CHICAGO – Nov. 15, 2023 New analysis from Circana™, formerly IRI and The NPD Group, reveals an increased consumer appetite for specialty coffee, teas, and donuts as many employees return to the office. The data highlights a 4% upswing in traffic for gourmet coffee and tea quick-service restaurants, and a 3% rise for donut quick-service restaurants in September 2023, compared to the same month in 2022. In addition, case sales by leading broadline distributors for quick-service gourmet coffee and tea operators rose by 15% in September compared to the year prior, pointing to elevated consumer demand. 

The rise in popularity of these specialty items is not only reflected in traffic and servings, but also in the expansion of quick-service restaurants selling these gourmet offerings. Leading the charge are gourmet coffee and tea shops, which witnessed a remarkable surge of 3,500 new locations in March 2023 compared to March 2022 as retailers catered to growing consumer demand. 

“We’re seeing a notable increase in interest in these specialty items as consumers opt for on-the-go beverages and snacks while rediscovering their morning routines,” said David Portalatin, senior vice president and industry advisor, Food and Foodservice, Circana. “With a rising number of employees returning to the office post-pandemic and the transition to the fall season, gourmet coffee, tea, and donuts offer a small sense of indulgence and convenience for busy consumers.”

The specialty coffee segment, consisting of various flavors and lattes, experienced a 4% rise in popularity in September compared to the same month last year, emphasizing consumers’ desire for novel taste experiences. Nearly half of all gourmet coffee, tea, and donut consumers (47%) purchased a pumpkin-flavored coffee in September, highlighting the pivotal role of seasonal, limited-time offers in capturing consumer attention and loyalty. 

Energy drink purchases are also on the rise, with many consumers looking for a pick-me-up as they readjust to their daily routines. Servings of energy drinks at quick-service coffee and tea restaurants were up an impressive 55% over the past three months ending in September, compared to the same time period last year. 

Circana’s quick-service restaurant insights unveil shifting consumer preferences and key market opportunities. Circana has been tracking every aspect of the foodservice industry for more than 40 years, from sizing gaps and opportunities to assessing market share to determining what operators actually buy, and tracking consumer purchasing trends over time. 

For more information about Circana’s industry-leading data, analytics, and expertise in the foodservice industry, please visit

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