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Fitness equipment and face masks aren’t the only things selling out these days, as the country heads into its fourth month of the coronavirus pandemic. As millions of Americans continue to observe stay-at-home guidelines, a number of coffee brands say beans and brewing equipment have quickly become hot commodities too.
Keurig says it’s seen a “spike in brewer sales,” along with an increase in the amount of coffee people have been drinking at home since the crisis began. “Since early March, many Americans have been at home in quarantine [and] not surprisingly, demand for coffee in the home has been very strong, as consumers bring their out-of-home consumption into the house,” a spokesperson for the beverage maker explains. Recent reports seem to confirm that trend, with data showing coffee consumption up 13% since the shelter in place order went into effect.
Home appliance manufacturer, Breville, meantime, says it’s seen a “steady increase” in sales of its drip and espresso machines during the last three months. “Consumers are looking to create café quality coffee at home,” explains Damian Court, Executive VP, North America Sales & Product at Breville, who cites Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro, the Precision Brewer, the Barista Express, and the Barista Pro as top sellers.
It isn’t just coffee makers that have seen a lift in sales — a report in The Financial Times found that sales of packaged coffee are up 70% compared to last year. Nearly half of respondents, meantime, say they are avoiding going out, preferring to order their coffee online instead. It seems the same “stock up” mentality seen among alcohol consumers (not just ordering more frequently, but in larger quantities too), has carried over to sales of coffee online. “Even though consumers are drinking more coffee at home, they still want [to have] their favorite coffee shop brands,” the Keurig spokesperson explains.
Peet’s, the San Francisco-based roaster that operates more than 200 physical locations across the country, says sales for its coffee products online have increased nearly 90% compared to this time last year. And while customers were reporting a shortage of coffee on Amazon a few months ago, the site seems to have almost all its popular brands back in stock and available to ship. A look at Amazon’s best-sellers page lists a number of popular coffee chain products, including Dunkin Donuts coffee, McCafé pods and Starbucks Frappuccinos.
Perhaps the most evident example of the increased coffee consumption is in the rise of coffee subscription services, which have grown in popularity since the quarantine began in March.
Sites like Brooklyn-based Driftaway Coffee, are offering convenient home delivery of both whole bean coffee and cold brew, with everything roasted and batched to order (the company says all orders ship within 12 hours of roasting from their Red Hook facilities). Driftaway says signups have doubled since mid-March, compared to the same period a year ago, with 80% of those being new subscribers. People are drinking more coffee too, and the company says 15% of subscribers have “increased their subscription size or frequency or both.”
“For those that have been able to transition to work from home, good coffee at home is required,” says Driftaway co-founder, Anu Menon. “Now, instead of having one cup at home and the rest at work, they are consuming all of their coffee at home.”
If you’re new to coffee subscriptions, Driftaway starts you off with a “tasting kit” of four different coffee profiles. Rate the beans based on what you like and don’t like, and subsequent deliveries will be matched to your preferences. You get a bag of beans delivered each month (you can always add more if needed).
“A huge differentiator for Driftaway has been just being able to be open and ship daily,” Menon says. “Many platforms have very limited selections or are not open; we’re fortunate that our early work on health and safety protocols is keeping our staff safe, and so we are able to ship every day.”
And then there’s Peet’s, which was forced to close most of its café locations across the country when quarantine orders were put into place. The company quickly pivoted to online sales, offering both individual bags of coffee for sale, as well as establishing its Peet’s Subscriptions program.
A spokesperson for Peet’s says the company has seen a 70% increase in subscription orders from April to May, and they expect the trend to continue through June, citing a “2.5x increase in orders being fulfilled each week.”
“With the extended shelter in place, consumers value the convenience of Peet’s Subscriptions and we have seen a shift to online shopping transactions for our consumers across the board,” the spokesperson says.
As for those worried about the increased coffee consumption, health officials say adults can have up to 400mg of caffeine a day (about four cups of coffee) without any adverse effects. In Menon’s mind though, the rise in consumption — and in coffee sales — is less about getting a caffeine fix, and more about re-establishing a routine that’s been lost due to the pandemic.
“[Buying] coffee provides an economical luxury and is a great substitute for the frequent coffee shop visits pre-COVID,” she explains. At the end of the day, Menon says, “People need coffee.”