Retail Reboot: Away-from-Home Coffee’s Post-Pandemic Future

By William “Bill” Murray, NCA President & CEO


What does the post-pandemic future hold for the hundreds of thousands of retail outlets that provide coffee to Americans away-from-home?

The Spring ’21 NCDT showed a pandemic-induced dip in away-from-home coffee preparation, but there is reason to be optimistic.

The most recent study we conducted, the National Coffee Association’s National Coffee Data Trends report, offers many reasons for optimism for all segments of the coffee sector – including away-from-home.

Unlike some industries – travel, tourism, live entertainment – the coffee industry, as a whole, has fared reasonably well.  Coffee drinking is not only safe, no matter where you enjoy it, but is connected to numerous health benefits.  In fact, a large group of independent studies associates coffee drinking with lower levels of depression – important to know during a horrific pandemic.

All of which supports America’s continuing love affair with coffee, right through the pandemic.  In January of this year, 58% of Americans reported drinking coffee “yesterday,” down from 62% a year ago, a modest change – especially when considering the study’s 2.5% margin of error.

But while coffee continues to be America’s favorite beverage, it is true that the away-from-home segment has been impacted by the pandemic.  This impact, though, is temporary – a direct result of the pandemic – and is already reversing.

We know this because of what the data tells us about the recent past – and consumer attitudes – towards coffee.

First, one reason the away-from-home coffee segment has suffered is because of the rolling, random lockdowns the country has experienced.  These are coming to an end.

Second, the slight decrease in overall coffee consumption is linked to the economic impact of the pandemic.  24% of Americans told us in January of 2021 that their financial situation was “much or somewhat worse” than a year ago, up from 13% who told us the same thing in January 2020.  Stimulus checks are in the mail, and shortages of workers are growing.  Recent reports confirmed a surge in retail sales in March and dropping unemployment.  The economy is poised for a comeback – the worry now is actually over an “overheated” economy, and the inflation that could ensue.

Third, coffee drinking during the pandemic has been up marginally in the morning and at breakfast – but down marginally in the afternoon.  24% of Americans reported having an afternoon coffee in January ’20, down to 20% this past January.  That afternoon coffee is closely associated with socializing, work, or being out and about, and will reverse as America reopens.

Fourth, contrary to the headlines, away-from-home coffee never disappeared.  In fact, over two-thirds of respondents told us in January ’21 that they were already back in their coffee shops, or anticipating a return in the near future.  First responders, truckers, delivery service workers, skilled tradespeople, grocery store employees, public sector employees – those in the “Essential” parts of the economy (including many coffee suppliers, by the way) have been there all along.  About 11% of coffee drinkers drank their coffee during their commute – right through the pandemic.

Fifth, away-from-home coffee has pivoted quickly to adapt to the new reality, and coffee drinkers have responded.  By September of last year, 39% of away-from-home coffee drinkers had ordered through an app, up from 24% in January ’20.

But there’s more.  Turning from what has been happening to what coffee drinkers want to happen, the optimism grows even stronger.

The sixth reason for optimism is that coffee drinkers miss their away-from-home coffee.  In January, 2021, 35% of respondents either agreed strongly or somewhat agreed that they “miss the social aspect” of going out to coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants, 34% said that they miss their “regular” away-from-home venues, and 33% said that they miss treating themselves by going out. 

Some social psychologists have speculated that the post-lockdown period could be like the Roaring 20’s – a country ready to let loose.  Indulging in a favorite coffee beverage prepared by a favorite barista would be one way to do that!

Seventh, the steps that away-from-home venues can take to encourage customers’ return – while requiring some investment – are straightforward.  43% of respondents told us that having workers wear masks and gloves – and having other customers wear masks – were steps that venues can take to “encourage (me) to visit them more often.”  Practicing visible sanitation protocols, and limiting capacity/crowd control also scored highly.  (See our free NCA guide to safely reopening your coffee business for more on this topic.)

Bottom line?  Vaccines are rolling out, even with hiccups.  The economy is improving.  America has not lost its love for, its need for, and its relationship with coffee. America misses its favorite coffee shop, restaurant, and café – and for the one-third of Americans who are cautious about resuming their old routines, there are more reasons every day to feel reassured.

We’ve been through the worst we ever could have imagined – but today, and tomorrow, are better for all of us in coffee – especially the men and women around the world who grow the coffee we love.

NCA National Coffee Data Trends 2019

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The Behaviors & Perceptions of U.S. Coffee Drinkers

63% of American adults drink coffee daily, according to new market research announced at the 2019 NCA Annual Convention in Atlanta.


The National Coffee Association USA (NCA) offered a first look at the redesigned and rebranded 2019 National Coffee Data Trends (NCDT) today at the 2019 NCA Annual Convention in the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta, GA. The NCDT report has tracked consumer behaviors and perceptions shaping coffee trends in the US for almost 70 years.

63% of American adults drink coffee daily, according to the NCDT, steady with 2018 consumption.

“Coffee is America’s most beloved beverage – and for good reason,” said William (Bill) Murray, NCA President & CEO. “New consumer values have changed the game for coffee. But the industry is adapting – and thriving – by embracing innovation and transparency.”

From sustainability to wellness, these realigned priorities mean that consumers are paying more attention to what’s in their cup than ever before.

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For RTD Coffee, Cold is Hot

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Generation Z and young millennial consumers are driving RTD market trends

Top industry trends to watch, according to the latest market research.

US cold brew has emerged as a vibrant growth segment for the global coffee market.


Related Resources: RTD & Cold Brew

The NCA Cold Brew Toolkit & FAQ
Science-based guidance for the coffee industry

NCA Coffee Market Snapshot Reports
25% discount extended for a limited time only!

Webinar: What’s Brewing in RTD Coffee
Featuring Mintel


The following post is adapted from the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal Editor’s Blog 

The weather is turning cooler — but RTD coffee does not seem to need hot weather to entice consumers. The appeal is already there and growing.

According to research from the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), in 2017 approximately one in five (19%) global new coffee launches was iced, ready-to-drink (RTD), up from 16% in 2015.

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New Seasonal Flavors Spice Up Fall Coffee Menus

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4 in 5 consumers say they look forward to fall seasonal items the most

Is this the end of pumpkin spice?

By Amanda Topper, Mintel

The following is an edited excerpt from the Mintel Blog. Read the full post 


Wake up and smell the coffee: Pumpkin spice’s reign as top autumn coffee beverage may be coming to an end.

Menu mentions of pumpkin-flavored coffees declined 30% from Fall 2015-Fall 2017, according to Mintel Menu Insights. This decline was driven mainly by a few quick-service restaurants (QSRs).

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Fresh Brewed Data: New NCA Coffee Market Research Breakout Reports

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The National Coffee Association recently launched 8 new market research mini reports, based on new analysis of 2018 consumption trends data

By Karly Nevils, Dig Insights (karly@diginsights.com)

This July, it’s going to be a brew-tiful month!

The NCA has released eight new breakout market research reports based on the 2018 National Coffee Drinking Trends (NCDT) study data.

The reports look at the following topics:

National Coffee Drinking Trends Breakout research Reports

New NCA Market Research Reports

  • Coffee Brewing
  • Health and Coffee
  • Coffee Claims
  • Coffee at Work
  • Gourmet Coffee
  • Coffee Preparation In-Home
  • Coffee Preparation Out-of-Home
  • Tea – available free for a limited time only!

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World Coffee Market and Trade: 2018/19 Forecast Overview

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World coffee production for 2018/19 is forecast 11.4 million bags higher than the previous year at a record 171.2 million primarily due to Brazil’s record output, according to the USDA’s “Coffee: World Markets and Trade” report, published June 2018.

With global consumption forecast at a record 163.2 million bags, exports are expected up in response to strong demand. Ending stocks are forecast to rebound following 3 years of decline.

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How Many People in the United States Drink Specialty Coffee?

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2017 U.S. Specialty Coffee Consumption Trends Infographic

The full version of the following post was first published on SCA News

By Heather Ward

Specialty coffee consumption in the U.S. is growing, and 2017 saw a significant increase in daily specialty coffee drinkers.

Over the last 18 years, the number of daily specialty coffee drinkers has consistently increased, strengthening the consumer demand for specialty coffee.

Let’s take a closer look at the data.

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Swipe Right For Market Research

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What Upsiide Tells Us About Beverage Rankings

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Upsiide is a new idea screening app that is inspired by Tinder. Designed by Dig Insights (the experts behind the NCA’s National Coffee Drinking Trends Report and new Generational Report), the mobile platform connects companies to real-time consumer feedback and powerful analytics.

The concept sounds complicated, but it’s simple to use. Here’s how it works:

Consumers using the app will be shown an idea (a new beverage idea, a potential claim, a packaging idea, a branding idea a positioning idea, etc.). The idea can be expressed with any combination of text / images / video. The consumer can either like or dislike the idea (by swiping), or request more information. Once two ideas are liked, they are paired head-to-head and the consumer tells us which is best. The winner moves on to the next round.

So what does Upsiide tell us about beverages?

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Can Cold Brew Perk Up the Coffee Market?

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The following article was originally published by Bloomberg Markets

By Marvin G. Perez

For roasters and producers, cold brew can lead to more bean sales at a time of year when demand traditionally slackens. The need to soak up extra supply is especially important with the price of arabica coffee futures in New York dropping as much as 21% in the past year, and the pace of demand growth in the U.S. forecast to slow.

The benefit of cold brew is twofold: it uses more than twice the amount of ground beans, and it does battle against the efficient single-serve pods that have whittled coffee use and waste.

In the 12 months ended in February, sales of cold brew in the U.S. were up about 80% over the prior year, according to estimates from Cedarhurst, New York-based researcher StudyLogic. Sales of hot coffee fell 3% over the same period. Americans drank 105 billion cups in the 12 months ended in May, StudyLogic Chief Operating Officer Samuel Nahmias said.

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