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Chill with a treat: How to highlight cold coffee drinks as snacks

Photograph: Shutterstock

For most consumers, coffee is more than just a morning ritual and a breakfast beverage; it’s a treat to brighten up any part of the day. Indeed, 59% of consumers report purchasing coffee beverages as a snack at least occasionally, according to Technomic’s 2018 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report.

That’s especially true for cold coffee drinks, which are often perceived as a snack all by themselves or paired with a sweet or savory indulgence. And restaurants have taken notice and are capitalizing on its popularity—the number of iced coffee drinks on menus grew 47.1% year-over-year, according to Technomic’s 2018 Bakery and Coffee Cafe Consumer Trend Report. Here’s how restaurants can keep things going, highlighting cold coffee drinks as perfect snack opportunities.

Easy access

Batch brewers like BUNN’s Infusion series can produce iced coffee as well as hot, “so it’s easy for a restaurant operator to explore the cold coffee space without an additional investment,” said Chairil McClain, director of product management, product strategy for BUNN. 

“The batch brewer can be set to make hot coffee during peak demand in the mornings,” she said. “Then, in the afternoon during the p.m. snack time, the restaurant operator can easily switch to focus on iced coffee—using the same machine.” To appeal to snackers, operators can brew iced coffee in various flavors such as French vanilla and mocha-java. Seasonal flavors can also pique interest, McClain suggested, noting the huge popularity of pumpkin spice coffee drinks in the fall.

To entice customers to indulge in the evenings, some restaurants offer iced decaf. Some 38% of consumers report visiting bakery-cafes for an evening snack at least once a month, according to Technomic’s Bakery and Coffee Cafe report. To satisfy these customers, McClain suggested a bean-to-cup machine for decaf on demand, which can brew iced coffee by the cup as well as hot coffee.

New formats and sweet treats

While iced coffee is booming, a relative newcomer—cold brew coffee—is trending.  “Cold brew is a hot trend,” said McClain, “and restaurants are promoting it.”

As the name implies, cold brew coffee involves brewing ground coffee at cool or ambient temperatures for long periods of time, resulting in a rich, low-acid cup of java. Most restaurant operators choose to purchase bag-in-box cold brew concentrate rather than make their own and serve it via BUNN’s Cold Draft dispenser.

For variety and snacking opportunities, concentrates are available in various flavors. Or, McClain suggested, restaurants can tailor straight cold brew with the addition of flavored syrup. “Everyone is also experimenting with plant-based milks—soy, almond, oat, cashew,” she said. “They are perceived as healthy and good for you as well as delicious.”

For another java-enhanced treat, drown a scoop of ice cream or gelato with cold brew for a variation on the Italian treat, affogato.

For an even bigger charge, BUNN’s NITRON Cold Draft machines infuse the cold brew coffee with nitrogen during dispensing, which imparts a creamy, thicker texture and a slightly sweeter flavor profile. First introduced in 2017, the Cold Draft series morphed into an all-nitro version with two taps. McClain said, “At first the focus was on cold brew coffee, but now there is a growing demand for nitro, and these machines can satisfy both customers.”

Pairing with snacks

Pairing cold coffee with a snack can help sate hunger pangs—not to mention add to the check average. Many customers gravitate toward sweet pastries including donuts, cookies, brownies and slices of cake. In this case, a darker roast goes well with chocolate items and a medium roast would complement baking spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon.

But the right type of coffee can complement savory and spicy food as well.  

“If you want to pair coffee with spicy food, we would recommend a medium roast, say a Costa Rican or Nicaraguan, which are brighter and would best complement spicy food, especially as an  iced coffee,” said McClain. A darker roast would stand up well with other savory pairings, she added.

For something different, McClain suggested chefs try pairing cheese with coffee. “Sumatran varietals go well with cheese; they really complement the flavor.”

By highlighting coffee as an indulgence (in addition to a staple beverage), introducing new flavors and formats and pairing drinks with food, operators can increase interest in cold coffee drinks as a snack.

This post is sponsored by BUNN

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