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The new 2021 NCA/SCA report shows recent trends in specialty coffee consumption



It can be seen as a useful add-on to the NCA’s annual National Coffee Data Trends publication, released earlier this year, with the main focus on information about specialty coffee. Through various statistical data, this report demonstrates how all the countless ways of special coffee consumption were changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Presented data suggest that 73% of people who drink specialty coffee are missing their regular coffee outlets in most cases. That shows the importance of local coffee businesses to people's regular life all across the USA," SCA CEO Yannis Apostolopoulos mentioned in a recent launch announcement. "Our recent partnership with the NCA let us dig into consumer data and bring our analysis to specialty coffee business. We believe that they can use it to adapt to the current difficult situation and grow stronger this way."

The report also serves as a reminder that higher-end specialty coffee fills only a small part of the U.S. coffee market. 

This report includes surveys with a nationally representative sample of more than 1,500 adults of different ages who relate to various ethnicities. The definition of specialty coffee in NCA reports is a little blurry, so it is in the coffee industry in general. On paper, it is classified as "any kind of espresso-based drinks (lattes, cappuccinos, etc.), not espresso-based drinks (frozen blend, cold brew, nitro) and traditional classic coffee made with high-class coffee beans/grounds."

But in the last years reports that category was described as "gourmet". Blurry, you see!


You can read the whole 64-page report here, it's completely free, although you need complete registration to gain access to it. There are the most important highlights from the January 2021 surveys data:

Global consumption tendency

  • among 18+ people only 36% drank specialty coffee within the past couple of days and 58% of people drank at least one cup of coffee.

Part of the reasons this percentage is so low is, of course, the worldwide pandemic we are currently living in and can be considered a short-term problem for the industry that will eventually solve itself. But for the specialty coffee industry that can be the reason for concern. According to earlier NCA reports, in 2017-18 past-day specialty/gourmet coffee consumption was at 41%, in 2020 it was at 39%, and now it's down to already mentioned 36%. 

The NCA also noted that consumption of the traditional whole bean or ground specialty coffee took a reasonable part of this number (around 4% points). 

  • 22% of the participants said they drank an espresso-based beverage yesterday with only 13% who drank not espresso-based coffee.
  • The most popular way to prepare the coffee was automatic drip machines and single-serve pod brewers, both for regular and specialty coffee drinkers. However, specialty coffee drinkers used some 'niche' ways of preparation much more often: 5% for French press, 3% for moka pot and 2% for pourover. 

Demographic data

  • The male/female ratio for specialty coffee drinkers was even - 50/50. 
  • More than half (60%) of people who drink specialty coffee live without children (either don't have them or live separately.) 
  • Most of the survey participants who drink specialty coffee prefer “dark roasts” (44%) with only 16% of light roasts enjoyers for the counterpart. 
  • Many specialty coffee drinkers (39%) said that they tried to reproduce their favorite “out-of-home” coffee drinks, but what they managed to brew themselves was "just not the same."
  • Among four ethnic groups represented in the data (Hispanic Americans, Caucasians, African-Americans and Asian-Americans), the highest percentage of specialty coffee drinkers were reported among Hispanic-Americans (44%), followed by Asian-Americans (38%) and Caucasians (35%), with African-Americans (28%) at last place.