Cashing in on Cold Brew: Coffee shops, both big, small, take consumers along with them as they raise prices.


Alina Husain

These days, a four or five dollar cup of coffee has become commonplace across most of America. I myself am guilty of making frequent Starbucks runs and stops at local coffee shops where I find myself paying an arm and a leg for my daily dose of caffeine. However, as I have become increasingly cognizant of my coffee expenditures, I decided to dig a bit deeper into exactly why so many coffee shops have such seemingly high prices.

What I found, surprisingly, was that the answer had been in front of me the entire time. Many of the high-end coffee shops I frequently visit had slowly been raising their prices for the past four years as market trends indicated an increase in coffee drinkers, specifically a rise in the number of young people hooked on caffeine. In fact, a recent study by S&D Coffee & Tea found that the average age for starting to drink coffee had fallen from 19 in Generation X to just 15 for current teens like me. It was this shift in the market that empowered shops like Starbucks to slowly begin increasing their prices by 10 to 30 cents every year, with the most recent spike in costs coming only a few months ago.

With such an across-the-board rise in the cost of coffee from the big brands like Starbucks to the local shops here in Carmel, I am left wondering if my coffee habit will soon be beyond a reasonable budget. However, the most promising information comes from one nationwide chain of coffee shops which is actually striving to reduce its coffee prices, not raise them like its competitors: Dunkin’ Donuts. While Dunkin’ Donuts saw a better-than-expected end to its financial year in 2017, they unveiled a new marketing plan last February which vows to draw in customers by giving them prices that no other coffee shop has these days. This information pushed me to start frequenting Dunkin’ Donuts more often than I ever had before, only to discover their coffee was as high quality as many of the five dollar cups I had been drinking elsewhere. My newfound discovery left me with the unshakable feeling that for quite some time now, my favorite coffee shops had been slowly deceiving me, collectively raising their prices while I had been too naive a customer to notice. It is my present knowledge, coupled with recent studies like one by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that over 20 percent of teens drink coffee daily, that leaves me feeling compelled to share what I have learned with all of you. While I may be the last one to encourage you to shake off your coffee habit, I will tell you it’s not worth breaking the bank over. Although everyone from big name brands to independent coffee shops are making their prices steeper by the day, I’m here to tell you that stores like Dunkin’ Donuts are offering consumers a way to get their caffeine fix without excessively inflating their cost. So, go get a cup of coffee; just don’t spend five dollars on it next time.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Alina Husain at [email protected]