Starbucks set the gold-standard model for what a profitable quick-service coffee chain could be – for the U.S. and the world. 

However, CivicScience tracking shows that favorability for Starbucks coffee has trended downward in the past few years, reaching all-time lowest yearly averages since monitoring began in 2015. 

Even though the slide in favorability is observable prior to 2020, it certainly was not helped by the crushing blows the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt the F&B industry. 

Yet it’s not for lack of coffee drinking. Survey results also show that despite the retreat away from public life, coffee consumption actually increased in 2021, but has since returned to its pre-pandemic levels. 

Although favorability for Starbucks coffee has not since rebounded, it appears to have normalized. That prompts the question – who is the Starbucks customer of today? 

CivicScience took a deeper look at current Starbucks consumer opinions and behaviors linked to the multinational coffee giant, including its recent move to suspend services in Russia and its new EV initiative.

Favorability vs. Purchasing

Current numbers show that 32% of U.S. adults purchase food or beverages from Starbucks cafes with some degree of regularity, while the remainder rarely or never purchase from Starbucks.

And more than 60% of patrons are getting their Starbucks fix in ways other than ordering traditionally at store locations – including drive-throughs, mobile ordering and pickup, and even delivery services. 

Starbucks purchasers want more than just coffee. More than a third of people who purchase items from Starbucks locations with some regularity say they rarely/never drink coffee or just drink it on occasion. Overall, Starbucks patrons are less likely than non-patrons to drink coffee on a daily basis! 

This trend is most noticeable among young adults. Favorability for Starbucks coffee is strikingly low among Gen Z adults, with just around one-quarter who enjoy drinking the coffee. Yet more than half of Gen Z adults are still likely to purchase from Starbucks.

Similarly, nearly half of Millennials are likely to purchase from Starbucks (although they have a stronger preference for Starbucks coffee than Gen Z). The data suggest Starbucks coffee alternatives – such as seasonal beverages (e.g. the “Pink Drink”) that generate a lot of buzz on social media – are key for young Starbucks fans. 

On the other hand, adults ages 35 and older are more likely to be favorable to Starbucks coffee than they are to actually purchase it from cafes. 

Brand Loyalty and Price Concerns

Inflation and increasing price concerns among consumers appear to have somewhat less of an effect on Starbucks customers. Data show they are more likely to feel they’ve become less sensitive to price at the moment – and nearly 20% place a high priority on brand over price, compared to just 12% of those who rarely or never purchase from Starbucks.

The Importance of Social Consciousness 

Starbucks purchasers are also more likely to support brands that display social consciousness – such as championing certain social causes, valuing employees, and prioritizing sustainability. Nearly one-third say that a company’s social consciousness and overall kindness are very important considerations when making purchases.

This is reflected in current events. People favorable to Starbucks coffee were more likely to agree that companies should stop selling products and services in Russia right now, as opposed to those unfavorable to Starbucks. The company’s move to suspend services in Russia is likely supported by the majority of Americans, but especially its customers.

Electric Vehicle Owners

Regular Starbucks customers are more than twice as likely to own an electric vehicle. More than one-third intend to purchase an EV in the future. Starbucks’ plan to provide electric vehicle charging stations at its locations is likely to be welcomed by a significant portion of its customer base.

What’s next for Starbucks? The study suggests that even though Starbucks may have lost some enthusiasm for its coffee, there is strong interest in the brand among young adults who place a high value on variety in both product offerings and ways to order/engage. A businesses’ social consciousness is also relatively important to the majority of Starbucks customers and may influence their loyalty to Starbucks and other brands.