Janet Morrissey wrote an article for Time this week that implied that young people are not going to drink coffee in the future because they drink Red Bull or other energy drinks instead. I disagree, and judging from the comments, so do many others. According to the article, the heavy marketing that energy drink companies have done to give energy drinks a ‘party drink’ image is a sign that coffee’s future is not bright.
There is no question that the energy drink companies have been pushing hard to reach college campuses. At PSU, there is a vehicle parked somewhere on campus at least once a week where young, good-looking people hand out free energy drinks to students. And I admit to being surprised when I read about the twenty-something PR consultant who said he didn’t drink coffee because it tastes bad (He drinks Red Bull, and he complains about the taste of coffee?).
However, if you spend much time in coffee shops, you see young people everywhere. When I worked at Starbucks in Boston, we had a large group of regulars that came over every day from a nearby high school (sometimes twice!). The cafés around PSU are jammed every day with the 18-24 year-olds that are mentioned in the article. I stopped in at the PSU library the other day and was surprised to see a new coffee bar in the lobby. This evidence leads me to believe that coffee is not doing too badly in the under-30 crowd.
If you want to make the case that this age group won’t be drinking more Folgers in the future, that’s different. After all, this is the generation that came of age during the golden era of Starbucks. Of course they’re not going to accept the taste of pre-ground or freeze-dried coffee that has been stored in a can for six months! However, predictions that young people will not be drinking coffee in the future are like predictions that bell-bottoms would never be seen again after the 1970s. They make for a good story at the time, but years later, people look back at and laugh about them. In twenty years, we will be able to look back and this one and laugh too.
[note: Portlanders will be proud to hear that Stumptown was mentioned in the article as a place where younger people do have a good coffee experience (at the Stumptown Ace Hotel in New York City)].