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.”
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.”
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.
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.