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Food

Mini muffins, max sales

Two benchmarks determine if a bakery LTO gains permanent status at L.A.-based The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf: It sells at least 2,000 units per week chainwide and it supports the coffee program as an add-on. These mini breakfast bites meet both goals, says Director of Product Development Michelle Stene, and since September, they’re a core menu item at all 302 U.S. locations. 

A healthy mix

Stene was eager to develop a more wholesome baked product based on whole grains. “Customers are increasingly looking for healthful breakfast and snack options,” she says. “We also wanted something that would pair well with regular coffee and wouldn’t be too sweet.” 

Keen on quinoa

Stene says being current is a priority. Quinoa, which appears on 2 percent of unique menus, according to Chicago research firm Food Genius, is a growing trend—and boasts a healthy halo.  Zucchini also has a healthy image and adds moisture, balancing the quinoa’s crunch in the muffins.

Perfecting the texture

Coming up with the best ratio of shredded zucchini to quinoa was tricky. “I went through four iterations before I achieved the texture I wanted,” says Stene. “The mini muffins were a little grainy at first.” Sesame seeds and cake flour also are in the recipe; increasing the amount of cake flour ultimately refined the texture.

Spicing and sizing

Stene chose cinnamon to flavor the bites. It’s a spice that’s versatile enough to carry the mini muffins from breakfast through afternoon snacking—a goal of the new product. The “two-bite” size (2 ounces) and $1.35-per-muffin price add to its all-day appeal.

Sales tell the story

“We sold 2,500 of this bakery item in each of the first few weeks, and by summer, it moved up to 4,500,” says Stene. She was a bit surprised that the muffins did so well, as indulgent items usually sell better. A gluten-free carrot loaf didn’t make the cut—it sold 1,200 units. Guests seemed to prefer the flavor and appearance of the bites, she concludes.

What’s next

Stene is following the toast trend for fall, introducing Harvest Cranberry Walnut Toast with maple-almond butter. “It’s patterned on the rustic European breads popular now, with the addition of autumn flavors, such as cranberries and nuts—which also contribute texture.”

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