In past summers, the lines at coffee shops comprised of customers waiting to order iced coffee. But now, customers line up for something else — iced coffee’s cooler cousin, cold brew. Rather than brewing hot coffee and pouring it over ice to make iced coffee, cold brew is achieved by brewing coffee in cold water, resulting in a less acidic, smoother taste. Originating in Kyoto, Japan in the 1600s, cold brew only recently saturated the U.S. market, growing 580 percent in sales from 2011 to 2016. With consumers’ increasing interest in high quality coffee, the cold brew conversation is heating up on social media.
By looking at the social media conversation surrounding cold brew, brands are able to see how topics changed over time, understand the interests of cold brew drinkers, and unearth the reasons why customers choose cold brew.
On the Grind to Take Over the U.S.
In cold brew’s early years, cities like Austin drove the trend, but it didn’t take long for cold brew to spread across the U.S.
In 2010, not many people were discussing cold brew — the conversation was only prominent in Portland, Oregon; Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; Austin, and Seattle. That year, cold brew could be characterized as a Pacific Northwest and Austin trend.
The Season of Cold Brew
Every year, the cold brew discussion rises during the summer. The discussion starts increasing in May, peaks in July, then starts decreasing in September. Noticing this pattern, brands have orchestrated seasonal campaigns for cold brew — High Brew Coffee, a premium cold brew company, embarked on a road trip in summer 2016 to promote their products.
From 2010 to 2016, the cold brew discussion grew from 781 posts to 60,076, 77 times greater than 2010. But 2015, in particular, was a major year for cold brew — discussion was four times the size of 2014 and 81 percent of the cold brew discussion occurred in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, Starbucks unveiled its own cold brew, accounting for 10 percent of the cold brew discussion that year, while nitro cold brews accounted for 6 percent.
Once a niche trend pioneered by early adopters Chameleon, Kohana, and Stumptown, cold brew is taking the coffee industry by storm.
Understanding Cold Brew Drinkers
The majority of people discussing regular coffee (42 percent) fall into the 18-24 age range. The demographics contrast with those discussing cold brew coffee — the majority (58 percent) are 35 and above.
The interests for those discussing cold brew differ greatly from those discussing regular coffee. Consumers discussing cold brew appear to be more of the “foodie” type with interests in chefs, home brewing, recipes, cooking, and wine. In contrast, consumers discussing regular coffee appear to be a part of a younger, pop culture-oriented crowd, with interests in homework and entertainment.
A Bitter End to Regular Coffee
Even though Starbucks is not primarily known for cold brew, it still dominates the cold brew conversation, with 65 percent share of voice. Stumptown, a coffee roaster and retailer from Portland, Oregon, has 21 percent share of voice. Other large brands like Dunkin’ Donuts and Peet’s have smaller representation in the cold brew conversation at 4 percent and 2 percent share of voice, respectively. While large corporations have jumped in on the cold brew trend, cold brew still hasn’t lost its alternative appeal. Brands like Chameleon, Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle, and La Colombe still have loyal followings.
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As trends emerge, brands using social media analytics are able to monitor trend development, uncovering the reasons why consumers favor or disfavor it. For cold brew, brands can better understand their target audiences, consumer reception to coffee innovation, and their preferences. To learn more, read through the rest of these social media analytics insights from the beverage industry.