Insights into Consumer Purchasing Choices

The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has released a new study that explores specialty coffee consumer behaviors, motivations, and perceptions. The qualitative study was designed to gain insight from coffee drinkers who tend toward higher price points, drink coffee daily or more, and who self-identify as “coffee-lovers”. The goal was to understand more about what constitutes a great cup of coffee among a segment of loyal specialty coffee consumers.

A total of six focus groups were conducted in two cities, Portland and Los Angeles. In addition to the two-hour discussions, participants were asked to develop collages to depict what great coffee means to them. This allowed for deeper analysis of motivators. The research was commissioned by the SCAA and conducted by Jessica Tracy, an independent qualitative market researcher.

This is the first time SCAA has conducted qualitative research. Executive Director, Ric Rhinehart, describes the background for the work, “Specialty coffee has tremendous market appeal but we know very little about the nuances of what is considered appealing. This gave us an opportunity to explore some key topics more deeply and the result is information that will allow our members to connect more meaningfully with their customers.”

Among the findings, SCAA uncovered key insights about psychological and emotional drivers. Virtually everyone seemed to view great coffee (at least to some extent) as an appealing gateway into an enhanced experience.

The report is now available for purchase. To download your copy, please click here.

We began our endeavor to understand more about the specialty coffee drinker after Symposium 2011, when we sent a camera crew out onto the streets of San Francisco to ask a selection of people with coffee cups in their hands some questions about what they drink and why. One of our questions was, “What does specialty coffee mean to you?” Here’s what they had to say:

Here are a couple of audio clips from the focus group sessions. This clip explores consumer perceptions on brewing coffee at home versus going out to a cafe:

This audio clip highlights part of the focus group conversation about the term “specialty” and how it is perceived outside of the industry:


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