, to invite them to know origin,” he noted.

These young people are also very aware of innovative coffee preparations such as cold brew, but only half of them have tasted them, something that represents great potential sales.

Piza explained, according to the study, what young people understand by specialty coffee: for them, the very construction of the drink, a special name, customization, indulgence and quality are important, and for these reasons they are willing to pay a higher price.


The S&D study analyses, like in a pyramid, the basic needs of young coffee consumers (aspects such as a clean place, fresh coffee and affordable price).

At a higher level are the needs that help them better connect with the beverage or brand (variety of flavors, options, atmosphere, etc.) and at the top of the pyramid are those which, once fulfilled (including what they understand by ethics and sustainability), will make them promoters of specific brands or drinks.

“We found that 82% of them have heard the word sustainable, but only 22% know exactly what it means, even if their perception of sustainable is highly positive. It is important to define concepts with their own terms, translate them,” Piza noted.

In customization of the drink, the barista plays a key role in coffee design and brewing in the eyes of these young people.

Origin and real, authentic stories about people producing coffee are also important, Piza pointed out.

“In the US market, almost 50% of coffees are mild, of which almost a half is Colombian coffee,” Felipe Robayo, Chief Commercial Officer of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), noted at the end of the lecture.


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