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Premiumization and consolidation underline healthy US coffee shop growth

  • Total US branded coffee shop market valued at $45.4bn across 35,616 stores, representing annual outlet growth of 3.8%
  • Allegra forecasts the sector will exceed 40,800 outlets by 2023, representing 5-year CAGR growth of 2.8%
  • Industry leaders broadly positive on market conditions, with high staff turnover, labor costs and increased competition cited among main challenges for the coming year
  • Starbucks continues to dominate the US coffee shop industry, remaining the clear consumer favorite and commanding a 40.1% market share

Project Café USA 2019 is Allegra World Coffee Portal’s definitive analysis of the US branded coffee shop market. The comprehensive report features data gathered from more than 5,000 consumer surveys, over 50 industry leader consultations and insight generated by Allegra’s unparalleled coffee industry network.

US branded coffee shop market enters new era of scaled quality

The US continues to lead global coffee shop innovation across quality and product development, with Allegra recording healthy annual outlet growth of 3.8% in a fiercely competitive market. An influx of international investment is pushing once niche artisan principles into the mainstream across the US coffee and food-focused sectors, with premiumization a key marketing strategy deployed to sustain growth.

Allegra anticipates a burgeoning 5th Wave sector will continue to shape the premium market, propelled by growing consumer sophistication and investment from large multinationals. Despite flattening comparable sales growth among leading branded chains, nearly 60% of US consumers surveyed by Allegra visited a branded coffee shop chain at least once a month 2018. This indicates there is still plenty of opportunity for operators who can enhance their customer value proposition in this competitive market.

US coffee shop consolidation continues

2018 has seen continued M&A activity and consolidation in the US branded coffee shop market, with premium consumer spend a key battle ground for growth. The three largest coffee-focused chains; Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Tim Hortons comprise 68.1% of the total branded market. However, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and German-owned conglomerate, JAB Holdings, now hold a collective 79.2% total branded coffee shop market share, with 28,211 outlets between them. With a 40.1% hold on the total branded coffee shop market, Starbucks is still by far the largest brand and maintains its status as the nation’s favorite coffee shop.

Premiumisation deployed to mitigate market saturation

Specialty coffee continues to influence mainstream operators and broaden quality expectations, even among fast-food chains and vending machines. Flattening comparable sales among the top three branded coffee chains indicates the sector may be saturating, with all emphasising quality to boost sales. Industry leaders surveyed by Allegra perceive growth in specialty coffee as the biggest coffee shop market trend while nearly a quarter of consumers surveyed cite coffee quality as the biggest impetus behind repeat coffee shop visit. 

Key US coffee shop market challenges

The US branded coffee shop market is characterised by fierce competition for increasingly discerning consumer spend. Operators must successfully combine convenience, coffee quality and good location to maintain footfall, with loyalty apps, product diversity and a compelling brand USP all essential factors to success. Rising labor costs, including state-specific minimum wage increases and high staff turnover are among the biggest concerns for operators, while competition for desirable sites has intensified against the backdrop of slowed sales growth compared to 2017.

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