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Hipster Americans drive share of gourmet coffee drinking to record

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A study by the National Coffee Association has found that trendy consumers are becoming pickier about the quality of their morning cup of coffee.

Chicago

THE number of Americans drinking coffee every day has stagnated this year, but evidence suggests that trendy consumers are becoming pickier about the quality of their morning cup of joe.

While 63 per cent of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis, unchanged from last year, the penetration of high-end beverages has hit a record, according to a study by the National Coffee Association (NCA) released at the group's conference on Saturday in Atlanta. The share of gourmet coffee consumed reached 61 per cent, compared to 39 per cent for non-gourmet cups.

Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about what they are buying and are demanding to know where their coffee is coming from, who the farmer was and details about quality such as flavour. That is forcing many companies to change the way that they do business, from offering innovative products to sourcing coffee in exotic origins to cold brew.

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"Coffee is America's most-beloved beverage - and for good reason," Bill Murray, NCA's chief executive officer, said in a statement. "New consumer values have changed the game for coffee. But the industry is adapting - and thriving - by embracing innovation and transparency."

The boom in non-espresso gourmet beverages, including frozen blended coffee and cold brew, has prompted the NCA to add a new category to its survey. Almost 80 per cent of Americans have heard of cold brew and one in every five claim to drink it regularly or occasionally, the survey showed. The drink made by steeping coffee in water for several hours is favoured by consumers under 40 years old.

Drinking habits are also changing, with 82 per cent of the people who drank coffee the day before saying they did it at breakfast, down from 87 per cent in 2012, according to the NCA. The number of people drinking it in the afternoon rose to 25 per cent, up from 19 per cent in 2012.

Home consumption is also eroding. The survey shows that 78 per cent of the people who drank coffee the day before did it at home, down from 84 per cent in 2012. Still, home preparation increased both in 2018 and 2019.

NCA carried out the survey between Jan 7 and Jan 22, and included 2,815 respondents 18 years or older. The US is the world's top coffee consumer. BLOOMBERG