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Dutch Bros and the Top 500 logo.jpg Courtesy of Dutch Bros
This year, the coffee category is dominated by upstarts with drive thrus and innovative beverage menus.

Starbucks stalls as coffee competition heats up

The category is now dominated by upstarts with drive thrus and innovative menus

It’s a new era for the coffee category. Whereas once Starbucks (and to a lesser extent, Dunkin’) were the undisputed kings of this segment, new competitors have entered the ring over the past several years.

This year, the coffee category is dominated by upstarts with drive thrus and innovative beverage menus, including:

  • 7 Brew Drive Thru Coffee: This chain remarkably grew from one to 180 units in six years, and saw a whopping triple-digit percentage unit count growth over the past year alone
  • Scooter’s Coffee: Scooter’s had the eighth-most unit openings in the top 500 overall, more than both Domino’s and Tropical Smoothie Café
  • Dutch Bros. The sales growth of this trendy drive-thru coffee chain was double Starbucks’ sales growth, at 24.2% vs. 12.5%
  • Ziggi’s Coffee: This smaller chain entered the top 500 for the first time, landing at 494

Starbucks, meanwhile, did not crack the top 10 coffee chains by unit growth, and saw 12.5% sales growth, below not only all four of the “hot” coffee chains listed above, but also Biggby Coffee, Bluestone Lane, and PJ’s Coffee.

Although the reason behind Starbucks’ cooling growth momentum might be tough to pin down, it could have a lot to do with changing tastes, particularly among younger generations. Dutch Bros, for example, was named this year as one of the most beloved brands among Gen Z and Millennials, according to Technomic.

Other variables include the convenience of the drive-thru (a defining feature of all top four fastest-growing coffee chains), and an intangible “cool factor” that drives customers to try new brands and beverages beyond the long-time default Starbucks choice, like Dutch Bros’ protein coffees or Scooters’ smoothies.

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All data courtesy Technomic Ignite Company data. Looking for more data? Click here to access the complete Technomic Top 500.

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]

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