Sponsored by Smucker Away From Home
Cold, specialty coffee beverages are some of the trendiest items around today. Although hot coffee remains dominant in the morning, chilled refreshers are driving welcome incremental coffee sales later in the day, especially among millennials and younger consumers, in both the onsite and commercial restaurant markets.
Popular choices include cold brew, nitro-infused and specialty iced coffee and espresso drinks which can easily be made iced or frozen, such as espresso, latte, cappuccino, mocha and macchiato. And brewed coffee can be combined with flavored syrup, milk, ice and toppings to create frosty specialty drinks like caramel macchiato frappe and iced mocha latte.
About 10 percent of daily coffee consumers reported drinking cold brew coffee in 2017, according to the latest National Coffee Drinking Trends report by the National Coffee Association of U.S.A., up from 1 percent in 2015. And on a weekly basis, 14 percent of consumers drank frozen blended coffee and 3 percent drank nitro.
At the University of Colorado Boulder, cold coffee beverages in multiple forms are growing in retail coffee shops, convenience stores and restaurant outlets, mainly in the afternoon and evening and not at the expense of hot coffee.
“I think [hot coffee] is sort of a comfort food in the morning,” says Cairon Moore, associate director, campus dining services, retail markets and cafes, for CU Boulder. “People want that warmth to get going. But from about 11 a.m. on, we see cold coffee sales increase.”
All campus retail locations serve fresh cold coffee beverages daily, including cold brew made by steeping locally roasted beans in water for 24 hours. The Grotto, a restaurant that operates from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. during the academic year, has many takers for locally roasted and kegged nitro coffee, pouring it long into the night. And iced dirty chai, a shot of espresso mixed with chai tea over ice, has become “a Colorado thing,” Moore says.
Interestingly, the popularity of cold brew and nitro coffees on tap in CU Boulder retail operations is not diminishing the sales of made-to-order iced and frozen specialty coffees, such as fresh-brewed espresso poured over ice. Demand is sufficient to support many variations of hot coffee served cold, Moore reports.
At Au Bon Pain, the Boston-based bakery-café chain, increasing cold coffee sales are building overall coffee sales. “We still sell more hot coffee than cold, but there has definitely been a trend of constantly rising cold sales,” says Katherine See, vice president of culinary and corporate executive chef for Au Bon Pain. “And it is not cannibalizing hot coffee. Our hot coffee sales are not dropping; our iced coffee sales are rising.”
“Taking a beverage that is normally served hot and seeing how it does cold is definitely a trend,” says Ani Baghoomian, café manager at a high-tech company in California’s Silicon Valley. She works for Bon Appétit Management Company, an onsite company based in Palo Alto, California.
If the consumer enthusiasm in restaurants, corporate dining centers and campus outlets is indicative, cold, specialty coffee beverages have a bright future in America. That’s especially true because of the way collegians are supporting it. “What students drink in their college years will have a major effect on their long-term coffee buying habits,” Moore says. That is another incentive for operators to launch iced and frozen specialty versions of their steamy specialties, if they haven’t already.