Coffee has moved from a Commodity to a High Involvement Product

It is somewhat anachronistic that we still cling to coffee as just a commodity. Despite being sold on a commodity market, it isn’t like rice, soybean, sugar or wheat, is it?

There was a time when we treated coffee like a commodity in the marketplace, but that time is long since passed.

We can see how coffee has become a high involvement product in a key demographic’s interactions with coffee.

Our research into Millennial coffee drinkers provided interesting insights into factors that impact their coffee preferences and how we can engage with them.

To better understand Millennials’ desire to experience coffee, we can look at the hierarchy of Millennial coffee drinkers’ needs.

The base level of the pyramid represents fundamental, non-negotiables that are the cost of entry for any foodservice establishment when it comes to coffee: cleanliness, freshness, consistency, and affordability.

The next level up is about enhanced needs ― here is where we start to get into the experiential part of the equation. Many of these second tier attributes are centered on improved setting and expanded offerings: variety of flavors, breadth of selection, seasonality, and atmosphere.

 Finally, as we go higher, we come to the truly elevated coffee needs. The peak of the pyramid is all about emotion and aspects like social and environmental responsibility, trendiness, and brand image.

It’s in these higher order attributes where true differentiation between purveyors can occur when targeting the Millennial coffee drinker who is emotionally engaged at the higher level than the typical coffee drinker.

At the end of the day, Millennials are looking for a story ― but an authentic story. They want you to “be who you are.”

We have to constantly work to move up the pyramid of consumer needs to the peak, where there’s profit and so many residual benefits for everyone in the supply chain of coffee.