According to the National Coffee Association, New York, 55% of U.S. adults say that they consume coffee on a daily basis. More importantly, daily consumption of gourmet coffee beverages has jumped to an unprecedented high with 17% of the overall adult population partaking, up from 14% in 2007. Many of these gourmet beverages include a dairy component.

Most consumers recognize coffee beans, but few consume them in bean form. For the most part, consumers drink the brewed beverage prepared from roasted and ground coffee beans or from an instantized preparation. But there’s many other ways to enjoy coffee, and many of them rely on dairy as a delivery vehicle.

Consumption statistics

According to the 2008 National Coffee Drinking Trends report from the National Coffee Association, New York, 55% of U.S. adults say that they consume coffee on a daily basis. More importantly, daily consumption of gourmet coffee beverages has jumped to an unprecedented high with 17% of the overall adult population partaking, up from 14% in 2007. Many of these gourmet beverages include a dairy component.

Preliminary data also reveal that total coffee consumption is now at 47% of adults in the 25- to 39-years old group, again matching this decade’s high set in 2006 and up three percentage points from 2007.

Among Americans age 25- to 59-years old, gourmet coffee consumption surged to new heights in 2008, with 19% now being daily drinkers. Dramatic increases since 2007 of six percentage points among consumers age 25- to 39-years old and four percentage points for those 40- to 59-years-old were shown.  Even among older Americans 60+ years, gourmet coffee drinking jumped four percentage points, overtaking a high set in that group in 2006. Gourmet coffee includes espresso-based beverages as well as those that consumers perceive as “gourmet” based on the wide variety of coffee options available in the marketplace.

“Consumers are taking advantage of the variety of choices now readily available to them,” says Robert Nelson, president and CEO of the National Coffee Association.  “Gourmet coffee offers intriguing adventures into new tastes, appealing to consumers’ keen interest in exploring the varied options offered at cafes and through products for at-home enjoyment.”

In 2007, past-day consumption of coffee surpassed that of soft drinks for the first time. While the gap narrowed in 2008, daily consumption of coffee is still directionally higher.  Coffee consumption first tied soft drinks in 2006 before surpassing soft drinks in 2007.  With its penetration stabilizing, soft-drink consumption failed to regain dominance over coffee in 2008. For the seven years leading up to the 2006 tie, soft drinks had run ahead of coffee consistently by six or seven percentage points. 

Without a doubt, younger drinkers are a driver of specialty and gourmet coffee beverages. However, after showing remarkable gains of four to six percentage points each year since 2004, daily coffee consumption by 18- to 24-year-olds dropped for the first time this decade from a high of 37% in 2007 to 26%, but stabilized to its 2005 level.

“As we’ve seen in prior periods of economic softness, this age group is particularly hard hit, resulting in higher than average levels of unemployment,” says Mark DiDomenico, director of foodservice insights with Sara Lee Foodservice, Downers Grove, Ill. “With their lower than average incomes, higher gas prices will also cause these consumers to forego discretionary spending on certain items, including the daily stop for coffee at their favorite foodservice outlet.”

What’s unique to this group is that their first exposure to coffee came in many forms and varieties. When Baby Boomers became coffee drinkers, they typically were consuming a cup of hot Joe made from instant coffee or pre-ground coffee in a tin can. Starbucks was not an option for Baby Boomer co-eds pulling an all-nighter for college finals.

It’s very likely that the majority of today’s young adults never even tasted instant or pre-ground canned coffee. This demographic is the driver of specialty coffee beverages including made-to-order lattes and ready-to-drink individually packaged coffee-milk beverages.

This demographic is also driving organic coffee products. The Sustainable Markets Intelligence Center, New Brunswick, Canada, estimates that the budding organic coffee sector represents 2.5% of the total U.S. coffee market. While still a small number, the double-digit annual growth rate documented by researchers between 2000 and 2006 dwarfs the estimated 1.5% to 2.0% projected annual growth rate of the conventional coffee industry.

Lattes to the rescue

Coffeehouses are doing more than serving coffee beverages, they may be helping close the calcium gap in this country. With two out of three Americans failing to get enough calcium, many of today’s most popular coffee drinks supply more than a full serving (8oz) of milk.

For example, a Grande Caffe Latte at Starbucks provides 415mg of calcium or 40% of the Daily Value for calcium. Order a Venti and the calcium soars to 50%-supplying half of the 1,000mg of calcium recommended each day.

For women who rarely drink a glass of milk with their meals, nutrition experts say milk-based coffee drinks like lattes can be an easy way to correct calcium shortfalls. “Skim or nonfat lattes are not only a guilt-free treat that women can feel good about, but they’re an eye-opening nutrition ally,” says registered dietitian Carolyn O’Neil, author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! “Most women are completely surprised to learn what a powerful nutrient punch is in each cup, but it makes sense when you consider that you’re getting more milk than espresso when you order a latte.”

A 16-oz skim latte is not only an excellent source of calcium, but provides an array of other nutrients, including 25% Daily Value of protein and 35% Daily Value of vitamin D. Each 16-oz serving is also a good source of other nutrients that are often lacking in women’s diets, such as potassium, magnesium and vitamin A.  

Many people mistakenly believe that the caffeine in coffee hinders calcium absorption.  But in reality, the impact is negligible. In fact, adding milk to coffee appears to significantly offset the impact of caffeine on calcium absorption.

A series of studies conducted by Robert Heaney, a researcher at Creighton University in Omaha, found that caffeine did not have harmful effects on calcium absorption or bones.  He concludes that only about 4 to 6mg of calcium were lost for every cup of coffee consumed, but this was primarily seen in women with inadequate calcium intakes.

Heaney’s research indicates that adding milk to coffee offers beneficial effects that virtually “negate” the minimal impact of caffeine. He estimated that the small calcium deficit is countered by adding just two tablespoons of milk to a caffeine-containing beverage such as coffee, which is another benefit of drinking a latte instead of black coffee.

Getting into the coffee-dairy biz

Recognizing opportunities in targeting milk-containing coffee beverages to younger consumers, as well as women of all ages, Switzerland-based Nestlé S.A., recently opened the new Nestlé Professional Beverage Centre, the company’s first research and development facility entirely dedicated to its out-of-home beverage business. This includes a global focus on ready-to-drink and foodservice coffee-milk beverages.

In April, Carvel Ice Cream stores introduced three distinctive Blended Coffee Drinks- Mocha Freeze, Caramel Macchiato Freeze and Coffee Freeze-which are all based on premium coffee extract.

“Carvel already offers Thick Shakes, Malts, Carvelanches and Floats, but I believe our new blended beverages will catapult us into a position where we can be leaders in the beverage category,” says Gary Bales, president of Carvel Ice Cream, Atlanta. “During the market test we conducted last summer, the new beverages accounted for 3% of total beverage sales.”

Interested in developing a coffee-dairy beverage? Here are a few things you should know. The least expensive coffee flavoring ingredient is freeze-dried or powdered coffee. It can be stored at ambient temperature; thus, it has a lengthy shelflife. Unfortunately, such products often deliver an acidic or bitter aftertaste, and a formulator needs to mask this, especially in cold beverages, with other flavors, thickeners or sweeteners.

Concentrates are more commonly used in beverages because they deliver a higher-quality coffee flavor. They are available in a wide range of qualities, as well as a variety of flavors and strengths. They are made by brewing coffee, followed by reducing the water in the resulting brew.

Flavor houses also offer coffee flavorants, some based on real coffee. Such coffee flavors can be used alone or to further enhance the aforementioned coffee ingredients.

These coffee ingredients also 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 coffee flavor that is chosen.

While there are many choices available for coffee-flavored dairy foods, the most successful tend to have rich, fresh brewed notes, which remind the majority of the adult population of their freshly brewed cup of Joe in the morning.