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On Trend: Cold Brew Coffee

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by Judie Bizzozero -

Coffee … it’s what helps most Americans (including myself) wake up in the morning and readies us to take on the world. But today’s coffee isn’t yesterday’s hot cup o’ joe. Nowadays, coffee beverages run the gamut from single-serving pods in every flavor imaginable to the up-and-coming cold brew category that’s witnessed phenomenal growth over the past few years.

In fact, data from Mintel reported retail sales of cold brew reached an estimated $7.9 million in 2015, increasing 339 percent since 2010. And while cold brew is becoming the iced coffee drink of choice for many U.S. consumers, it remains a small part of the overall ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee segment, making up just 0.4 percent of sales in estimated 2015.

Cold brew, which promotes a smoother, less acidic taste and a naturally sweeter flavor, has gained positive consumer attention with its more labor intensive preparation methods that promised a superior experience compared to the classic RTD coffee beverage. Innovation continues to expand the cold brew portfolio at retail, which is seeing new flavors, dairy and non-dairy milk additions, and even functionalities and crossover products, noted Elizabeth Sisel, beverage analyst, Mintel.

This relatively small sub-segment is brimming with possibilities, and brand holders should take notice that consumers also are seeking out interesting flavor profiles and functionality in their cold brews. Cold brews were all the rage at the recent IFT show. I tasted a number of samples on the show floor and can attest they were quite flavorful and pleasing on the palate. Ingredient suppliers dipping their toes in the cold brew sector included Virginia Dare, Synergy Flavors, Flavorchem, S&D Ingredients, Bell Flavors & Fragrances, ADM and more.

According to Mintel, 24 percent of consumers currently drink retail-purchased cold brew coffee. Older Millennials, aged 29-38 (55 percent), and men (30 percent) stand out as groups most likely drinking this type. Research indicates consumers are most likely interested in cold brew because they enjoy trying new styles of coffee preparation (37 percent).

More nitrogen-infused coffees provide a smoother, foamy texture and create a mouthfeel similar to some craft beers (think Guinness). Mintel found nitro coffees benefits from retail appeal—more than one in 10 coffee consumers would purchase bottled/canned nitro coffee, which increases to approximately one in five Millennials.

Recent launches include Starbucks Draft Nitro Cold Brew that was rolled out to nearly 1,000 company-operated stores across the United States a few weeks ago. The product also has expanded globally into 16 markets around the world, with Colombia being the latest to offer Nitro Cold Brew. Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew is expected to be available in nearly 1,500 stores in 26 markets by the end of 2017.

The coffee category has great opportunity for growth, as long as it continues to evolve to meet drinker demands and innovate with current trends, including alternative preparation methods, premium or artisanal brews and better-for-you options.

According to Mintel, 44 percent of U.S. consumers wish they could add healthful ingredients such as vitamins and minerals to their coffee- and tea-based drinks at foodservice. What’s more, 42 percent of consumers would like to see added nutritional benefits in coffee at retail such as probiotics, vitamins and minerals. Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) found that globally, an average of 5 percent of coffee launches/reformulations/relaunches featured functional/plus claims each year from 2010 to 2015. This was lower for the United States, which saw an average of 3 percent from 2011 to 2015. Three percent of U.S. coffee product launches in 2015 included a high protein claim, according to Mintel GNPD, in line with continued high-protein trends across food and drink categories.

Thirsty for more information about cold brews? Tune into to the Healthy INSIDER podcast “Top Food & Beverage Takeaways from IFT" to hear our take on the fast-growing cold brew market.

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