Dunkin' Doughnuts and Starbucks might be spending millions of dollars for nothing

Starbucks RoasteryKate TaylorStarbucks executives say its classy Roastery represents the future of the chain. That might be a mistake.

The biggest trend in the coffee industry is going gourmet — but a new investigation reveals that may not be what most customers want.

On Monday, Today released a video from its series “Don’t Pay That,” documenting a multi-hour blind taste test Jeff Rossen conducted in New Jersey’s Menlo Park Mall. The two competitors in the taste test: $1 deli coffee versus a $3.25 gourmet option.

In the end, 67% of people surveyed preferred the $1 option — not the coffee that cost three times as much.

The fact that most testers prefer the less expensive coffee stands in contrast to recent decisions at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Doughnuts to focus on more gourmet offerings.

Cold BrewDunkinDunkin’ Doughnuts added Cold Brew to the menu in June.

Both chains have emphasised new, more upscale menu items this summer, with executives at both companies citing America’s growing interest in coffee culture as a major impact.

“Coffee culture in the country is getting a little bit more sophisticated by the day,” Chris Fuqua, Dunkin’s senior vice president of brand marketing, told Business Insider in June when the chain debuted its Cold Brew. “Customers really understand what craft coffee beverages are.”

Meanwhile, Starbucks has worked to win over coffee snobs with offerings such as Nitro Cold Brew, which launched in late May. Nitro Cold Brew joined beverages such as the Flat White and the Latte Macchiato in Starbucks’ growing line up of what the company calls “coffee-forward” beverages with roots in craft coffee shop culture.

Dunkin’ and Starbucks see more gourmet, coffee culture-inspired offerings as a key part of their future. But, most people (or, at least most people surveyed by Today), prefer an basic cup of coffee — even if they don’t know how much money they’re saving. Forgetting that would be dangerous for both Dunkin’ Doughnuts and Starbucks.

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