It's Time to Help Our Coffee Friends

February 24, 2011
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There's no doubt that fluid milk's image has improved dramatically during the past decade, but it's not only because celebrities sport milk mustaches. A lot of it has to do with Starbucks.

Source: Autocrat

Source: Autocrat

There’s no doubt that fluid milk’s image has improved dramatically during the past decade, but it’s not only because celebrities sport milk mustaches. A lot of it has to do with Starbucks.

Starbucks adds milk to almost every beverage it sells. In fact, milk is the largest component of beverages such as lattes and cappuccinos. And if the milk is not added by the barista, consumers will often add it at the condiment station.

Many of us not only think of coffee as our morning beverage, but it’s also what we turn to for a pick-me up in the middle of the day, as we did not grow up with Red Bull. Though it’s been years since I pulled an all-nighter to study for final exams, or simply pulled an all-nighter for the fun of it, but when I did, it was coffee I turned to for a boost of energy. That’s no longer the case for college coeds and 20-somethings thanks to the abundance of energy drinks in the marketplace.

This is creating a problem, as coffee is an acquired taste. Many of us had a hard time drinking that first cup when it came time to study for finals. The second cup was easier, and by the time we purchased our first Mr. Coffee, we were hooked. But today’s youth is not warming up to coffee like previous generations.

“Among young adults in particular, understanding the choice between energy drinks and coffee needs significant marketing focus. If coffee companies can’t convert these younger drinkers to everyday users, long-term growth may suffer,” says Bill Patterson, senior analyst at Chicago-based market research firm Mintel.

According to Mintel, demand for coffee is strongest among consumers more than 45-years old, and over-55-year-olds are the fastest growing segment of coffee drinkers. But in order to sustain long-term growth, marketers will need to court their younger customers. Mintel research found that while 40% of 18- to 24-year-olds believe coffee improves their concentration, only 27% drink coffee on a daily basis.

Younger coffee drinkers also differ from their older counterparts in that they prefer sweetened coffee drinks to plain coffee (40% of 18- to 24-year-olds say so, compared to only 22% of 45- to 54-year-olds). Furthermore, just 28% of 18- to 24-year olds like the taste of coffee on its own, compared to 53% of 45- and 54-year-olds.

“Another obstacle coffee companies face when targeting a younger demographic is that they often prefer to visit cafes for their caffeine fix,” adds Patterson. “Offering products that are similar to those found in popular cafes, but can easily be prepared at home or at the office could prove successful with 18- to 24-year-old reluctant drinkers.”

Source: Autocrat

This presents an opportunity for dairy processors to create ready-to-drink coffee-milk beverages that appeal to younger drinkers.

When it comes to choosing coffee ingredients, here are a few things you should know. The least expensive is freeze-dried or powdered coffee. It can be stored at ambient temperature; thus, it has a lengthy shelf life. Unfortunately, such products often deliver an acidic or bitter aftertaste, and a formulator needs to mask this with other flavors, thickeners or sweeteners, which of course add to the cost. This is why most formulators prefer to simply use a higher-quality ingredient such as concentrate and extract. These are also available in a wide range of qualities, as well as a variety of flavors and strengths to meet a formulator’s desired flavor profile and bottom line. Concentrates and extracts are made by brewing coffee, followed by reducing the water in the resulting brew.

Flavor houses also offer coffee flavorants, some of which are based on the real thing. They can be used alone or to enhance the aforementioned coffee ingredients.

All of these coffee ingredients have application in other dairy foods, most notably ice cream, but also cultured products. With the latter, it is important to keep in mind that the cultured product base can have a significant impact on final flavor. The level of fat and sweetener, as well as the source of the base (i.e., cows milk or soy) can have an influence on the type of flavor that is chosen.

Let’s put coffee into milk and help out our friends at Starbucks.

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