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Trend Considerations for Developing Your Next Cup of Joe

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by Laura Dembitzer -

Coffee is a global staple. Its versatility and ubiquity allow it to be a platform ripe for innovation. Though slight growth is expected in the ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee segment (a market valuation of $1.4 billion in 2015 is projected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2020), innovation and new product concepts are still abound.

Specialty coffee shop sales increased 9.1 percent from 2014 to 2015, and the most talked about sub-segment, cold-brew coffee, grew 580 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to Mintel. The following list includes some of the most relevant trends within the coffee industry. These might very well become platforms and springboards for even more new and innovative products.

New Ways to Enjoy Your Cup of Joe—Coffee Preparation

  • Cold-brew: The inaugural Google Beverage Trends Report confirmed cold-brew has captured significant consumer interest across audiences. Consumers want insight into the creation process behind their products, and the DIYers want to cold-brew coffee at home. The growth in this brew method is driven by consumers who appreciate less acidic coffee with higher caffeine content. Early adopters include Stumptown, High Brew and Lucky Jack.
  • Nitro: Nitrogen infusions give coffee a frothy/foamy texture that resembles beer. Coffee shops continue to add taps to their establishments, but you also can find RTDs by La Colombe and Califia Farms.
  • Sparkling: Carbonation adds textural complexity to flavor profiles that are potentially already complex, and is changing the landscape of the coffee category. Trendsetter Chameleon Cold-Brew launched a sparkling line at Expo East this year.
  • Clear: While some brands are choosing to use natural colors in their products, others are opting to remove color from their beverages as another strategy for positioning their products as cleaner. The newest disruptor is colorless coffee. Whether this catches on as an alternative to traditional coffee remains unseen, but the benefit that it won’t stain your teeth helps. Check out U.K.-based brand CLR CFF to learn more about this segment.
  • Next Up: Cascara was hot this past summer. The jury is still out on whether it is categorized as coffee or tea. It’s from a part of the coffee plant—made from the dried skin of coffee berries/cherries—and leverages both the demand for ingredients that deliver health benefits and an increase in attention to sustainability and resourcefulness. Earlier this year, this ingredient was highlighted in the Cascara Latte at Starbucks and in a tea from Slingshot Coffee Co. Cascara is thought to aid with insomnia, liver health and digestive health, which are all ailments that likely affect a fair number of consumers.

Functional Ingredients in Coffee

Coffee that delivers health benefits beyond a healthy dose of caffeine has come into the spotlight. This is especially attractive for consumers who demand convenient formats and enjoy getting multiple benefits from a single product. Here are some of the most common functional ingredients paired with coffee.

  • Protein: Several brands have RTD coffee products that tout high-protein content (Starbucks, Nature’s Best, Orgain, Hi-Ball) because this essential nutrient helps with satiety, added energy and muscle recovery, and remains in high demand.
  • MCT Oil: There are an increasing number of products in the marketplace formulated with MCT oil, which is suggested to deliver benefits like increased energy and enhanced cognitive health. This extends to a few coffee-based beverages that incorporate this ingredient through butter or coconut oil. Check out Picnik or the new Bulletproof RTDs.
  • Probiotics: We started seeing probiotics in coffee. Jus by Julie developed a probiotic-rich coffee, giving consumers another product opportunity to support their digestive health.
  • Next Up: Chaga, an adaptogenic mushroom that has subtle hints of vanilla and nuttiness, has started to appear in beverages in both foodservice and retail. Adaptogens have been gaining more mainstream recognition for their ability to help lower cortisol levels and allow us to better adapt to stressful situations, but the benefits of the chaga mushroom extend beyond stress reduction—it’s thought to promote skin health, regulate healthy blood sugar levels and stimulate the immune system. At the time this was written, #chagalatte had 199 posts on Instagram. Most of the lattes are homemade, but that will likely change, and postings and popularity will increase. Check out Four Sigmatic, a trailblazer in featuring chaga in shelf-stable products.

The coffee landscape is ever-evolving, with new products and flavors that can be enjoyed across all dayparts. Expect to see these attributes and ingredients featured in products within the coffee category and beyond. It’s hard to predict which of these will endure and which will fall by the wayside, but I expect more hybrid products to leverage the trends above, and others like coffee/kombucha and coffee/tea, especially with the expected growth for the tea market. We are bound to witness some awesome innovation of flavors, new platforms, functional ingredients and product hybrids in the coffee category, and I look forward to seeing how they fare.

For flavor or product concept inspiration or to grab a cup of Joe, please reach me at ldembitzer@imbibeinc.com.

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