Driven by Data – 25 Magazine, Issue 8

Driven by Data – 25 Magazine, Issue 8

BBeginning September 2018, the SCA's Research Center partnered with Square to release the 2018 Square Coffee Reports, a series of five reports highlighting interesting insights and trends in coffee consumption.

SARA VERA shares a first look at the aggregate comparative results.

Financial service companies are in a unique position to uncover trends within the global coffee industry based on the millions of coffee shops served across the globe. Each year, we dig into our robust data set to determine consumer purchasing behavior which can better educate coffee sellers and allow them to adapt and make business decisions.

The funny thing about any cafe, shop, or restaurant offering coffee is that they tend to name their products like other coffee shops: on any given menu, “coffee” is coffee (is coffee!).

In today’s world – where we can collect sales data across global points of sale – this makes for an incredibly robust and reliable data set. If monitored using the right tools (and people), it’s likely you’d be able to track intricate detail of trends as they develop.

Coffee Report 2018

Square partnered with the SCA to dig into coffee retail data to find interesting insights and trends in coffee consumption in five countries for the 2018 Square Report. Hundreds of millions of anonymized transactions collected in coffee shops across Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States were used to build the report.

Happy Hours

Despite some interesting differences when it comes to the peak time certain beverages are sold at coffee bars and cafés around the world, nearly all of them fit into a window of 8 AM and 3 PM. Japan has the latest “start” of the five, with drip coffee and cappuccino sales peaking at 2 PM.

The Most Wanted

We’re more alike than we think! Lattes take the top spot across the board when it comes to what we’re sipping the most often at our local coffee shop, by country. Customers in Japan and the US seem to have the most similar preferences, with drip coffee taking a strong second place in both countries ahead of Americanos, mochas, and cappuccinos.

The Rise of Alternative Milks

One of the statistics that garnered the most attention in the 2018 Square Coffee Reports was the growing popularity of alternative milks on coffee shop menus.

Almond milk took the top spot as Canada’s favorite alternative milk in 2018, with soy milk sales remaining steady throughout the past year.

In the UK, both oat and almond milk alternatives saw 400 percent growth. Although the US saw similar growth rates for oat milk – and experienced what national publications have dubbed “the great oat milk shortage of 2018” – almond milk remains the most ordered cow’s milk alternative, followed directly by soy. The US also had the most extensive non-dairy milk of the five countries examined in the 2018 Square Coffee Reports, including coconut, hemp, macadamia nut, and pea alternative milks.

Interestingly, explosively popular oat milk doesn’t appear to have made a name for itself in Australia: out of the five listed non-dairy milk alternatives in the report, oat milk doesn’t make the cut. Instead, Aussies prefer soy, almond, and coconut milk alternatives – in that order!

Find a round-up of the 2018 Square Coffee Reports:

How Much Data Was There, Really?

To build each of the 2018 Square Coffee Reports, we collected anonymized individual transactions from June 2017 to June 2018 within each country: where the seller was located, the total transaction amount (cost), and the names of the purchased items. As each shop chooses its own labels for its products, we had to control for name variety and include multiple options in each search query and adjust for cultural naming differences by country. Because of this, all of the estimates you’ll find within the reports are conservative – chances are your shop’s “big green monster” didn’t actually make it into our matcha latte data!

Hundreds of millions of anonymized transactions collected in coffee shops across Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States were used to build each of the reports.

SARA VERA is a data scientist at Square, where her work is focused on consumer research and trends.

Special Thanks to Our Issue 8 Sponsor, Bellwether

Bellwether makes more than a first-of-its-kind, zero-emissions, commercial roaster. They make it possible for you to source, create, roast, and share coffee in a responsible way that connects our community and brings equality to our industry. Learn more at

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