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Coffee Buzz: Consumer Expectations Are Changing

Insights & Innovation |  6.26.2018

America is a coffee-obsessed nation. In fact, 64% percent of Americans drink coffee daily. From the morning pot of coffee at home, to college campus coffee shops to artisanal roasting shops, we love our coffee.

However, consumer expectations are changing. An increasing number of drinkers are consuming coffee outside the home and The National Coffee Association, a trade group, now estimates that 59% of coffee consumed in the United States daily is what it classifies as gourmet. Instead of the traditional cup of joe, many now prefer espresso drinks and higher-end beans for their coffee. Much of this shift is fueled by changing expectations, the introduction of new coffee categories and specialty beverages, and the younger generations who have grown up with an abundance of neighborhood coffee shops.

Local brands are increasing in market share and consumers are going out of their way to purchase coffee from these independent regional coffee shops. These brands invest in the overall experience by developing custom environments with unique ambiences that add to enjoyment.

Coffee barista

Barista at a local coffee shop prepares an espresso drink while interacting with a customer.

Stephanie Provost, an associate vice president on Aramark’s brand management and innovation team, works on bringing new concepts from ideation to reality. Along with an integrated cross-functional team, she most recently developed a refreshed coffee solution in partnership with our proprietary coffee brand, Java City. By leveraging consumer insights and establishing the right partnerships we are able to drive constant change and improvement to meet consumer expectations for exceptional coffee.

New Options

Because coffee drives so much demand, we are continually looking for new approaches in the coffee sector. Java City, our proprietary coffee partner, recently relaunched in both the Higher Education and Healthcare sectors. Java City emphasizes quality, sustainability and heritage as core tenets to its story. 

Exceptional coffee starts with the right process. Java City hand roasts their beans every day in Italian brick lined ovens and is known for air cooling their beans as it delivers a fresh, flavorful cup of coffee. They are also committed to responsible sourcing and their beans are 100% rainforest alliance certified.


Java City beans are roasted daily in brink ovens that provide a radiant heat and then air cooled. Java City’s process takes longer but provides a flavorful, smooth coffee.

As part of the re-launch we also streamlined the coffee menu, reformulated blended beverages, and elevated snack options to meet all dayparts.

According to Provost, since relaunching, there has been a significant increase in sales and positive consumer research results. “In metrics such as overall experience, likelihood to visit, authenticity, and satisfaction on both food and beverage offerings we’ve seen marked improvement,” says Provost. “These changes are more than simple sales increases. They are changes that encourage increased loyalty among patrons.”

Coffee Evolution

For us, meeting consumer and employee demands for coffee means more than just providing a good cup of coffee. Trends clearly show consumers expect a lot more from their coffee… and, at times, they are willing to skip the most convenient option to go elsewhere (and pay more) for the coffee and environment they perceive to be best.

For many businesses, universities, and even hospitals, offering high-quality coffee, espresso drinks, blended beverages, pastry, and snack options is increasingly important. Palates have evolved and even global, mass-market brands have invested heavily in higher-end coffee and cafe options.

Understanding how to meet these expectations and exceeding them can make or break an in-location offering.

The 2018 Coffee Shop Landscape

Delivering on elevated expectations requires two things: offering the right products and communicating the story behind them.

“You can't just say something is high quality; you need to tell people why,” Provost says. “You need to have the reasons to back up that statement.”

One example of a high-quality product on tap at Java City is cold brew coffee, which typically offers more caffeine and a smoother taste than most iced coffees. “If you think about cold brew vs. iced coffee, the cold brew process delivers a higher-level product experience,” Provost adds. “We're having all full-service locations move to cold brew because it’s a smoother taste profile.”

As consumer trends reveal, the environment is just as important as the quality of the food and beverages provided. Our complete redesign of the concept has modernized the look and feel of the space, including both kiosks and surrounding seating. Additionally, components that communicate the brand experience are incorporated into the design, like the word wall and the logo.

Java City

The new Java City Kiosk at one of our higher education pilot locations in Texas has experienced double digit top-line revenue increases since it re-launched in March of 2018.

Consumer satisfaction also depends on food, beverage and snack options. We have elevated all our options with on-trend innovations that drive towards quality and incorporate both healthy and indulgent products. Coffee shops are no longer about the morning day part and the menu reflects that with a range of items for the breakfast, lunch, and snacking occasions.

Customers want a higher-quality experience from their coffee shop. This integrated brand experience has been shown to improve consumer satisfaction within the locations we operate and drive growth for the coffee category.

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