CHICAGO — The influx of premium innovations to the ever-evolving retail beverage category makes it possible to avoid coffeehouse lines and still enjoy a cup or glass of your favorite brew. One stand-out innovation, for example, is cold-brew coffee. It is driving innovation in coffeehouses, in the ready-to-drink (R.-T.-D.) segment and even in packaged coffee. The product started at the local, artisan level, and it’s now mainstream and available in many varieties.
Earlier this year, Biggby Coffee, Sparta, Mich., added cold brew to its menu. The company sources cold-brew extract and dilutes it in the shops to make various beverages. This summer, a handful of locations in Western Michigan added nitro coffee. This is cold-brew coffee infused with nitrogen gas and poured from a tap, which creates a creamy, stout-like effect. It is typically consumed over ice, plain or with typical coffee ad-ins.
More recently, the Biggby coffee houses started selling an R.-T.-D. packaged product. The company partnered with Guernsey Farms Dairy, Northville, Mich., to produce three varieties that come in pint gable-top containers. All are made with the company’s signature cold-brew coffee.
The J.M. Smucker Co., Orrville, Ohio, is launching Dunkin’ Donuts Cold Brew Coffee Packs for at-home preparation. The “brew-it-yourself” take on the category directs the consumer to put a coffee filter pack into a quart of cold water and steep it in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours. After, remove the pack and add three more cups of cold water. The packs are formulated with 100% Arabica beans. They are sold in packs of two for $9.99.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ stores started selling cold-brew coffee in the U.S. and Canadian markets about a year ago. It has been one of the chain’s most successful new products in the past 16 years, said Nigel Travis, chief executive officer of Dunkin’ Brands, Canton, Mass., performing well with millennials, a demographic the chain is trying to attract.
Cold brew is not to be confused with iced coffee, which is regularly brewed coffee served chilled or over ice. Dunkin’ Donuts has that, too. Produced and distributed through a partnership with The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, a new line of R.-T.-D. single-serve iced coffee beverages come in espresso, French vanilla, mocha and original flavors.
Nestle U.S.A., Glendale, Calif., is now a player in the R.-T.-D. refrigerated coffee sector. The new Natural Bliss coffee collection includes Caramel Iced Coffee, Mocha Cold Brew and Sweet Cream Cold Brew. The product comes in 46-oz multi-serve bottles.
Beach Beverage Co., San Francisco, takes a unique approach to its R.-T.-D. coffee and tea drinks. Instead of adding sweetener, the cold-brewed beverages are made with coconut water, which delivers a natural tropical sweetness, according to the company. It also allows for a no-added sugars claim.
Ito En, New York, is a green tea beverage company that now offers cold-brew R.-T.-D. teas across its Matcha Love and Teas’ Tea Organic brands. Each line uses Japanese cold-brew processes, ice-steeping the tea to bring out the smooth, naturally mellow sweetness of green and black teas.
“Consumer demand for cold-brew beverages is at an all-time high and we believe the launch of our teas will help us establish a new segment in the R.-T.-D. tea category,” said Rona Tison, senior vice-president of Ito En (North America) Inc. “Given Ito En’s deep-rooted expertise in Japanese cold-brew methods called Mizudashi, we feel there’s an enormous opportunity for us to take the leadership role for this innovative set. We’ve elevated the simple essence of our tea leaves and created a more delicate taste with a smooth, clean finish.”
The Maple Guild, Island Pond, Vt., added maple-sweetened iced teas to its R.-T.-D. lineup. The 16-oz glass bottles come in nine varieties and join the maple syrup company’s enhanced maple waters.
The Evolution Fresh cold-pressed juice brand from Starbucks Coffee Co., Seattle, is dabbling in the iced tea category with its new juice and cold-brewed tea blends. Evolution Fresh Coolers come in three varieties. The Blueberry Mint Cooler is a light, refreshing blueberry juice mixed with a hint of watermelon and green tea. The Raspberry Citrus Cooler combines the sweet tart of raspberry with a hint of watermelon and green tea. Tropical Hibiscus Cooler is pineapple juice and hibiscus tea with notes of watermelon and citrus.