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Press Release From the Journal of Marketing: Grab a Coffee Before Shopping? You May Want to Think Twice

Marilyn Stone

Researchers from University of South Florida, European University Viadrina, Louisiana State University, SKEMA Business School, and Neoma Business School published a new Journal of Marketing article that examines how caffeine affects consumer spending.

The forthcoming study is titled “Caffeine’s Effects on Consumer Spending” and is authored by Dipayan Biswas, Patrick Hartmann, Martin Eisend, Courtney Szocs, Bruna Jochims, Vanessa Apaolaza, Erik Hermann, Cristina M. López, and Adilson Borge.

How does drinking a caffeinated beverage influence shopping behavior? Are customers prone to impulsive purchases after consuming coffee, tea, or soda at retail stores or car dealerships?

These researchers say that “Understanding how and why caffeine consumption influences spending is important since caffeine is one of the most powerful stimulants that is both legal and widely available.” About 85% of Americans consume at least one caffeinated beverage every day with coffee being the primary source of caffeine, followed by tea and soda. Caffeine is also found in energy drinks, chocolate, and in many over the counter and prescription medications.

The study finds that drinking a caffeinated beverage before shopping leads to more items purchased at the store and increased spending. Their studies also show that the effect of caffeine is stronger for “high hedonic” products such as scented candles, fragrances, décor items, and massagers and weaker for “low hedonic” products such as notebooks, kitchen utensils, and storage baskets.

Several studies have demonstrated that caffeine intake enhances arousal, which is experienced as a state of activation and alertness that can range from extreme drowsiness to extreme excitement. Arousal can be a positive hedonic state – referred to as excitement or energetic arousal – such as when one feels active, energized, and excited or a negative hedonic state – referred to as “tense arousal” – such as when one experiences tension and nervousness. Energetic arousal enhances the perception of product features and, in turn, increases purchase intentions for hedonic products such as buttery, salty popcorn, chocolate candy, and luxury vacations.

Prior research has shown that consuming caffeine in the range of 25 mg to 200 mg enhances energetic arousal with practically no effects on tense arousal. This study examines effects of caffeine intake in the range of about 30 mg to 100 mg since most caffeinated beverage servings have caffeine content in this range. As part of the study, the research team set up an espresso station near the entrance of two different retail stores in two major cities in France and outside a department store in Spain. Upon entry, half of the 300 shoppers were handed a complimentary cup of coffee containing caffeine and the other half offered decaf or water. “We found that the caffeine group spent significantly more money and bought a higher number of items than those who drank decaf or water,” says the researchers.

Caffeine also impacted the types of items bought at the stores. The group that took in caffeine bought more hedonic (enjoyable/fun) items such as scented candles and fragrances. However, there was very little difference between the two groups with regard to utilitarian purchases such as utensils and storage baskets. Also, the effects of caffeine on spending hold for those who drink a little over two cups of coffee (or less) daily and is weakened for heavy coffee drinkers.

“Overall, retailers can benefit financially if shoppers consume caffeine before or during shopping and that the effects are stronger for high hedonic products. This is important for retailers to factor in to determine the proportion of hedonic products in their stores. Policy makers may also want to inform consumers about the potential effects of caffeine on spending,” concludes the researchers.

This research can be extended in several directions. Can arousing elements such as loud music influence the effects of caffeine on shopping behavior? It is possible that high levels of arousal

induced by a combination of caffeine and ambient elements can alter shopping behavior. What if shoppers consume coffee along with some food like chocolate cake? Several interesting findings could emerge from research involving caffeine and these variables.

Full article and author contact information available at:

About the Journal of Marketing 

The Journal of Marketing develops and disseminates knowledge about real-world marketing questions useful to scholars, educators, managers, policy makers, consumers, and other societal stakeholders around the world. Published by the American Marketing Association since its founding in 1936, JM has played a significant role in shaping the content and boundaries of the marketing discipline. Shrihari Sridhar (Joe Foster ’56 Chair in Business Leadership, Professor of Marketing at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University) serves as the current Editor in Chief.

About the American Marketing Association (AMA) 

As the largest chapter-based marketing association in the world, the AMA is trusted by marketing and sales professionals to help them discover what is coming next in the industry. The AMA has a community of local chapters in more than 70 cities and 350 college campuses throughout North America. The AMA is home to award-winning content, PCM® professional certification, premiere academic journals, and industry-leading training events and conferences.

Marilyn Stone is Director, Academic Communities and Journals, American Marketing Association.