Coffee Trends Spur Commercial Coffee Innovations

preparing coffee at espresso machine

What’s next for coffee and ready-to-drink coffee products in North America? Our team of experts shares three innovative and emerging coffee trends

KerryDigest Fast Facts:
  • Brand fragmentation in the coffee market is leading to innovation in commercial coffee and ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee products.

  • Our coffee and beverage team hit the streets of Chicago to investigate fresh ideas coming from large and small coffee shops.

  • Among our findings: beverages that use unconventional ingredients, flavors and brewing methods are capturing market share.

  • Coffee companies can leverage these coffee trends—through the use of new technologies, innovations and ingredients—to deliver artisanal-inspired products at scale.

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KerryDigest Full Scoop:

Coffee, with its multiple flavor profiles and inherent benefit as an energy booster, is naturally positioned to serve a wide range of beverage occasions. This is especially true in an era when carbonated soft drinks are in decline and consumers are becoming more accustomed to beverages that are less sweet than before. Add in the consumer willingness to try coffee almost anywhere and anytime, and you’re left with ample opportunities for new brands and coffee innovation.

Growing interest in coffee has spurred growth in the category, new coffee trends and fragmentation. Between 2015 and 2018, nearly 2,500 new coffee and ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee products launched in the United States, bringing a wider range of offerings to the market than ever before. Many came from top performing coffee and ready-to-drink coffee brands, although there were some new entrants to the market, too.

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As competition expands, coffee companies face pressure to stay ahead of the innovation curve, something that often requires bridging the gap between “artisan” and “commercial.” To see what’s on the horizon, our coffee and tea marketing team recently conducted a market tour of some of Chicago’s most innovative coffee bars and shops, noting three clear coffee trends with mainstream potential.

Herbs and Spices Create New Coffee Tastes

While touring trendy Chicago coffee shops, several of the drinks that were sampled featured culinary herbs and spices. These offered a taste of subtle yet unique flavors that aren’t often associated with coffee, yet the pairings were pleasing to the palate. At the Wormhole Coffee, our team tried a latte which featured fresh ginger and curry sauce and another that included dark chocolate and peanut butter flavors. Dark Matter Coffee served up a maple-sage latte while Ipsento 606 offered a basil-mint-mocha-cardamom-rose latte as well as the café’s namesake drink, which features cayenne, honey and coconut milk.

The popularity of such drinks make it clear that consumers continue to seek out novel tastes and experiences, even in classic coffee. To produce herbal and spice flavors on a larger scale, flavored syrups can elevate taste while saving steps for baristas. Kerry’s 2019 North America Taste Charts captures an extensive list of key and emerging tastes to consider.

Third Wave Coffee Innovations Delivers Unique Creations

In addition to promoting flavor exploration, cafés are taking a scientific approach to brewing that results in more rounded and nuanced flavors. Coffee shop visitors want the authenticity that’s delivered by watching their coffee brewed on the spot, especially if the barista is using an innovative method or unusual equipment.

On our tour, we saw a few innovative brewing processes and noticed that some coffee shops are beginning to resemble science labs. For example, the Wormhole Coffee used a Marco automotive pour-over coffee maker which makes a consistent brew every time. At Starbucks Reserve®, an immersive coffee shop that showcases a variety of brewing processes and “rare” coffees, our team observed both a siphon brewer and their own Clover® coffee brewer.

While such innovative brewing methods show consumers the science behind making a cup of regular coffee or cold brew coffee, these eye-catching techniques may also enhance the flavor. What's more, they showcase coffee as an artisanal beverage rather than simply fuel to get through the day.

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The takeaway here: As the consumer palate evolves, coffee manufacturers will increasingly need to partner with taste experts to create products that replicate the artisanal coffee taste consumers are beginning to expect. At the same time, weaving in a well-told backstory—about innovation, craftsmanship or sustainability–is critical for success.

Coffee Trends Make the Leap to Health and Wellness

Consumers want beverages with health benefits, and even coffee—long considered more a vice than a superfood—is getting in on the trend. This was apparent during our Chicago deep dive, when we found that cafés were serving up lattes, milk teas and elixirs with natural ingredients touted for their health benefits. For example, on-tap drink options at Fairgrounds Craft Coffee & Tea included rishi tea, matcha latte, kombucha and cold brew. The café also served lattes and teas containing beet, matcha, coconut milk and jasmine.

Elsewhere, we saw coffee, fresh herbs and spices in juices and elixirs, blurring the lines between coffee and other beverage trends. At Juice Rx, a local juice bar and restaurant, our team found traditional bottled juices and elixirs alongside coffee drinks, such as one made from cold brew coffee, almond milk, coconut milk, red maca and dates.

As functional ingredients such as adaptogenic herbs and ginger push their way to the forefront, brands will need to consider expanding their definition of “functional beverages”—a category that has heretofore been largely known for the addition of protein. Utilizing such trending ingredients can captivate consumers and help new products stand out in a crowded market.

With the right craftsmanship, coffee drinks can deliver an artisanal taste at commercial scale. To create cutting edge coffee concepts at scale—including through the use of flavor syrups, extracts, cold brew concentrates and more—contact us.

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