What’s New on Your Coffee Menu?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fresh ideas to keep customers coming back.
©IStockphoto.com/JLVarga

The coffee world is on the edge, teetering between past and future. Most drinkers still take their daily jolt traditionally, as fresh-brewed blends with cream, sugar, and other flavorings. But specialty coffee is on the rise, a cresting wave carrying with it simpler drinks like pour-overs and macchiatos. This makes for two types of customers, one who just wants it creamy, sweet, and to-go, and another looking for an expertly crafted, quality cup. It’s the established coffee seller’s challenge to court these new customers while retaining their current base, and even steering them toward the latest trends. Regardless of preference, all customers expect consistent high quality coffee. When made right, the best new menu offerings can do just that.

First, some good news: data from Return on Behavior shows that despite its unfamiliarity, you still have a 70% chance of selling a new product like specialty coffee to an existing customer. That means even if your regulars know nothing other than their “usual,” they’ll try something new for a change or as a treat. And specialty coffee is just that: no longer a routine daily purchase, but a special indulgence often taken with friends or coworkers, and sipped and savored. Coffee, like wine, has become an affordable luxury, and your customers are willing to pay a premium for a more refined product experience.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Lattes, cappuccinos, and other simple, milk-and-espresso drinks grew in popularity by 20% or more between 2007 and 2011, according to E-Imports. Simple as they are, these drinks offer a wide spectrum of flavors — recent Starbucks ads highlight the differences between macchiatos (two intensely roasted shots in foam) and flat whites (longer, sweeter shots, topped with rich milk). Understanding these different flavors can help lure an existing customer away from their venti caramel latte, say, to a smooth, creamy flat white.

But only if you make it right – every time. Simpler drinks bring added pressure: with so few ingredients, success hangs in a delicate balance of time, temperature, and refined technique. Coffee drinkers today want to see their latte art, not banish it to the armrest. There's good news here too: innovative machines like the NESCAFÉ Milano dial in those variables to make these drinks fast and consistently at the push of a button.

Sweeten the Pot
For those not yet ready to shun the sugar scoop for good, some specialty coffee shops offer unique, hand-crafted drinks inspired by — but worlds apart from — popular national brands. For a more distinctive taste of fall, pumpkin spice devotees might try lattes infused with maple and sage, or cardamom and cinnamon. Tempt iced mocha fans with a more exotic take like Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk or New Orleans iced coffee with chicory.

Technology like the NESCAFÉ Milano helps here too, with customizable recipe options that let customers blend in flavored syrups to suit their tastes, and give creative baristas the chance to offer their own unique drinks like Halloween Macchiatos or After-Eight Iced Lattes.

Cold is Cool
When summer hits, coffee drinkers crave a chill: cold brew coffee grew 115% last year alone, up to $7.9 million in sales, reports Iced Age. The Specialty Coffee Association of America even held a cold brew world championship — the first of its kind — at its 2015 conference, which speaks to its rising popularity.

Newer trends include nitrogen-dispensed iced coffee, which makes a frothy, frigid brew in a fraction of the time it takes to blend other made-to-order iced options, and the Japanese-style iced coffee (basically a pour-over made in an ice-filled Chemex). Still, a simple iced latte or chilled americano are favorites among specialty coffee drinkers in the warmer months.

Origin Stories
True specialty coffee aesthetes prefer the unadulterated single cup, made as a pour-over, or with specialized machinery such as the Clover, Blossom One, or NESCAFÉ Milano. Even here — free from cream and sugar, not a bit of bergamot nor speck of cinnamon — the flavor wheel is vast. Specialty menus specify bean origins like bright, acidic Kenyans, honey-sweet Colombians, and richer Ethiopian Yirgacheffes and tout growing practices like Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance–Certified, Organic, or even direct-traded micro lots from specific farms.

With compelling origin stories, new coffee menus tell richer tales about the once-humble bean. Indeed, as drinks are simplifying, the coffee itself is becoming more nuanced: flavorful, authentic, hand-made, and above all, natural. “All natural” appeared on 20% of fast-casual menus over the last four years — an 82% growth, according to Datassential. Even your traditional customers are keen on going green: Datassential goes on to report that consumers top five beverage “must-haves” are all related to removing artificial ingredients like preservatives and artificial sugars. That means menus now offer alternative sweeteners like agave syrup and honey, and new milk options like almond, soy, and even hemp. Nestlé — no stranger to quality chocolate — uses a premium, 33% cacao blend in its mochas.

Whether iced or hot, pared to its essence or partnered with milk, shot with syrup or smoothed with chocolate, new specialty coffee drinks demand quality — and your customers, old and new, do too. That means simple, natural ingredients and careful preparation. With the help of innovative technology and an eye toward the latest trends, you can offer a menu with consistently authentic, natural treats for new and old customers alike.

Read more about 2016 coffee trends for insights on how to delight your customers.

Menu Tips: The Quick and Dirty

Try new flavors.
Replace traditional flavors like pumpkin spice with maple and sage, or cardamom and cinnamon, and tempt iced mocha fans with a more exotic take like Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk or New Orleans iced coffee with chicory.

Make it a feast for the eyes.
Give creative baristas the chance to offer their own unique drinks like Halloween Macchiatos or After-Eight Iced Lattes.

Offer alternative additives.
Alternative sweeteners like agave syrup and honey, and new milk options like almond, soy, and even hemp, make your menu accessible to those with special dietary restrictions and preferences.

Chill out.
Iced coffee beverages are rapidly growing in popularity. Newer trends include nitrogen-dispensed iced coffee and the Japanese-style iced coffee. Still, a simple iced latte or chilled americano are favorites among specialty coffee drinkers in the warmer months. Make sure your menu provides a variety of refreshing options.

Tout coffee bean origins.
Specify bean origins like bright, acidic Kenyans, honey-sweet Colombians, and richer Ethiopian Yirgacheffes and highlight growing practices like Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance–Certified, Organic, or even direct-traded micro lots from specific farms.

About Nestlé Professional Beverages
Nestlé Professional Beverages offers an exciting and growing portfolio of hot and cold, non-carbonated beverages including juices, teas, enhanced waters and black and specialty coffees. Our leading brands, including Coffee-mate, Nestlé Vitality and NESCAFÉ in combination with proprietary dispensing technology and custom solutions backed by an unparalleled service network, are all designed to help customers maximize their beverage sales and profits. Nestlé Professional Beverages is part of Nestlé S.A. in Vevey, Switzerland—the world’s largest food and beverage company—with sales of over $98 billion.

Sources: Return on Behavior Magazine: 50 Facts About Customer Experience http://returnonbehavior.com/2010/10/50-facts-about-customer-experience-for-2011/) | E-Imports Espresso Business Solutions http://www.e-importz.com/coffee-statistics.php | Food Dive: Iced Age - cold brew coffee industry catching on in the US http://www.fooddive.com/news/iced-age-cold-brew-coffee-industry-catching-on-in-us/406097/ | Datassential: Trendspotting – Snapshots (All Natural) http://apps.datassential.com/snap/SnapshotsV2 | Clover: http://www.starbucks.com/menu/drinks/brewed-coffee/clover-brewed-coffee | Blossom One, developed in MIT labs: http://www.blossomcoffee.com