How to meet OCS consumer needs

The trend towards coffee shop style hot beverages began more than 20 years ago, but it hasn’t stopped evolving. Now U.S. consumers want gourmet coffee, the ability to customize beverages and specialty drinks that include healthier drink additions.

“We’ve all seen the stats — 80 percent of employees find free coffee to be a top perk in the office, but those consumers are now demanding much more from their coffee system,” said Dan Cignarella, vice president of sales for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. He finds customers want gourmet coffee offerings with flavors and variety, but also coffee alternatives like tea, and milk-based beverages like lattes and hot cocoa. “Being able to offer a coffee for every taste has been a huge part of the attraction to single-cup but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg,” Cignarella said.

Consumers want to customize

“The coffee shop culture created the trend toward customization,” said Brian Miller, vice president of marketing and sales for Mars Drinks North America. “Off the shelf, one size fits all coffee is a thing of the past.” OCS consumers want a choice with variety. Miller points to a similar trend happening with crafted cocktails and beers in the ‘foodie’ culture.

Tea: a terrific add-on

Tea is growing in popularity in the U.S. More Americans drink tea now than they ever have. Lisette Gaviña-Lopez, marketing director, foodservice and OCS division, F. Gaviña and Sons, Inc. believes tea isn’t a competitor to coffee, but instead a complimentary segment. “The seasonality and the day parts are opposite for coffee and tea,” Gaviña-Lopez said. “It wouldn’t be uncommon for a customer to come in for a coffee in the morning, and have a tea or iced tea in the afternoon.”

Another trend that includes both customizing beverages and the upward trend in tea is to chill OCS beverages. Iced coffee and iced teas are very popular, especially in the summer months. Gaviña-Lopez explains that these segments are driven by a younger consumer. “They’re looking for something that is refreshing, cold and energizing, and also something that is slightly better for you,” Gaviña-Lopez said.

Healthy options trending

There’s also been a big increase in demand for healthy beverages even in the OCS segment. “There’s a desire for things that are more natural and better for you that is driven by consumers,” Gaviña-Lopez said. “When you attach a name like blueberry or raspberry to a coffee or tea, it’s appealing to consumers today.”

She also notes a changing consumer desire for flavorings. Instead of using cream and sugars that would load up calories, they are avoiding these. Instead, consumers are brewing naturally flavored coffees and adding sugar free syrup options. “We are seeing several sugar-free or no sugar added additives for coffee,” Gaviña-Lopez said.

Consumers are demanding more OCS options today from quality coffee service. However, many of these specialty options carry a high price point, allowing the OCS operator to make more revenue.