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When the warm weather arrives, consumers are increasingly cooling off with this summer’s hottest new cold coffee beverages — cold brew and nitro.
According to the latest research from Datassential MenuTrends, about 3 percent of non-alcoholic beverage menus feature cold brew (coffee that is brewed with cold water), which tallied more than 48 percent growth over the past year.
Cold brew has especially taken off on chain menus, and is even being paired with another emerging coffee trend in the form of nitro (cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen), say Datassential’s menu analysts.
Nitro appears on nearly 1 percent of non-alcoholic beverage menus --- more than 100 percent growth over the past year.
Among the major chains serving these on-trend cold coffee beverages is Canton, Massachusetts-based Dunkin’ Donuts, which continues to innovate its coffee program. To better serve its guests craving a smooth, full-bodied cup of cold coffee, last summer Dunkin’ added Cold Brew to its menu.
“With our brand’s long heritage of serving quality coffee, we think it made perfect sense to extend our beverage lineup with the addition of Cold Brew, introducing another specialty coffee product to keep our guests energized,” says Justin Drake, senior manager of public relations at Dunkin' Brands. “The Dunkin’ Donuts’ Coffee Excellence Team worked on the Cold Brew blend for years before we introduced it in-store.”
The response to Cold Brew has been so positive that the chain is now testing Nitro Coffee in selected restaurants in Hartford, Connecticut, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Also new this summer at Dunkin’ is Frozen Dunkin' Coffee, a frozen version of the chain’s Original Blend Coffee.
For the last few summers, customers at the three locations of Beatrix in Illinois have been shifting to cold brew and nitro coffee.
“There is definitely a shift,” says John Economos, general manager at the Beatrix Streeterville location. “In the spring and summer, we see a huge increase in our iced coffee and nitro sales.”
In addition to straight cold brew or nitro, Beatrix also serves flavored cold brew creations such as Iced Banana Joe (cold brew, banana puree, dates, hemp seeds and almond milk); Mexican Iced Coffee (cold brew, agave, cinnamon and milk); and Caramel Nitro. The drinks are made by adding cold brew to a house-made base.
While cold brew sells well year-round, Economos says Beatrix’s most popular cold coffee beverages right now are the seasonal Iced Banana Joe and Mexican Iced Coffee.
Other coffee chains adding flavor to cold brew this summer are the 17-unit It’s A Grind Coffee House and the 57-unit Gloria Jean’s Coffees, two specialty coffee brands owned by Santa Fe Springs, California-based Retail Food Group USA. Gloria Jean’s is currently featuring Blueberry Sunrise Cold Brew while It’s A Grind is serving Apricot Cream Cold Brew.
“It is all about cold brew,” says Martin Balcaitis, Retail Food Group USA Director of Marketing. “Gloria Jean’s and It’s A Grind really stand apart in that we create our flavored cold brew from our signature flavored beans. We even sell flavored whole beans for our guests to make their own cold brew at home.”
As part of its summer promotion, Gloria Jean’s also is featuring other cold summer coffee creations, including Chocolate Caramel Turtle, a frosty blend of signature coffee, chocolate and caramel pecan syrup; and White Chocolate Caramel Voltage, a blend of white chocolate and caramel topped with a shot of espresso.
In a twist on this trend, some brands are offering cold coffee beverages made with a blend of cold brew or nitro and better-for-you ingredients.
For example, last August New Orleans-based Smoothie King launched Coffee High Protein Smoothies in flavors such as Almond Mocha, Raspberry Mocha, Vanilla, and Cinnamon Latte. Blended with New Orleans-style cold brew coffee and packed with protein, the smoothies are targeting guests who are looking to energize their day. The smoothies, which range from 370 to 430 calories per 20-ounce cup with 30 grams or more of protein in each, are available at nearly all 900 Smoothie King locations.
Similarly, San Ramon, California-based Vitality Bowls recently began offering organic cold brew coffee in a keg with nitrogen, as well as a menu of espresso and “superfood coffee” drinks made with antioxidant-rich ingredients such as açaí, pitaya and kombucha.
As Americans' taste for cold brew and nitro coffees continues to grow, experts maintain that it is a sure bet that these chilled beverages will be appearing on many more menus with an increasing variety of selections.