Give up coffee? Not even a price hike made it likely in 1977

A consumers' group was trying to brew a revolt against buying coffee due to the escalating cost in 1977, but consumer support for the initiative was weak at best.

The cost of morning brew was rising, but demand wasn't dropping

The coffee break no one wanted to take

45 years ago
Duration 1:37
Despite the escalating price of coffee in 1977, consumers refuse to give up on their morning brew. 1:37

The Consumers' Association of Canada was trying to brew a revolt against buying coffee due to its escalating cost in 1977, but consumer support for the initiative was weak at best.

On Jan. 11 that year, CBC reporter Stu Patterson visited a grocery store to see if anti-coffee sentiment was percolating.

A hand-painted sign posted inside showed that the store itself was strongly in favour of consumers cutting back on coffee.

"We urge our customers not to buy coffee until the price drops to a more reasonable level," it read.

Coffeepot protest

"When we need it, I buy it," said a grocery shopper, when asked whether she supported a coffee boycott. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

The Consumers' Association of Canada was on board too, joining grocery stores in their pushback when the price rose above $3 a pound, or the equivalent of $11.79 in 2019.

The association even suggested switching to tea or other alternatives.

But consumers seemed lukewarm on the idea.

"Are you and your family going along with a coffee boycott?" Patterson asked a store shopper.

"No, I don't think we will at this time," the man replied. "You never know, if the price keeps going we just might have to."

A store manager said some people, in fact, were buying more coffee than usual for fear the price would climb even higher.

Patterson said in the previous two weeks, coffee sales had remained unchanged at grocery stores.

Weak answer 

"It's bound to have an effect in the long run," said a representative from the consumers' association, speaking about an informal coffee boycott. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

For its part, the consumers' association was being careful not to use the word "boycott" while attempting to steer people away from coffee.

"Presumably we are, as consumers, easing off on our actual drinking of coffee," said an unidentified representative from the consumers' association. "Drinking less of it, drinking it a little weaker, drinking it less often."

But that didn't seem like a palatable option for most.

"Most shoppers say the price will have to go up a lot higher before they stop buying coffee altogether," said Patterson, in summary. "But it is clear the Canadian Consumer Association's attempt to have people switch to alternatives is failing."

A sign at the grocery store urged consumers to wait until the price of coffee dropped before buying it again. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

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