Though U.S. iced-coffee sales tend to slip at the end of summer, cold-brew iced coffee appears to be bucking the trend, Reuters reports, with strong sales continuing even as the season dwindles, indicating the beverage’s move beyond the realm of “hipster infatuation” to a more mainstream caffeine vessel.
When Peet’s Coffee & Tea, which has about 400 U.S. locations, replaced its traditional iced coffee with a cold-brew variety in June, sales of its iced coffee exceeded last year’s by as much as 70 percent, a spokesperson for the coffee chain told Reuters.
This may be due, in part, to the growing popularity of iced coffee in general—cold-coffee drinks accounted for 24 percent of all coffee sold in U.S. restaurants and coffee shops in 2014, an increase of 5 percentage points from 2009, according to research company Mintel.
Though sales of cold-brew coffee are strong, its cost of production is higher than traditional iced coffee, due to the nature of the cold-brewing process. The cooler temperature of the water used extracts less flavor from each bean than hot-brewing methods, and as a result, more beans are required to produce the same amount of coffee.
Michael Pollack, managing partner of Brooklyn Roasting, told Reuters that he uses a double dose of coffee in his cold brew, adding that he goes through beans twice as fast during the summer as other seasons.
To offset higher material costs, Peet’s charges $2.45 for a small cold brew, up from the $2 it charged for a traditional small iced coffee, and Starbucks, which introduced its own cold-brew offering in March, charges 60 cents more for a grande than its traditional grande iced coffee.
QSRs beyond coffee chains are picking up on the cold-brew cue as well. Chick-fil-A last summer introduced a cold-brew iced coffee as part of its partnership with specialty-coffee company THRIVE Farmers. It’s offered in two varieties—original and vanilla—and is steeped for 24 hours before being bottled as concentrate and shipped to restaurants, where it sells for $2.29 (16 ounces) and $2.59 (20 ounces).
"Our cold-brew process keeps the integrity of the coffee flavor and gives customers a more hand-crafted taste that we are excited to share," said Matt Abercrombie, senior consultant of menu development for beverages and dessert for the Atlanta-based chicken chain. “Cold-brew coffee is offered as a standard menu option for our guests.”