The Unexpected Industry That Toppled Starbucks Sales In 2022

No one can deny Starbucks' prowess as the U.S.'s biggest coffeehouse chain in terms of both 2021 sales volume ($21.3 billion, via CompareCamp) and current U.S. store count (15,450, as of February 2022, via BaristaJoy). In fact, we couldn't help but notice MJ Biz Daily recently went so far as to treat Starbucks as an industry unto itself when the cannabis/hemp industry-focused media outlet recently compared the size of Starbucks with the size of various industries by their respective sales volumes. Among other compelling data points to be gleaned from MJBD's analysis is that Starbucks sales in the U.S. actually exceed the entire U.S. salty snacks industry more than three times over.

On the other hand, Starbucks isn't really that big when you compare it to some other U.S. businesses, per CompaniesMarketCap, which doesn't even mention Starbucks in its ranking of the top 100 — although that actually makes perfect sense when you consider that Number 100 on the list, with revenues exceeding $80 billion, exceeds Starbucks annual sales volume by 400%. Accordingly, as big as Starbucks is, it's ranked well below the cigarette industry (with 2021 revenues of $52.8 billion) and the over-the-counter medication industry (with 2021 revenues of $36.5 billion). And there's one other industry that has outperformed Starbucks in terms of sales — by a small margin, but a margin nonetheless. 

We'll give you a hint. Like Starbucks, this industry is plant-based and is known to help improve mood, albeit from a different angle (via Healthline).

The marijuana industry outperformed Starbucks in 2021 revenues

While Starbucks clearly toppled the salty snacks industry in 2021 sales, it has officially been trounced by the legally permissible national cannabis industry, sales of which exceed Starbucks' by somewhere between one and four billion dollars (via MJ Biz Daily). According to a graph published by MJBD, Starbucks recorded $20.5 billion in North American sales during 2021. The legally sanctioned recreational and medical cannabis industry recorded somewhere between $24.5 and $27 billion in sales during that same time period. 

The obvious question is whether it's fair to compare an entire industry to a single coffeehouse chain. On the one hand, the deck may seem stacked against Starbucks. On the other hand, whereas coffee is legal in all 50 states, marijuana is legal in only 39. And whereas Starbucks' revenue grew 25% over 2021, the cannabis industry as an entity climbed 30% over the same time period. So, there could be arguments on both sides. What is clear, however, is that the legalized cannabis industry in the U.S. is on the rise, and as more states legalize marijuana use (assuming that more do), it stands to grow larger.

However, for now, one notable industry the cannabis industry cannot compete with — not even for a second — is the U.S. alcoholic beverage industry. According to Zippia, which values the U.S. beverage market at $146 billion and the non-alcoholic beverage market at $414.8 million, sales of alcoholic beverages during 2021 came in just under $145.6 billion.