Don't Forget The Ice

June 24, 2016
The popularity of cold coffee, in many forms, is heating up.

From traditional cold brew coffee to espresso-based ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, the demand for refreshing and chilly coffee is skyrocketing. Mintel estimated that from 2014 to 2015, retail sales of cold brew coffee grew 115 percent and according to Bloomberg the U.S. ready-to-drink coffee market has been growing by double digits since 2011.

Even in cooler months, cold coffee is contributing to booming sales for some companies. In fact, in the fourth quarter of 2015, Starbucks reported a 20 percent increase in iced drink sales nationally and KonaRed recently reported that its ready-to-drink (RTD) cold brew coffee sales have increased by triple digits each month since February. Coffee and beverage manufacturers, as well as brewer manufacturers, are responding to this trend with a variety of ways to give consumers the cold beverages they crave.

Deliver the chill to the workplace

There are several ways operators bring cold coffee to the workplace. One option is cold brew. In 2015, 25 percent of respondents to the State of the Coffee Service Industry report indicated that they offer a cold brew choice. Some operators opt to bring cold brew coffee — made by steeping ground coffee beans in room temperature water for an extended period of time — to the workplace in kegs, while others offer the product in bottles, cans and cartons. Cold brew coffee naturally tastes sweeter and can be higher in caffeine than traditional RTD coffees. It does, however, require constant cool temperatures between storage and delivery, which may be a challenge for some operators.

While cold brew needs to be kept refrigerated, many traditional RTD coffees do not, which makes them another great alternative for operators to offer. Traditional RTD coffee, according to Euromonitor International, differs from cold brew in that it is hot brewed coffee, iced or chilled and in most cases sweetened and mixed with dairy. In fact, a consumer can purchase the item from a machine or micro market — chilled or unchilled — and consume from the bottle/can or pour over ice.

Another popular way to offer cold coffee beverages is through a specialty brewer. For example, Bunn’s Espress® Sure Tamp® utilizes technology called Milk Texturing Fusion™ that creates cold frothed milk. Combined with espresso, the iced beverage mirrors that of a café experience.

For those looking to create the iced coffee experience in a small office environment, some manufacturers also offer a single-cup solution to brew beverages over ice.

All signs lead to cold

The National Coffee Association’s (NCA) most recent National Coffee Drinking Trends Report found that 15 percent of respondents had tried cold brew coffee in the last year and 10 percent claim to have tried nitrogen carbonated coffee.

It’s clear that the trend for cold coffee beverages is not expected to decline; in fact, research shows that Millennials — the largest generation in the workforce — are a group most likely to consume cold beverages such as cold brew coffee.

As an industry catering to those out-of-home consumers, it makes sense to offer the iced coffee and coffee-based beverages Millennials and other consumers desire.