Unlike iced coffee, where the grounds are steeped with hot water and then poured over ice, cold brew coffee uses room temperature water for the steeping process. This means that it takes much longer to brew (sometimes up to 24 hours), but this longer process and cooler temperature brings out different flavors from the beans. Compared to traditionally brewed coffee, cold brew provides a smoother, less acidic taste and a naturally sweeter flavor. Additionally, innovation is expanding the array of cold brew products available—including new flavors, dairy and non-dairy milk additions, select spices and citric notes, and even functionalities and crossover products.1 Some of this can be seen in the flavors of Starbucks® Cold Brew, which include Cocoa & Honey with Cream, Vanilla with Fig & Cream, as well as Black Unsweetened and Black Sweetened.
Not surprisingly, cold brew is most popular in the warmer months as consumers with a coffee craving look for something on the icier end of the spectrum. But even with those spikes, cold brew has been on a steady year-round rise. In addition to tracking sales, this is also evident based on what consumers are searching for online. According to Google Trends, there’s been an increased search for cold brew coffee over the last 5 years, and while there’s seasonality for cold brew coffee peaking in warmer months, the overall trend continues to be on the rise. And there is certainly still consumer interest in cooler seasons.
RTD is where it’s at
Overall, at home consumption for ground and whole bean coffee has begun to level out, with rates being nearly the same in 2017 as they were in 2018. However, different forms of coffee, such as RTD options, continue to drive category growth, specifically amongst Millennials.2 According to Mimi Bonnett, Director Food and Drink, Foodservice for Mintel, “Millennials show strong category engagement, consuming a range of coffee products and show strong interest in innovative offerings, including RTD coffees with new ingredients and added functionality.” 3 RTD coffee is also proving to be a strong competitor to coffee houses especially when consumers want a cold coffee drink. This makes sense for several reasons. For one, RTD coffees come in a variety of flavors, are convenient, and sometimes cheaper than an iced specialty drink from a restaurant/coffee shop. Plus, Americans are increasingly on the go, and they are looking for coffee and drinks that are portable and easy to carry around.
If you’re looking to expand your beverages beyond CSDs, cold brew coffee is an undeniably hot choice. It gives your customers a distinctive coffee experience and you a chance to attract coffee enthusiasts all year long.
1Packaged Facts,“Natural Products Insider, “On Trend: Cold Brew Coffee,” July 2017.,” December 2016.
2QSR,“FoodNavigator-USA, “To-go and ready-to-drink emerge as front-runners in coffee: Packaged Facts,” July 2018.,” January 2016.
3Mintel, “Coffee and Tea Report,” 2018,” June 2018.