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by Richard Stein

Warming Up to a Frozen Beverage Program

Categories: 2013, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

2_13 1-AIt is now a given to say that in today’s econ­omy, times are tough. Coffeeshop and café own­ers are expe­ri­enc­ing a freeze in rev­enue because of slow busi­ness. Therefore, they must find cre­ative ways to not just make more money—they need to some­times break even. But, what retailer doesn’t want to boost their rev­enue? They are always look­ing for ways to increase sales. Why not give them a boost by apply­ing a frozen bev­er­age pro­gram? When we talk about frozen bev­er­ages, of course, we are refer­ring to smooth­ies, iced cof­fee, shakes, frappes, lemon­ades or cre­ative con­coc­tions designed by own­ers. “Frozen bev­er­ages have clearly moved from being a niche or spe­cialty offer­ing to a main­stream con­sumer expec­ta­tion,” notes Russ Arnold of Blendtec. They are not only pop­u­lar, but as Desiree Mimlitsch from Cappuccine says, “frozen drinks gen­er­ally offer the high­est dol­lar profit of any bev­er­age exclud­ing alco­hol.” Also, she says, “frozen drinks are pop­u­lar dur­ing slow after­noons.” And Michael Rice of Follett says that frozen bev­er­age pro­grams offer retail­ers another avenue for rev­enue growth.

Competition is fierce these days. Independent cof­fee houses and cafes are con­tin­u­ously con­tend­ing for cus­tomers’ atten­tion. So, if you like to shake things up and stay com­pet­i­tive, intro­duc­ing a vari­ety of frozen bev­er­ages can be a great way to do it. Big Train’s Frank Lindsay agrees that all retail cof­fee house out­lets would greatly ben­e­fit by offer­ing frozen drinks. But on the flip­side, he cau­tions, “they risk los­ing core cus­tomers to com­pet­ing cof­fee houses, juice bars, and other food­ser­vice out­lets.” Don’t let that dis­cour­age you from adding them on the menu, though. One thing to con­sider is loca­tion. Paul Maxwell from Beyond the Bean says that “depend­ing on your loca­tion, frozen drinks can be a year-round menu listing.”

One way to lure health-conscious cus­tomers to frozen bev­er­ages is to adver­tise the health ben­e­fits of frozen beverages–many cus­tomers think of them being a healthy alter­na­tive. Mont Blanc’s Michael Szyliowicz says they are health­ful treats dur­ing the warmer, spring and sum­mer months and that cap­i­tal­iz­ing on their healthy ben­e­fits can be a plus for retail­ers. Another way to do this is through sup­ple­ments known as “boosts”, which are pack­ets filled with nutrient-rich pow­der that can be added to a frozen bev­er­age. Ellie Gross, Vice President at Juice Bar Solution, says that “frozen and iced bev­er­ages are eas­ily con­verted to healthy drinks with the addi­tion of supplement-boosts.” Another way to empha­size healthy frozen drinks is to elim­i­nate sweet­en­ers, syrups and cream­ers. The folks at Weldon Flavoring devel­oped liq­uid fla­vor­ings that are pure sugar-free, con­tain­ing no sweet­en­ers or syrups, calo­ries, carbs, fats, sodium, creamer or caf­feine. A cof­fee alter­na­tive is chai, a blend of black tea and Indian herbs and spices. Tipu Chai‘s Chai Now is a com­plete instant prod­uct that uses an organic, non-GMO soy milk pow­der, sweet­ened with organic cane juice for a healthy, vegan product.

What about the ingre­di­ents? There is a broad range—everything from from fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles, to frozen fruit and veg­eta­bles to prepack­aged smoothie mixes. What you choose for ingre­di­ents depends much on your oper­a­tions plan, cus­tomer expec­ta­tions, and other fac­tors. Flavor is proven to be most impor­tant to a bev­er­age con­sumer, empha­sizes Lani Peterson of Foodservice. Operators should pay atten­tion to fla­vor above every­thing else. Smoothies are always an easy bev­er­age alter­na­tive. Because of their nutri­tional value and ease of mak­ing, they are a very pop­u­lar drink around the world. Attention to the qual­ity of ice is also very impor­tant, as it is a sta­ple ingre­di­ent in any frozen bev­er­age. The fresher the ingre­di­ents, the bet­ter tast­ing the beverage.

2_13 1-BSteps to Smooth Success
The biggest chal­lenge is not know­ing exactly where to start. There will def­i­nitely be start-up costs, over­head costs and pos­si­ble per­mits, licens­ing or fran­chise fees. Writing a busi­ness plan is highly encour­aged, as it will give you an out­line of what to expect. Estimating costs and con­sult­ing a frozen bev­er­age firm is highly rec­om­mended. Nadine VanDeventer, of Treehouse Brands, says, “Start up costs, which are min­i­mal, include a blender ($500 – $1,000) and cups/lids to offer your drinks.“

Training employ­ees is also an impor­tant part of the process once a frozen bev­er­age pro­gram has been imple­mented. Andrew Dun of Insight Beverages advices retail­ers to incor­po­rate a com­pre­hen­sive train­ing pro­gram “to ensure that employ­ees know how to prop­erly main­tain, fill and clean the dis­pens­ing equipment.”

Additionally, a com­pre­hen­sive mar­ket­ing pro­gram is required to build con­sumer aware­ness and trial of frozen bev­er­ages. It is espe­cially impor­tant that retail­ers mar­ket frozen bev­er­ages out­side of their stores to attract new consumers.

Here are a few addi­tional tips from lead­ers in the bev­er­age indus­try:
•     Michael Szyliowicz of Mont Blanc: Sampling dur­ing busy times will increase orders and encour­age your employ­ees to pro­mote the pro­gram with every order.
•     Frank Lindsey from Big Train: Maintain con­sis­tency: loyal, repeat cus­tomers are com­forted by the fact that they will get the same great tast­ing drink made the same way, each and every time they visit their favorite out­let.
•     Paul Maxwell from Beyond the Bean: Use POS to high­light the range that you are offer­ing to tempt and entice cus­tomers to con­sider a frozen drink from your busi­ness and not from the inter­na­tional chain down the road.
•     Steve Christensen from Stoelting: Great cus­tomer ser­vice, great qual­ity of food and bev­er­age, and an inter­est­ing and unique store envi­ron­ment in a great loca­tion.
•     Gina Costello from Costellini’s: We sug­gest always sam­ple your reg­u­lars for their input. Of course we sup­ply the free prod­uct for sampling.

Beverage com­pany lead­ers also pro­vide tools that can con­tribute to retail­ers’ smooth suc­cess.  For instance,  Add a Scoop offers a free POS flip chart which includes ingre­di­ents and nutri­tional infor­ma­tion for all 19 of our prod­ucts. Foodservice pro­vides POS, recipes, online train­ing videos and equip­ment rebates. As far as mixes, Cappuccine offers a wide vari­ety of frappé mixes that can either be used as stand-alone fla­vors or bases to make your own sig­na­ture drinks. For busi­nesses look­ing for a more cus­tomized pro­gram, PreGel America sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives and chefs work closely together to design prod­ucts and/or recipes suited to the par­tic­u­lar client’s needs. Treehouse Brands has train­ing mate­ri­als for prod­uct make up, posters, tubs, lids and scoops. At Stoelting, monthly classes are held for end-users to learn prac­ti­cal meth­ods of mak­ing and pro­mot­ing menu items includ­ing frozen beverage.

Blenders and ice machines
If you decide to offer frozen bev­er­ages the choice of which equip­ment to use in order to make or dis­pense your prod­uct can be daunt­ing. There are so many choices! Ellie Gross of Juice Solutions believes that the right equip­ment makes a huge dif­fer­ence.  Many retail­ers don’t real­ize how many options there are beyond just a coun­ter­top blender. For exam­ple, Blendtec has a full range of blender-dispensers that offer vary­ing degrees of automa­tion. Equipment like this can pro­vide great effi­ciency and allow mul­ti­task­ing, which is key for smaller crews or busy estab­lish­ments. Key aspects of smoothie blend­ing equip­ment include power and dura­bil­ity: You need enough blend­ing power to demol­ish ice, frozen fruit and any other ingre­di­ents, as well as to cre­ate a smooth tex­ture. And you need a blender that can han­dle dozens of blends per hour with­out over­heat­ing or break­ing down.

Ice machines are of equal impor­tance. Qualty ice results in qual­ity frozen bev­er­ages. Being a sup­plier of ice machines, Follett can con­tribute to those retail­ers that offer blended drinks, such as smooth­ies or frozen lattes, as part of a frozen bev­er­age pro­gram. They spe­cial­ize in ice machines that pro­duce Chewblet ice, a form of nugget ice that is softer than the typ­i­cal hard cube-type. Additionally, Manitowoc is unveil­ing their new ice machine,  NEO™, an all-in-one, under­counter ice mak­ing and stor­age solu­tion, that offers up to 33 lbs more of ice pro­duc­tion within the same foot­print of their exist­ing models.

As we see, when imple­ment­ing a frozen bev­er­ages pro­gram, there is much to con­sider. But, it can be  reward­ing. It is a great way for retail­ers to diver­sify their prod­uct offer­ings and pro­vide a very hot trend in the indus­try. There are numer­ous resources for find­ing the right pro­gram for your business.

We were not able to include all frozen bev­er­age mix and equip­ment ven­dors in this arti­cle, for a com­plete list­ing please go to yellowpages.coffeetalk.com.

2012 Trends for Frozen Beverages — Time to get Creative!

Categories: 2012, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Many restau­rants and Cafés have focused on adding dif­fer­ent foods to expand their menu hop­ing to draw more patrons. Beverages have become the lat­est medium for oper­a­tors look­ing to drive sales and increase prof­its. Many fast food chains have seized this oppor­tu­nity, and are exper­i­ment­ing by enlarg­ing their bev­er­age menu and offer­ing fun and cre­ative drinks. “McDonald’s touts its new frozen straw­berry lemon­ade while Steak’n’Shake and Sonic shout about their “happy hour” deals on milk­shakes and frozen drinks, avail­able dur­ing the mid-afternoon snack period.” 1. For this rea­son, we will be look­ing into some of the trends for 2012 and what peo­ple are demand­ing this year, specif­i­cally in the cold and frozen bev­er­ages market.

As the cof­fee lovers that we are, the first thing that I should point out is that Iced cof­fee is on the top of the list; and this topic could be an entire arti­cle by itself. “Consumption of this cold caf­feinated bev­er­age in restau­rants has heated up 20% per­cent in the last five years.”1 According to an inde­pen­dent sur­vey con­ducted by Dunkin’ Donuts, “an over­whelm­ing major­ity (84%) of iced cof­fee drinkers claim they are drink­ing more iced cof­fee this win­ter com­pared to last win­ter.” 2 Not only the inter­est in pre­mium and spe­cialty beans, but also all the advances in the cold brew tech­nol­ogy, has influ­enced the grow­ing demand. Everywhere, from McDonald’s to the local Café’s, oper­a­tors are offer­ing iced and frozen java drinks; even Starbucks with its new Via Iced Coffee is giv­ing cus­tomers the means to make their own at home. As a café, it is impor­tant to focus on the qual­ity of your brew­ing method, and make sure you dif­fer­en­ti­ate your iced or frozen cof­fee from those of the big chains.

Next, con­sumers have become increas­ingly health con­scious, and this trend will con­tinue to be fol­lowed for years to come. Individuals are look­ing at labels that con­tain “Free-From,” “All– Natural,” and “Low-Calorie.” Consumers, espe­cially women, are extremely aware of this last one. Therefore, when select­ing what fla­vor­ings, syrups, and prod­ucts to offer in your café, look for these labels. According to Brenda Weldon, Marketing Coördinator for Weldon Flavorings “We believe at Weldon Flavorings that health con­scious cus­tomers are demand­ing
 more qual­ity from all their bev­er­ages. They want their frozen treats to be health­ier for them and have less sugar, fats, calo­ries, sodium, and arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers. Frozen treats made with Weldon Flavorings can increase the fla­vor of any drink with­out adding these unwanted ingredients.”

From enhanced waters and drinks, such as vit­a­min water, to made-to-order frozen bev­er­ages, con­sumers are look­ing to get extra vit­a­mins and sup­ple­ments from their thirst-quenchers. Specifically ones that will give a boost of energy; hence, the pop­u­lar­ity of “5-hour” and other energy drinks. David Gross, CEO of Smoothie Essentials says, “Our prod­uct line includes twenty assorted blends that indi­vid­u­ally and together encom­pass the broad spec­trum of what­ever par­tic­u­lar ben­e­fit a cus­tomer would be look­ing for. Whether for energy or for rest­ful sleep; for pro­tein or for fiber; for recov­ery from one too many drinks the night before or for an extra boost to the brain func­tions before school, the Smoothie Essential prod­uct line has a prod­uct to meet the benefit.”

According to an inde­pen­dent sur­vey con­ducted by Dunkin’ Donuts, “an over­whelm­ing major­ity (84%) of iced cof­fee drinkers claim they are drink­ing more iced cof­fee this win­ter com­pared to last win­ter.” 2

While many may think that offer­ing sugar-free and low-calorie prod­ucts will affect the taste of their bev­er­ages and limit their cre­ativ­ity, many sup­pli­ers have cre­ated great tast­ing fla­vor­ings, sweet­en­ers, and syrups in order to meet this demand. Your frozen bev­er­ages can be unique and healthy at the same time. Gina Costello, CEO of Costellini’s says their most cre­ative fla­vor is “the cin­na­mon bliss, it’s a show grab­ber every time, peo­ple are shocked when they taste it; then even more shocked when they learn it sugar free and fat free.”

Get Creative!

Creativity is crit­i­cal to dif­fer­en­ti­ate your café; and of course fla­vor. People are now demand­ing not only unique and excit­ing bev­er­ages, but cus­tomiz­able. Consumers want the do-it-yourself expe­ri­ence by being able to pick and choose from an array options. Syrups and fla­vor­ings will allow you to offer vari­ety, while main­tain­ing a high-profit mar­gin. “There is high demand for frozen fruit based bev­er­ages. Lemonade and teas are very pop­u­lar. Again, adding fla­vor offers a com­plete range of drinks. In fact, a café can cre­ate ter­rific tast­ing lemon­ade sim­ply by using Monin Lemon as the base fla­vor.” Says Bob Hager, Vice pres­i­dent of Marketing at Monin Syrups.” While fresh and local is cur­rently a big trend; using only fresh prod­ucts can be expen­sive, and can limit your cre­ativ­ity. Combining syrups and fla­vor­ings with a few sea­sonal fruits and botan­i­cals will allow you to mix fla­vors while keep­ing costs low, and also dis­tin­guish your Café with inven­tive drinks.

According to Jillian Hillard, Marketing Manager at PreGel AMERICA, “ Slushes, frappes and smooth­ies aren’t the only play­ers any­more. Soft gelato and yogurt prod­ucts (affogatos), excit­ing alcohol-infused drinks and more will all greatly expand the frozen bev­er­age cat­e­gory.” Diversifying your prod­uct line does not only mean offer­ing dif­fer­ent fla­vored bev­er­ages, but also dis­tinc­tive and orig­i­nal styles of cold drinks. “PreGel’s Caféttone, Fruittone and Yogurttone lines eas­ily incor­po­rate into an exist­ing café model for a num­ber of rea­sons. The con­cept blends well with the exist­ing offer­ings of many cafés i.e. cof­fee, espresso, juices and fruits – mean­ing you can incor­po­rate Caféttone, Fruittone and Yogurttone within a café’s cur­rent prod­ucts (Salted Caramel Caféttone swirled with espresso).” Adds Hillard.

Quality

When a cus­tomer is pur­chas­ing a frozen or cold bev­er­age they will expect it to be tasty; that it is well blended; and that the fla­vor lasts until the end. The type of blender you use will play an impor­tant role in the out­come of these fac­tors. According to Tony Ciepiel, COO of Vitamix, “Our cus­tomers’ rep­u­ta­tions are built on qual­ity. Whether our prod­ucts are being used in a cof­fee house, smoothie bar, or one of the finest restau­rants in the world, we’ll con­tinue to cre­ate value and ver­sa­til­ity to help ensure suc­cess… Vitamix offers oper­a­tors the abil­ity to deliver a wide vari­ety of supe­rior blended bev­er­ages to their cus­tomers through a vari­ety of fea­tures and ben­e­fits, includ­ing its pro­gram but­tons with 34 opti­mized pro­grams found on The Quiet One.”

Something that is iron­i­cally often neglected, con­sid­er­ing it is the most promi­nent ingre­di­ent, is ice. According to Michael Rice, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Follett Corporation, “Studies have shown that peo­ple pre­fer Chewblet ice, gener­i­cally known as nugget or extruded ice, by over 2:1 com­pared to con­ven­tional cube-type ice.” He con­tin­ues by adding, “All Follett ice machines pro­duce Chewblet ice. More than 50% of the pop­u­la­tion likes to chew ice and con­sumers pre­fer the tex­ture, size, shape, and appear­ance of Chewblet ice. They often think Chewblet ice makes their drinks taste bet­ter and will go out of their way to get drinks with this type of ice.”

Frozen bev­er­ages are not just a sum­mer trend. People enjoy frozen drinks as a snack drink; some as a meal replace­ment, or sim­ply as a func­tional drink that allows them to get their daily fruit intake and other sup­ple­ments (which helps jus­tify the calo­ries); oth­ers drink them because of the tex­ture and because they are just plain fun! Regardless of the motive, the demand is present. Frozen Beverages are high-margin menu items that sell well, and they are easy to add to the menu with min­i­mal invest­ment and inven­tory. Do not miss an oppor­tu­nity to diver­sify your menu and increase rev­enue; fol­low the indus­try trends.

1 www.foodchannel.com/articles/article/top-ten-beverage-trends-2011/
www.sacbee.com/2012/01/24/4210780/iced-coffee-drinkers-running-on.html