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For many consumers, the best way to enjoy a brewed beverage is to customize it exactly to their preference. That could mean adding creamers, sweeteners, syrups, spices, toppings and even butter.
According to research firm Datassential in its 2016 Datassential BUZZ Topical report, condiments are added to 75 percent of brewed coffee cups purchased at away-from-home venues. That includes 66 percent of brewed coffee purchases which are flavored with creamers and 48 percent with sweeteners. Flavored syrup shows up in 8 percent of these occasions, and powdered hot chocolate in 5 percent.
In addition, the market is seeing some innovative add-ins, such as butter. Bulletproof Coffee in Los Angeles serves coffee that is mixed in a blender with grass-fed butter. The concept also offers a coconut oil version. According to the company, the combination and the preparation method offers benefits such as mental clarity and higher energy levels.
Whole milk and 2 percent have long been the standard milk options; however, milk alternatives are now gaining popularity. Gloria Jean’s Coffees offers macadamia nut milk as a dairy-free, soy-free option. Some of the locations offer almond milk, based on demand.
Cashew nut milk is another nondairy alternative that is appearing on beverage menus. At Nekter Juice Bar, which has more than 70 U.S. locations in the West and Southwest, the Vanilla Latte is made with cold-brewed coffee, cashew nut milk, agave and real vanilla, and the Mocha Latte is prepared with cold-brewed coffee, cashew nut milk, cocoa, coconut palm sugar and a hint of salt. Both are rich in minerals and are designed to appeal to customers seeking a pre- or post-workout treat.
Other operators say it is important to offer a variety of milk alternatives so people can concoct their own coffee drinks. “They want something lighter or they don’t want to have dairy,” says Brian Molina, managing partner of Home Brewed Bar in Pasadena, California. “We offer four different alternatives to dairy. We have rice milk, hemp milk, soy milk and almond milk.”
Sweeteners and spices
Consumers are now looking for different sweeteners. Home Brewed Bar offers brown and raw sugar simple syrup. “I tend to avoid refined sugar,” Molina says.
Some operators offer honey as a sweetener option. At Mugs Cafe in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Cafe con Miel consists of espresso, honey and steamed milk dusted with cinnamon. Of course, cinnamon has long been an option at self-serve condiment areas at many coffee bars, and some places also offer cardamom, nutmeg and other spices.
Some spices work well in coffee, not only because the flavors complement one another, but also because people want a nutritional element in their brewed beverage. “As people become more aware of 700-calorie crazy concoctions we also are seeing there are other great healthy coffee drinks,” says Uriah Blum, vice president of operations for Vitality Bowls, based in San Ramon, California. For example, ginger and turmeric are reportedly good for gastrointestinal health, and the flavors could work with coffee. “I think everyone has really become more health conscious these days.”
Vitality Bowls offers nutrient-rich bowls and smoothies as well as brewed beverages such as the Acai Latte, which contains espresso, acai, coconut sugar and steamed almond milk. Acai contains antioxidants. “It comes together really well,” Blum says. “It’s easy to drink and has really good flavors.”
Vitality Bowls’ signature drink, the Superfood Mocha, features a superfood chocolate blend. The concept also menus the Pitaya Latte, containing pitaya, or dragon fruit, espresso, coconut sugar and steamed coconut milk — a selection that also is becoming more popular.
There are many ways to customize coffee, from adding a flavor shot to a brewed coffee to inventing a whole new latte or smoothie. “We’re taking it to the next level,” Blum says. “People like to branch out and try new things.”