No longer just a summertime alternative, new flavors, preparations, and style mash-ups are making iced coffee a category with nuances and rewards all on its own. Customers want more than iced; they’re looking for trending styles and flavors — here’s what to have on tap.
Most hot coffee is made and enjoyed at home, and it makes sense in an age when pods, instant mixes, and advanced homebrew machines mean a steaming mug of joe is just a button’s push away. But when parched palates thirst for a refreshing treat — and 42% of consumers pick drinks for that very reason — we’re more likely to order out. 10% of Americans get an iced coffee every day, and when they do, they usually sip it solo, as a standalone purchase. They’ll pay a bit more and take a bit more time to enjoy the experience.
Out with the Old, in with the Cold
Third Wave coffee’s explosion of drink styles, bean types, and roast profiles mean today’s coffee is a far, flavorful cry from earlier era’s simple cups, and the same holds true here. Iced coffee is much more than the sum of its parts. Cold brew, made by steeping ground beans in cold water, (often overnight) has flooded the market as a smoother, richer, and more potent alternative to traditional iced coffee. While it requires more time to prepare, cold brew commands a higher menu price, and the category grew 115% last year, topping almost $8 million in sales. Reuters reported that when Peet’s Coffee & Tea replaced their traditional iced coffee with cold brew in 2015, sales surpassed the previous year’s by 70%.
Premade cold brew is on the rise as well, successfully competing with sodas and juices from café coolers. The Beverage Marketing Corporation reports the category has grown by more than 50% since 2009, including bottled — and even boxed — brews from popular brands like Stumptown and Blue Bottle.
Shades of Black
Simple cold brew is just the tip of the iceberg — new serving styles, preparations, and drinks are turning plain black coffee into a canvas of possibility. Some menu options worth considering include nitrogen-dispensed cold coffee, like Cuvee Coffee’s Black and Blue from Austin, TX, which delivers a creamy, carbonated caffeine jolt in seconds from a special beer-like tap. Japanese iced coffee is a more low-fi take, made like a traditional pour-over; North Carolina’s Counter Culture serves it in a stylish, old-school Chemex carafe. Innovation doesn’t end there — San Francisco’s Saint Frank mixes iced espresso and tonic water in their Kaffe Tonic while Brooklyn’s Smith Canteen blends their iced coffee with lemonade. Washington DC’s Mockingbird Hill makes a coffee cocktail with beans instead of booze: iced coffee, bitters, and a splash of soda water.
Customers who prefer flavored or milk-blended hot coffee drinks like mochas and cappuccinos have chilled options too. Cold brew keeps company at the top of the trendy heap with other innovative beverages like coconut water and nut milks, and both are finding their way into new flavored iced drinks, adding to their hip appeal. Datassential research found that 67% of Millennials are likely to order flavored iced coffees, so it’s smart to stock your menu with a few creative options. Try Vietnamese iced coffee made with sweet condensed milk, or flavored blends like Starbucks’s Shakerato Bianco and Sparkling Mint Espresso.
Some of the most creative new brews can be found in the fridge bottled and ready-to-drink, like Gevalia’s iced coffee with almond milk and Coco Café’s Coconut Water Café Latte — but that’s not to say your servers can’t make them fresh to order. NESCAFÉ® Milano’s pre-programmed specialty coffee options make it even easier; simply serve them over ice and your customers can enjoy customized brews like an espresso tiramisu or a creamy iced coconut latte.
With fresh new flavors in such easy reach, now’s the time to prepare your menus for the summer’s iced coffee rush. As the weather heats up, you won’t get left in the cold.