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Welcoming hot beverage opportunities with premium coffee and tea

A brand doesn’t have to be a beverage specialist to drive traffic and sales with hot beverages. With a little inspiration from players in the specialty beverage segment and a modest investment in training, equipment and supplies—such as sturdy and functional cups, cup sleeves and bulk hot beverage carriers—restaurant operators of all types can run profitable hot coffee and tea programs.

To put the hot beverage opportunity into focus, consider that brewed coffee and hot tea account for 45 percent and 18 percent respectively of consumers’ daily beverage intake away from home, according to December 2013 research from Datassential’s Buzz Coffee & Tea Tracker reported in CSP Foodservice Handbook 2014. Becoming proficient at selling this popular duo gives operators leverage with important trends such as customization, the breakfast market and healthful beverages.

Now is an opportune time to explore new beverages. “Innovation is exploding throughout the industry,” Datassential says, as operators work on handcrafted offerings. One of the driving forces is the consumer demand for beverages that are perceived as healthier than carbonated soft drinks, which have slumped in recent years. In fact, last year, CSD volume slipped by 3.2 percent, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation. Coffee and tea fill the bill as natural, agricultural products.

Hot beverages are infinitely customizable, making them especially appealing to members of the millennial generation, who have grown up with abundant choices in food and beverage. They can be crafted into signature items with the array of syrups, purees, spices, creamers and sweeteners available today. In fact, condiments are included in nearly three-quarters of away-from-home servings of coffee, according to Datassential research in the CSP Foodservice Handbook 2014. The most popular one is creamer, which is included in 66 percent of servings, followed by sweetener with 48 percent. The leading creamer flavors are vanilla/French vanilla, hazelnut and caramel.

For a sense of the potential of flavored hot beverages, consider that the nation’s number-one specialty coffee chain claims to have sold more than 200 million of its Pumpkin Spice Lattes, a fall seasonal brew, since 2003. In fact, come August, consumers begin counting down the days until Pumpkin Spice Lattes are available, marking the official start of the fall season.

Promoting premium hot beverages also helps operators compete in the growing breakfast market. According to data from The NPD Group, in 2013 U.S. consumers increased their restaurant visits at breakfast for the fourth consecutive year, even as they cut back on their visits at lunch and supper. Adding to the opportunity is the fact that customers are receptive to breakfast foods and beverages throughout the day and night.

However, the hullabaloo about specialty coffee should not obscure the opportunity that exists with premium tea, which has been growing in away-from-home consumption by at least 10 percent annually over the last decade, according to the Tea Association of the USA.

As operators will discover, tea has its own set of best practices. For instance, the water temperature for optimal tea steeping varies with the type of tea. According to the web site In Pursuit of Tea, proper water temperatures range from 165° F. for white teas to 205° F. for black teas to 212 °F., which is boiling, for pu-erh teas. That is significantly hotter than the 195° F. to 205° F. that National Coffee Association recommends for brewing coffee. Customers can comfortably and safely handle hot tea and coffee with the Thermo Grip™ cup or the Coffee Clutch® sleeve by LBP Manufacturing.

The Thermo Grip™ cup has the highest post-consumer recycled content of any multi-walled hot cup in the industry. Its double-wall technology features a 360-degree air chamber that separates the inner and outer wrap, keeping the beverage hot and the cup comfortable in the hand, without need for a sleeve.

For patrons who prefer a sleeve with hot beverages, the Coffee Clutch® is a patented hot cup sleeve that attaches to the cup with a heat-activated adhesive. Make from both recycled and post-consumer fiber content, the Coffee Clutch® has a corrugated design that provides superior insulation and comfort.

Hot beverages are also key products for drop-off catering and bulk to-go sales. In recent years, many corporations have switched from sit-down catered meals to office meetings with dropped-off trays of food and hot coffee in bulk carriers, which can be much more cost efficient. Additionally, breakfast provides a revenue-boosting catering opportunity for operators—it can be as simple as providing a selection of pastries and hot coffee or tea.

The Beverage On the Move™ carrier by LBP Manufacturing is ideal for drop-off catering. It keeps tea or coffee hot for up to three hours; then, it can be discarded, recycled or composted. It also may be custom printed with a brand’s message, and comes in sizes that accommodate 96 ounces, 160 ounces or three gallons of premium hot beverages.

This post is sponsored by LBP Manufacturing

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