Gen Z, Java & Tea

Anna Otieno, Head of Research, Strategy & Insights

Carli Gernot, Content Development Specialist

What’s Up

TikTok star Chris Olsen recently announced his own coffee brand, Flight Fuel. The social media influencer gained more than 9 million followers, in part, by filming himself bringing celebrities cups of coffee. Chris has delivered coffee to Meghan Trainor, Ashley Tisdale, Joshua Bassett, Tom Daly, JoJo Siwa, and even Vice President Kamala Harris. He announced his new brand on TikTok and Flight Fuel’s website, where fans can pre-order and sign-up for updates.

It looks like Chris and his industry peers are on the right track. Specialty coffee is driving global growth. Research from The Brainy Insights shows that the global specialty coffee market is expected to grow from $53.67 billion USD in 2021 to $152.69 billion USD by 2030, at a CAGR of 12.32% during the forecast period 2022-2030.

What It Means

This TikToker’s coffee announcement is the latest in a swell of influencer coffee (and tea) brand launches over the past couple of years. In 2022, YouTube celebrity Emma Chamberlain’s coffee brand Chamberlain Coffee secured $7 million in funding. The Vlog Brothers created the Awesome Coffee Club, a coffee subscription service with all profits going to reducing infant and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. And Vivian Nguyen “Coffee Bae” - a TikTok creator inspired to make new coffee creations during the pandemic - highlights ethical farming and sustainable production (i.e. electric roasters) through her coffee brand, Coffee Bae. A common thread in influencer coffee brands is the commitment to social and environmental issues.

More influencer activity in the coffee space lines up with an uptick in coffee consumption among young people. According to The National Coffee Association’s National Coffee Data Trends 2022 report, 51% of 18-24-year-olds report having drank coffee in the past day, surpassing the record high of 50% in September 2020. Nearly one-third (30%) of past-day drinkers report having cold coffee (including cold brew, iced coffee, and frozen beverages). And in the past week, 54% of adults say they’ve had a specialty coffee.

It’s easy to understand the growing popularity of social media coffee brands, with the influencer and social certification of Gen Z creators. Increased interest in specialty coffee across age groups also points to the opportunity for coffee brands to branch out and develop new beverage experiences.

Collaborations with influencer brands can help big names gain attention from Gen Z coffee drinkers as well as adventurous alternative beverage consumers of all ages. Similarly, business leaders looking to improve sustainability credentials could benefit from forming relationships with influencers in the beverage space and supporting collaborations that highlight climate-friendly practices. At the end of the day, consumers are looking for fun beverage experiences. Brands can deliver on those expectations through niche offerings and influencer partnerships.

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