And America’s favorite coffee brand is…(drumroll please)…

I used to be a Starbucks devotee. I lauded the flavors, the baristas, the brewing processes, and the politics of Starbucks. Like people, brands evolve, and Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) is no exception. Ten years ago, when I was doing research for a book, I looked at DD versus Starbucks and concluded that next to the mega-shiny branding of Starbucks, DD was a stalwart, supermarket-based brand that one drank out of necessity when traveling in New England, which is where DD is based.

But it turned out that I underestimated this 69-year-old American-bred, Massachusetts-based chain, which was founded by William Rosenberg.  Dunkin’, which dropped Donuts from its name as of January 2019, is in the midst of a $100 million brand overhaul.  The new branding goes along with how Dunkin’ has positioned itself---as the premiere, beverage-led, on-the-go brand. As part of this offering, Dunkin’ now offers a special pickup section for online orders, in addition to a bevy of espresso-based drinks, cold beverages, frozen drinks, and vanilla chai.

The oldest coffee-shop brand in the U.S.
In fact, one of the best things about DD is its staying power.  In September 2018, more than 45,000 people surveyed by the polling company, Harris, expressed their brand preferences in different categories, including coffee. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, depending how you look at it, Dunkin’ emerged the hands-down winner. And although Dunkin’ is an American brand, it has a global presence, with almost 13,000 stores in 46 countries---and a total of 2 billion cups of coffee (and counting) sold every year. Oh---and one more thing...let’s not forget all of the store-brought Dunkin’ coffee in bags and pods. Once again, Dunkin’ rules in this category.

New brand, but Dunkin’ will still have donuts—lots of them
Dunkin Donut’s pink-and-orange branding seems whimsical, and in fact, it was intended to be fun and attractive to customers. For now, most Dunkin’ stores will retain the old branding, but all new stores will have updated signage, with the new logo and the streamlined color scheme. But, there will be donuts---there will always be donuts! In fact, last year, Dunkin’ sold almost 3 billion donuts worldwide.

When Dunkin’ has your heart
Why is Dunkin’ so popular?  Well, from a technical, brewing-related perspective, the fact that all coffee is thrown out after 18 minutes of brewing, if not consumed, could have something to do with it. But, there’s also the connection between coffee-consumption, family tradition, and personal preference.  Many people say they like it because it’s hot and strong—but not too bitter (often they mention Starbucks in contrast).

Based on my research I found that many people love Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, but find the atmosphere uninviting. In New England, however, the experience is different. A woman  I know, who grew up in New England, had her first significant coffee experiences in Dunkin’ Donuts, which dominates in New England. After church on Sundays, she and her father went to Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee. The lack of heavy Starbucks concentration, particularly in Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and other parts of New England, can be jarring to those who are fixated on Starbucks as a reliable haven for coffee. But, for this mother of two, who now lives in Long Island, “Dunkin’ Donuts is home and Starbucks is a shiny mega-brand.”
Drinking Dunkin' with my colleague/friend. 

Fortunately for her---and for all of us---Dunkin’ has staying power and will likely be the go-to choice for many of our great-grandchildren, who will wax poetic about the coffee-drinking experience of 21st-centruy coffee-lovers. 


Jess Breen said…
I remember when I dated someone from LA, he used to make fun of me whenever I went to Dunkin, saying that on the West Coast, the chain is considered "low-class." This was during the late 2000s when Starbucks mania was still in full throttle, so I can see how comparatively speaking, Dunkin was never as hip or sleek--but that's deliberate! It's not trying to be Starbucks; it doesn't need to be. It's for working people on the go like you said, and in a pinch, its coffee is just fine, thank you. When I lived in Queens, there weren't any hip cafes nearby so my roommate and I would hangout and have girl talk in our local Dunkin. A place is as inviting as you make it--with the right company and a cup of joe, any place is cozy. I remember the day they started carrying almond milk---this was the one area in which Starbucks had been winning, in my mind---I saw the sign while waiting in line and literally screamed and nearly pushed my roommate down. I had waited a long, long time for that moment--since high school!--and it was glorious. I love that you appreciate all coffee and examine so many different aspects of it!!
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