Product development across the global coffee industry is more vibrant and prolific than ever, reflecting an increasingly diverse pool of enthusiasts demanding a lot from their brews. Here, we examine one key cohort that all food, beverage and hospitality brands should have on their creative and commercial radars.

In contrast to the more serious approach to speciality coffee which has been prominent over the last decade, sparking specialist coffee shops popping up across cites as a response, this cohort of light-hearted (mainly Gen Z) drinkers are taking a less pretentious, fun-first approach. 

Instead of focusing on difficult brewing processes, complex equipment and specialist knowledge, this group prioritises accessible, treat-worthy drinks in indulgent, social-media-worthy flavours and formats.

Approachable brews

Hoping to appeal to a legion of casual coffee drinkers, US brand Couplet Coffee proclaims it isn’t run by “coffee Karens” and “great coffee shouldn’t be douche-y”. In addition to its bright holographic coffee bags, it sells quirky tools including a cow print stovetop pot and a red French press with a heart-shaped cut-out. 


This messaging around “coffee shouldn’t be douche-y” is mirrored by recent McDonalds coffee advertising that highlights the complexity that now exists around ordering coffees in specialist coffee shops, and how McDonalds aren’t like that. Aiming to communicate that they are a breath of fresh in what can feel like a suffocating and pretentious place to be. 

Social media influencer Emma Chamberlains coffee brand, Chamberlain Coffee (which recently received $7m in seed funding) describes itself as coffee “without the bland, the beige, the boring”. Alongside its core bean line, it sells a selection of flavoured coffees, cold brew blends and branded accessories, whilst its packaging features cutesy animal illustrations. 


CoffeeTok Intensifies

TikTok is inspiring the drinking habits of this playful youthful cohort; 49% of global Gen Zers learn about coffee on the platform (according to Mintel, 2023), and videos with the hashtag #coffee boast over 60billion views.


Creators share everything from their favourite recipes to their most elaborate Starbuck off-menu order hacks, including outlandish syrup-add-ins and ways to nab a free brew. Influencers to note include @coffeebae47 in the UK who shares indulgent coffee recipes in fun receptacles; and @milkteamali in Indonesia/Sri Lanka, known for her artistic coffee-based concoctions.  

Whimsical Tastes

Indulgent flavours and intriguing textures are also appealing. With Gen Zs raised in tough times (through recessions and global pandemic), candy-flavoured coffee is one way of finding joy and rebelling against the super-functional perfection that millennials had been seeking in their lives. 

In Hong Kong, Starbucks sell their Strawberry Pie Cream Frappuccino, whilst in the US Ihop sell their Pancake-syrup-inspired ground coffee. Naturally, Tim Hortons, known for their donuts sell donut-flavoured creamers for inspiration. 


“Younger generations, particularly Gen Z, ant to have fun with their beverages and don’t mind indulging in caffeine, sugar, flavours, fats, whatever pleases them” – Miranda Caldwell (Founder, The Coffee MBA)

Third-wave coffee culture took a serious approach to the brew, which sometimes felt complicated and exclusionary. As we enter the next phase, taking a more light-hearted, fun-centred approach will be key to winning over Gen Z drinkers. It’s time to think bright and irreverent packaging, indulgent dessert-like flavours, and quirky ways to serve your guests. If you would like to chat about your coffee menu development, get in touch to chat to our F&B consultants.

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