Food and beverage trends are said to start in foodservice - at high-end restaurants where the final bill for a party of six often totals more than the average family’s monthly mortgage payment.

Food and beverage trends are said to start in foodservice - at high-end restaurants where the final bill for a party of six often totals more than the average family’s monthly mortgage payment. The original innovation gets diluted many times on its way to becoming a retail packaged product.

Today’s chefs are telling us that iced tea and coffee beverages are a hot trend. This presents an opportunity for dairy processors to recreate these beverage experiences for at-home and on-the-go consumption.

Additional descriptors

According to the What’s Hot in 2011 report from the National Restaurant Association, Washington, D.C., 57% of the more than 1,500 professional chefs surveyed identified specialty iced tea (e.g., Thai-style, southern/sweet, flavored, etc.) as a hot trend. Green tea - hot or iced - was identified as a hot trend by 35% of the respondents. In the coffee beverage category, 57% of chefs surveyed said organic coffee is hot, while 30% said the same for iced coffee beverages.

“Our annual ‘What’s Hot’ chef survey is one of the industry’s most anticipated and quoted culinary forecasts, largely due to the credibility of its respondents - professional chefs that work in some of the nation’s finest dining establishments and educate the next generation of chefs in culinary institutions,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and knowledge group for the National Restaurant Association. “The top trends identified by these culinary professionals for 2011 are reflecting larger societal trends, underscoring that American diners are becoming more and more interested in what’s on their plate. Sustainability and nutrition are becoming key themes in our nation’s nearly one million restaurants.”

Michael Ty, national president for the American Culinary Federation, St. Augustine, Fla., adds, “Locally sourced food and a focus on sustainability is not just popular among certain segments of consumers anymore; it has become more mainstream. Diners are requesting to know where their food comes from, and are concerned with how their choices affect the world around us.”

This plays right into coffee- and tea-based dairy products, where the coffee and tea ingredients can be organic, Fair Trade Certified and even Rainforest Alliance Certified. The milk, too, can be flagged for some sustainable attribute, such as free range, family farmed or locally produced. For example, South Africa’s Fair Cape offers a line of dairy products described as being made from healthy, happy Fair Cape cows fed only natural products with no animal by-products or added hormones. Packaging for the new line of Fair Cape Free Range Rooibos Yoghurts are able to sport the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) Smart Choice emblem as a result of a 100-gram serving containing the same amount of antioxidants as one cup of brewed rooibos tea.

Functional ingredients

Ready-to-drink coffee and tea developers are also adding functional ingredients to their formulations. For example, Renewal Laboratories, San Diego, recently introduced the first bottled tea with omega-3 fatty acids. Available in sweetened and unsweetened varieties, the teas are formulated with high-purity fish oil, a source of the heart-healthy omega-3s docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

New Marley’s Mellow Mood is a line of relaxation teas and sodas inspired by Bob Marley, the globally recognized musician who, when jammin,’ sang about unity, freedom, peace, empowerment and love. Marley Beverage Co. was created by Marley’s family, paying homage to their father and patriarch, by launching and promoting a wide range of drinks that are 100% natural and have ingredients that put people into what they call, “Marley’s Mellow Mood.”

Marley Beverage Co. is manufacturing and marketing the new drinks in a joint partnership with ViVa Beverages, Southfield, Mich. The lightly carbonated sodas come in Berry and Citrus flavors, while the ready-to-drink cold teas come in Green Tea with Honey and Black Tea with Raspberry, Passion Fruit and Peach flavors. According to the company, the drinks have been meticulously formulated with an exotic blend of all-natural botanical ingredients sourced from around the world. Chamomile, valerian root, passionflower, melatonin, rose hips and lemon balm are among the time-tested calming and stress-reducing ingredients that the Marley family has expertly crafted into first-of-its-kind relaxation beverages. The cans and bottles are wrapped in signature colors - green, yellow and red - and picture the classic Bob Marley image: relaxed, smiling, truly happy. 

The opposite of relaxing would be pumped up, and that’s what Athletes HoneyMilk is all about. (Read about it in this month’s New Product Review on page 30.) The Light Coffee variety uses coffee extract for flavoring. It also is enhanced with caffeine for stimulation, with each 11.5-ounce bottle containing 150 milligrams of caffeine.

Quality beans and leaves

Regardless if you are using sustainable raw materials or adding functional ingredients, formulators must remember to design a great-tasting coffee or tea, just like one would be served when dining out. Thus, coffee or tea ingredient selection is of upmost importance.

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 or 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.

With tea, some dairies actually brew tea leaves for an authentic-tasting beverage. They can also use tea concentrates or extracts, or soluble or instant tea pre-mixes, which contain tea, as well as flavors such as lemon, peach, orange or raspberry. Dairies simply measure how much mix they need, add sweetener and process like fluid milk. In low-calorie or diet formulations, the high-intensity sweetener is part of the pre-mix.

Flavor houses also offer coffee and tea flavorants, some of which are based on the real thing. However, tea flavorants typically do not contain the antioxidants one would get from using brewed tea or tea concentrate or extract. Both coffee and tea flavors can be used alone or to enhance the aforementioned coffee or tea ingredients.

All of these coffee and tea 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.