Analysis: America’s Coffee Addiction

Pattern Data Science

September 16, 2021

For millions of Americans, coffee is far more than another beverage. It’s a crucial part of their morning routine, a vital midday pick-me-up, and/or the only way to make it through the day.

According to the National Coffee Association, 7 in 10 Americans drink coffee every week, 62% drink it every day, and the average coffee drinker drinks about 3 cups of coffee per day.

It’s no wonder, then, that the beverage has its very own Holiday. National Coffee Day falls on September 29th every year (shortly before International Coffee Day on October 1st). As National Coffee Day approaches, it got us wondering how this past year has impacted the way Americans consume their coffee.

Did COVID-19’s lockdowns result in people stockpiling coffee beans? Did people spend their stimulus checks on a fancy new espresso machine? And if so, have we seen trends shift back to normal in 2021?

As always, we dove deep into our data to uncover insights into how COVID-19 may have impacted online shopping for coffee supplies, how 2021 looks so far, and what that might mean for the future.

Americans stocked up on coffee supplies during initial weeks of COVID-19 lockdowns

There are a lot of layers to analyzing online demand for coffee. People shop online for everything from coffee beans and filters, to high-end coffee makers and espresso machines, and everything between.

So, to keep things simple, we started our analysis with a broad look at online demand for all things related to coffee, starting in January of 2020 through this year so far.

Unsurprisingly, online demand for items and supplies in the “coffee” category spiked in the first weeks of the initial COVID-19 shutdowns. Online demand stayed quite high as Americans clearly stocked up as local coffee shops closed their doors and grocery store shelves began to empty.

By mid-summer, online demand had dipped to below pre-pandemic levels, but rebounded to new high points during the holidays.

For more context, we next compared monthly demand last year to 2019, and 2021 (so far).

In 2019, online demand drops each month from January through April, before slowly climbing again during late summer and spiking to annual highs in November and December.

In 2020, meanwhile, we can see how the early months of the pandemic altered demand in those typically slower months. The rest of 2020 then followed a similar pattern as 2019, but with demand remaining higher during each month.

So far, 2021 has seen demand remain well above 2019’s levels, and even above 2020’s with the exception of March and April. This suggests that many Americans are still holding onto the “at home” coffee setup they began during the pandemic.

To learn even more about how COVID-19 may have changed our coffee habits, we next dug a a few layers deeper into our data.

Comparing online demand for coffee supplies vs coffee equipment

Online shopping for coffee can be broken down into two primary categories: coffee supplies (beans, filters, etc.), and equipment (coffee makers, kettles, etc.). So we next wanted to see if online demand was different for each of these types of categories.

First, we examined demand for coffee beans and coffee filters, starting with weekly demand for each.

Here we see initial evidence that COVID-19 had a far greater impact on coffee supplies than on coffee equipment. Demand for coffee beans absolutely exploded in the first weeks of lockdown, then remained largely consistent in the weeks following.

Demand for coffee makers held steady in the first weeks of the pandemic, spiking instead on Prime Day 2020, during the holidays, and again on Prime Day 2021. This suggests that during the first months of the pandemic, people were far more likely to stock up on supplies than invest in a whole new coffee making setup.

Now let’s take a look at monthly demand since 2019.

After demand for coffee beans exploded during the earliest months of the pandemic, by 2021 it has actually returned to pre-pandemic levels. Interestingly, demand for coffee makers this year has been consistently far higher than during the spring and summer months of both 2020 and 2019.

This suggests that early on in the pandemic, Americans were far more concerned with stocking up on the essentials, but perhaps after many long months away from their favorite coffee shop, people then began to look to upgrading their coffee making equipment.

Which types of coffee supplies and equipment have been most impacted by COVID-19?

To further test this hypothesis, we took an even closer look at specific types of coffee supplies and equipment. Items like coffee filters, espresso machines, k-cups, gooseneck kettles, and more.

We started by comparing total demand for each of these types of supplies and equipment during March and April 2020 to the same timeframe in 2019 to see which ones were most (or least) impacted by the initial COVID lockdowns.

Again, we see here that coffee supplies received a much larger bump in the first months of the pandemic. Coffee filters saw demand surge by a whopping 157%, while coffee beans and cold brew also experienced large lifts in demand.

Nothing on our list saw demand drop during those months, but coffee-making equipment like French presses, coffee makers saw very little change in demand vs. 2019. Interestingly, K-Cups didn’t receive nearly the type of lift that you’d expect based on the type of lift that other coffee supplies received.

Next, let’s compare online demand during 2021 so far vs the same timeframe in 2019 to better understand the long-term impacts of the past 18 months.

Cold brew saw the biggest increase in demand during 2021 so far compared to the first half of 2019, while espresso machines were a very close second.

Cold brew has grown rapidly in popularity over the past few years, so this is quite likely a combination of shifts in consumer appetites as well as the pandemic driving more people to seek ways to get some tasty cold brew outside of their local coffee shop.

The growth in demand for espresso machines in 2021, meanwhile, suggests that perhaps people grew more interested in upgrading their at-home coffee setup as the pandemic dragged on into this year.

Interestingly, french presses, standard coffee drippers, and K-Cups have seen demand drop the most in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels. The extreme drop in demand for K-Cups is extremely interesting. This may be the result of millions of Americans working from home, and K-Cups being an extremely popular office coffee solution. Or it could be signs of a greater shift away from these single-use items.

When we compare monthly demand for K-Cups since 2019, we see some evidence that demand for K-Cups was slowing prior to COVID-19. In fact, demand rose slightly during the initial months of lockdown, only to drop again and continue its downward trend.

This view for cold brew, meanwhile, further suggests that its increase in demand is more due to growth in overall popularity and less to do with pandemic-related shifts. Outside of a moderate bump in March and April 2020, we’ve seen remarkably consistent year-over-year growth from 2019 through 2021 so far.

Finally, a closer look at espresso machines further suggests a potential long-term impact of people spending more and more time at home and less time out at coffee shops. We see very little impact during the initial months of COVID-19, but demand spiked in October 2020 (likely thanks to Prime Day being bumped back to that month last year). It then started 2021 far ahead of January 2019 and 2020, and has remained consistently high throughout the year.

A lesson for brands

Our data shows that making a nice cup of coffee at home is more popular than ever before. The pandemic had a substantial immediate impact on coffee supplies like filters and coffee beans, but we’ve also seen a long term boost for higher-priced items like espresso machines.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

For example, we’re seeing strong evidence that demand for single-use coffee items like K-Cups appears to be waning, while cold brews are more popular than ever.

Either way, we’ll be keeping a close eye on these trends and more in the coming weeks and months.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

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