Comparing Coffee Brands – Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Starbucks

Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks? Most of us have a favorite for one reason or another, whether it’s taste, price, convenience or merely habit. But have you ever wondered how the two really stack up?

Today, we’re comparing America’s most-loved coffee chains on factors like products, price, taste, company size and nutrition. Let the coffee wars begin.

History

It’s an East Coast vs. West Coast battle with these two coffee chains. Dunkin’ Donuts got it’s start just outside Boston in Quincy, Mass., while Starbucks first opened up shop in Seattle. DD is the older of the two companies, founded in 1950. Starbucks came along two decades later in 1971.

Dunkin’ Donuts began franchising in 1955, just five years after opening the first shop. Starbucks didn’t start expanding until in the 1980s.

Company Size

Despite being older, Dunkin’ Donuts is the smaller of the two companies. DD has more than 10,000 stores in 32 countries, while Starbucks has more than 17,000 stores in 55 countries. However, DD has plans to double its number of stores in the next 20 years, expanding across the Midwest and West Coast. Currently, the bulk of the chain’s U.S. stores are concentrated in the Northeast.

Products

Names can be deceiving. Dunkin’ Donuts is more famous for its coffee than baked goods. DD offers about a dozen varieties of coffee beverages, but the company is best known for the regular stuff – its original blend. Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t introduce lattes, cappuccinos and espressos until 2003. As for baked goods, DD sells 52 types of donuts, as well as bagels, muffins and breakfast sandwiches.

Starbucks, on the other hand, specializes in barista-type drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos and espressos. The company offers more than 30 blends of coffee, as well as well as Tazo teas and other non-coffee beverages. Food options include pastries, fruit cups, salads, yogurt parfaits and oatmeal.

Culture 

DD keeps it simple with coffees and other menu items that are classic and uncomplicated. The chain markets itself toward more of a working-class crowd. Starbucks, on the other hand, aims to be trendy and hip with gourmet-style beverages and food. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee shops look like fast food joints, while Starbucks shops tend to be more comfortable and inviting, encouraging patrons to relax and stay longer.

Both approaches seem to be working, although Dunkin’ Donuts has the edge when it comes to customer loyalty. DD has ranked No. 1 in customer loyalty for six straight years in the coffee category of the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index.

Prices

Prices vary from region to region, but Starbucks coffees tend to cost about 10 percent to 20 percent more than similar Dunkin’ Donuts beverages. A Wall Street Journal comparison of the two brands, published last year, listed the average price in Chicago for a 20-ounce coffee as $1.95 at DD and $2.25 at Starbucks.

Taste

Starbucks coffee tends to be darker and stronger, while Dunkin’ Donuts brews are lighter and milder. In a double-blind taste test conducted by Dunkin’ Donuts in 2008, the majority of participants preferred the DD brew.

Coffee Beans & Quality 

Both companies sell coffee made from premium Arabica coffee beans that is freshly ground, brewed and served. Both send experts to coffee farms around the world to select high-quality coffee beans.

Dunkin Donut’s throws out any pot of coffee that is not used within 18 minutes and brews a new one. Starbucks requires baristas to brew a fresh pot of coffee every 30 minutes.

Nutrition 

Both Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks have faced criticism over the health of their offerings. DD’s namesake product is a notoriously unhealthy mix of white flour, sugar and fat. Many of the chain’s bagels, muffins and breakfast sandwiches are high in calories, too. Starbucks, on the other hand, has caught flak for selling flavored, espresso-based coffee drinks that pack an unexpected calorie punch – as much as 500 in a single cup.

Despite all that, both chains have made an attempt to improve the health of their products. Starbucks began eliminating all trans fat from its bakery products in January 2007, while Dunkin’ Donuts announced later that year it would limit trans fat to half a gram in all of its foods. DD has launched a DDSMART menu to help patrons choose healthier options, while Starbucks has compiled a list of drinks with less than 200 calories and foods with less than 350 calories.

In a side-by-side comparison, it appears that Dunkin’ Donuts coffees tend to have higher calorie counts than similar Starbucks products. For example, a small DD Mocha Swirl Latte with whole milk has 220 calories, while a small Starbucks Caffe Mocha with whole milk has 200 calories. However, the comparison isn’t exactly apples to apples: the DD version is 10 ounces and the Starbucks drink is 8 ounces.

For more info, check the online nutrition guides for DD and Starbucks.

Financials 

Dunkin’ Brands, the parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts, made $34.4 million in profits during the 2011 fiscal year. Dunkin’ Brands also owns the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain. Starbucks Corp., which also owns Seattle’s Best Coffee and Tazo Tea, made a whopping $1.25 billion in profits during the 2011 fiscal year.

Both Dunkin’ Brands and Starbucks Corp. are publicly traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Dunkin’ went public in in July of 2011 with plans to use the money to pay down debt and expand the chain. Starbucks has been a public company since 1992. DD stock is currently trading at more than $35 per share, while Starbucks stock is worth about $54.50.

One thought on “Comparing Coffee Brands – Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Starbucks

  1. So they are closing today… last cup of cfoefe at 6pm…Had to go yesterday to have my last Fort Worth Best Vanilla Latte…Sad day indeed, the place was incredibly packed. News crews and all.@Karl – I would go check out your place, but seriously man… 6am to 4pm? There’s a *HUGE* market for after 4pm cfoefe drinkers, you just don’t see them much at *$ because… well it’s *$.

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