Developing the Next Generation of Coffee Devotees

Discussion
Aug 10, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Patricia Eggerton is 17 and she knows of what she speaks. “If you can’t go to someone’s house for whatever reason, then coffee shops are a good place to sort of meet up. It’s a comfortable atmosphere, they won’t throw you out, your parents aren’t there and it’s a good place to chill.”


Ms. Eggerton’s attitude, say experts, is common among a growing number of teenagers and helps explain the popularity of coffee houses such as Starbucks and Çaribou Coffee with this demographic.


Harry Balzer, vice president of the NPD Group, told the Washington Post, that although teens consume only about four percent of the coffee drunk in the U.S., “there’s no denying that it’s a growth market.”


One of the reasons behind the growth of kids spending their money in coffee shops is that parents are supportive of the practice. In fact, parents are often the ones who introduced kids to coffee shops in the first place.


Caribou Coffee CEO Michael Coles loves to see kids in his shops. “We want young people to grow up with Caribou and feel like it’s their place,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”


Caribou Coffee has tried to make its shops more appealing to kids and their parents. Roughly one-third of Caribou locations have toy boxes and designated areas for kids to play.


Having younger children on the premises hasn’t hurt Caribou’s teen business either. Mr. Coles said the chain has seen a very large upswing in the number of teens hanging-out and spending money in its shops over the past year.


Starbucks has also profited from the number of teens and younger children visiting its locations, although the chain reports the majority of its customers are between 18 and 49.


Sanja Gould, a spokesperson for Starbucks, said although the chain recently sponsored the movie “Akeelah and the Bee” and offers flavored milks in child-sized cartons, it does not market to kids. The company, she said, sees itself as “a community gathering place” and offers a variety of beverage and entertainment products to meet the needs of those who frequent its shops. 


Discussion Questions: Of what significance are the teens and small kids going to coffee shops now and in the years ahead? What can these businesses do
to make these younger consumers lifelong customers?

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9 Comments on "Developing the Next Generation of Coffee Devotees"


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M. Jericho Banks PhD
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M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 6 months ago

To those of my seasoned generation, mentions of “coffee-houses” stir vivid images of tiny cafes in Greenwich Village, SoHo, and the East Village frequented by bohemians and hippies of the so-called Beat Generation. It was strictly counter-culture, with the (mostly young) patrons sipping “expresso” (espresso) from tiny cups and snapping their fingers in appreciation of volunteer performers who recited their dreary “beat” poetry in the late evening and early morning hours. Pre-“Friends,” no muffins, lots of berets.

Now we have another semi-disenfranchised generation looking for a safe, legal place to get their groove on. Human nature doesn’t change, and something tells me there’s a niche for a coffee-house operation that features low light and a stage where amateur volunteers can express themselves through poetry/rap and solo musical performances (“Smelly Cat” for all you “Friends” fans out there.)

Ian Percy
Guest
14 years 6 months ago
I’m a little surprised by the support for getting kids to drink and become addicted to coffee. Though if one insists on having an addiction this is probably one of the least harmless. 3 puffs on a cigarette occupies 70% of the brain’s nicotine receptors – enough to create addiction. I couldn’t find research to say how many cups of coffee it will take to swamp caffeine receptors, if they aren’t already claimed by other caffeine sources. There is considerable evidence that coffee aids focus and short-term memory, which as David says, is how most of us got through college. It’s also why we forgot most of the stuff we were taught approximately six minutes after the exam. Then we have the American philosophy that if some is good, more is better. Too much coffee impairs memory and performance. On top of that we have the research by my Harvard friend Dr. Brian Little who studies introversion and extroversion. Contrary to popular opinion it is the extroverts who should drink coffee for optimum performance. Maybe… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

It doesn’t look as if they need do more than they’re already doing. A range of drinks to appeal to a range of customers, no pressure to drink up and get out, a welcoming atmosphere to all age groups. No wonder it’s a winner and likely to continue growing for a long time to come.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Caffeine is an addictive lifelong habit, so coffee marketers, like cigarette marketers, do best when they reach the youngest people possible. The lifetime value of a customer is a key marketing measure, and the earlier someone starts the caffeine habit, the more valuable they are. The word “addictive” has a terrible connotation and certainly coffee doesn’t damage people like cigarettes, but where would the coffee and cola businesses be without caffeine?

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Teens, like adults, are seeking a third place different from home and school (work for adults). However, any retailer needs to be careful when attempting to be all things to all consumers. If you are going to be the “in” teen place then a retailer needs to focus on this group as opposed to casting a wider net to capture new segments under their existing format.

The Starbucks response is the appropriate response for Starbucks’ positioning. Other coffee alternatives need to consider how focusing on teens will affect their respective positions in the marketplace.

Eva A. May
Guest
Eva A. May
14 years 6 months ago

It’s a great habit that should continue throughout their lives. Just like the major cities and small towns in Latin America and Europe, enjoying a coffee with friends has become a wonderful way to pass the time. Kudos to the coffee houses that make young people feel welcome, and who stay open late to give them a safe and comfortable place to hang out.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 6 months ago

I love what’s happening with this trend, as it creates a safe and controlled destination for young people. It reminds me of the video game/pizza parlors that I grew up frequenting in my own teen years.

As I watch this “socialization of retail spaces” trend evolve, I would suspect that it won’t be just coffee shops but many “spaces” that provide this kind of environment. It seems like a good thing to ideate around for those of us involved in retail strategy.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

When I was a kid, no one drank coffee. Later I realized that, if not for coffee and Mountain Dew (nectar of the Gods), I probably would not have made it through college. In my opinion, the juvenile coffee market has yet to be tapped into. I realized this a few years ago when I saw coffee commercials in Mexico which showed children making and drinking coffee. Since smoking is no longer “cool,” maybe coffee will be its replacement. Perhaps soon we will see coffee served with those Happy Meals at McDonald’s.

John Lansdale
Guest
John Lansdale
14 years 6 months ago

What took them so long to come up with this idea? And don’t forget, there’s the web at these places. Feeling caffeine good, communicating .. Now figure out how to add a healthy alternative style, some exercise, yoga, exotic vegan breakfasts too sophisticated for competing mom and pop or mass market burger places.

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