In case you haven’t heard, cold brew coffee is one of the hottest trends in the U.S. coffee market. According to a 2022 report published by Statista, the total size of this market stood at around $166 million in 2017, and by 2025, this figure is forecast to increase to around $944 million. Another market study by Technavio even has the cold brew coffee market figures to increase by $1.37 billion from 2020 to 2025.
Cold brew coffee is not a new concept – it is simply steeped coffee grounds in cold water for several hours – but every year, it continues to heat up in favor with consumers.
I remember traveling to see a Wisconsin-based operator nearly eight years ago who was offering nitro cold brew on tap to some of his customers. He was the outlier at that time – an operator who was taking a chance on a trend that was yet to be solidified. Nearly a decade later, many other operators around the country are offering cold brew to their customers. Cold brew coffee is not a trend anymore; it is a staple in coffee service, and operators who can - should be taking advantage of this revenue opportunity.
Which option is right for you?
Previously, cold brew coffee offerings were a challenge for operators. Kegs and CO2 tanks were extra barriers, keeping some OCS operators out of the cold brew coffee business. But manufacturers have seen that hurdle and replied with equipment that makes offering cold brew coffee a possibility.
Various models available use either two 1-gallon (3.8-liter) concentrate BIBs (bag-in-box) or Bunn refillable containers (for ball-valve models), two 1/2-gallon (1.9-liter) concentrate BIBs or a single 1-gallon concentrate BIB (for Scholle models) that staff are already familiar with, and each BIB yields multiple gallons of finished drinks.
Earlier this year, illycaffe announced its new cold brew dispenser system, the illy Cold Brew Blade dispenser, a one-touch system that makes two different cold brew preparations with the twist of knob and venturi spout. Without the need for nitrogen tanks or an external compressed air source, the Cold Brew Blade dispenses illy Cold Brew or nitro-style illy Cold Brew Aria.
The Cold Brew Blade utilizes a 4.5-liter soft pack of cold brew consisting of the signature illy blend equipped with disposable dispensing tubes, which eliminates the need to clean any internal elements. This not only improves its food safety features but also reduces day-to-day maintenance needed from staff.
The unit base footprint is 8.5 inches wide by 11 inches long and is designed to keep the coffee fresh with a 14-day shelf life while in the dispensing unit.
With no nitrogen gas service and no waterline connections needed, the NitroTap takes up minimal space with its small countertop design. It provides easy installation by simply plugging in the machine, connecting the bag and enjoying draft cold brew coffee, giving operators the ability to serve both low- and high-volume clientele.
In 2021, Marco Beverage Systems introduced its cold coffee dispenser called Pour’d, available in ready-to-drink (RTD) or concentrate variants. In the RTD option, cold coffee is dispensed from a BIB, urn or container kept in a fridge, kegerator or under the counter. The Pour’d RTD is available in a one-button font for push and hold, a hands-free font for hygienic activation or a three-button font.
The Pour’d three-button concentrate option gives users flexibility over their offerings, including the ability to use a shot of concentrate for mochas or iced lattes, cold brew and even a hot water stream for teas or Americanos.
Speaking with Automatic Merchandiser’s Bob Tullio in early 2022, Marco’s North American Sales Director Matt Dudley said, “Pour’d eliminates the need for kegs and for CO2 tanks. It enables the use of concentrates or RTD. It adds flexibility and takes away a lot of the cumbersome aspects of a traditional cold brew program.” Read the full interview here.
In late 2021, the company announced La Colombe’s ready-to-drink, shelf stable BIB cold brew compatibility with its Pour’d dispenser.
If adding cold brew equipment isn’t a possibility at a particular location or even for your business at this moment, there are many RTD options on the market. Rise Brewing Co. offers its Nitro Cold Brew Coffee in 7-fl.oz. cans. Monster Energy announced earlier this year that its Java Monster Cold Brew in a can is available in Latte and Sweet Black flavors. And in May, Lavazza launched its organic ready-to-drink cans of cold brew coffee in four flavor profiles: Classic Cold Brew, Nitro Cold Brew, Cappuccino Cold Brew with Milk, and Double Shot Cold Brew with Oat Milk.
Illy also introduced two new ready-to-drink products, illy Cold Brew Cappuccino and Latte Macchiato, in 8.45-oz. slim cans. This comes after the company introduced its first-ever RTD cold brew in 2020. "The expansion of our illy Cold Brew drinks positions illy to meet coffee lovers' ongoing appetite for super premium cold coffee preparations," said Jack Edwards, president of illy caffè North America, in the company’s announcement. "The illy Cold Brew portfolio represents the newest innovations from illy and delivers on our unwavering commitment to superior taste, quality and sustainability that is recognized around the world."
It is clear that cold brew coffee is not a fad that will be going away. It has been gaining traction for the better part of a decade. If you are still in doubt, take a look at grocery retailers and the number of cold brew options available to customers today. In this post-pandemic workplace, operators are challenged to look outside of the box to find new revenue streams, and cold brew coffee offerings could provide the boost in sales that’s needed.