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The Top 10 Places Gen Z & Millennials Like to Buy Their Coffee

They’re more likely to buy their coffee on the go than previous generations, so what are their favorite places to pick up cold brew, lattes, and more? We asked Millennials and Gen Z, and the top coffee places winning over these young consumers are…

Millennials may not be as addicted to coffee as previous generations, but when they do drink it they’re more likely to buy a cup instead of making it at home—good news for Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Research from AllianceBernstein shows 48% of 18-24-year-olds drank coffee in the last day compared to 58% of older demos, but 42% of young Millennials purchased their last cup, compared to 31% of older consumers. According to an AllianceBernstein analyst, “away-from-home (AFH) coffee consumption is growing faster than the broader restaurant industry, driven by demographic shifts in the coffee-drinking population.”

According to YPulse’s own research, 48% of 18-34-year-olds drink coffee in a typical weekday—and they name it as one of their favorite drinks. On top of that, their tendency to buy coffee out of home has sparked new trends, and 27% of 18-34-year-olds say they have tried cold brew coffee. In fact, cold coffee sales are soaring, thanks to Millennials. The Wall Street Journal reports that young consumers are opting for ready-to-drink versions of coffee from supermarkets, and they’re motivated by convenience and cost. Sales of refrigerated, pre-made joe went up 29% between fall 2016 and fall 2017, according to IRI. Top brands are looking to tap into the $2.7 billion industry for ready-made coffee, and even though Starbucks has an early advantage, Dunkin’, Peet’s Coffee, and others are making sure not to miss out.

With these generations creating huge opportunities for coffee chains, the competition to get them in the door is high and we’re keeping tabs on what chains are winning out with young consumers. In our recent survey on drinking and nightlife, we asked 1000 13-35-year-olds, “Thinking about places where you go to buy COFFEE what is your favorite place to buy your brewed coffee, iced coffee, cappuccinos, lattes and espressos?”* Here are their top answers:

*This was an open-end response question to allow us to capture the full range of coffee chains and restaurants that Millennials and Gen Z say are their favorites—without our preconceived ideas shaping their responses. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind and those that are most popular. The lists are ordered according to number of responses received, and alphabetically when ties occurred.

What’s Their Favorite Place to Buy Coffee?


      1. Starbucks
      2. Local Cafe
      3. Dunkin’ Donuts
      4. McDonald’s
      5. Caribou Coffee
      6. Peet’s Coffee
      7. Wawa
      8. Tim Horton’s
      9. Panera Bread
      10. Dutch Bros.

Starbucks hasn’t been beat yet. For the third year in a row, the chain rules the list of favorite places to buy coffee, and was the top chain mentioned among males, females, Gen Z, and Millennials. This year, the brand struck upon a new way to get young consumers in their doors: Instagrammability. Inspired by the viral unicorn trend, Starbucks’ Instagram-ready Unicorn Frappuccino made quite the impression when they released the limited-edition beverage in April. The “insanely colorful, magical” drink caused consumers to start “freaking out” thanks to its “highly-photogenic” appearance, making it “tailor-made” for social media. Starbucks has continued to release drinks that are designed to be Instagrammed, and we even included them on our list of brands winning out with Millennials (besides Apple) earlier this year. A 13-year-old female told us, “They are always coming up with new recipes and new products to make things better. They used to be narrow and now they have lots of choices and more all the time.” Starbucks has also learned to listen to their fans to find their latest creations, tapping into “secret recipes” that trend online to add new items to their menu—a move that makes consumers feel part of the creative process. While other chains might be attempting to create the same kind of devotion, no one has come close to Starbuck’s top spot yet.

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.