Ready-to-drink coffee drinks—regular or cold brew; sweetened or unsweetened; plain or flavored; alone, with milk or plant-based whitener—are currently one of the most popular beverages. It’s not only for their convenience, it’s also that their inherent caffeine serves as a source of natural, clean energy, something many consumers are looking for in their beverages.
To read more about the clean energy trend, link HERE to a recent article I wrote on the topic for Food Business News.
In addition to providing clean energy, there’s overwhelming scientific evidence showing that coffee offers potential health benefits, from liver health to longevity, according to the National Coffee Association (NCA) USA. When coupled with the nutrient density of real cows milk, you’ve got a true powerhouse beverage.
Just imagine the marketing possibilities when functional ingredients are added, such as protein, probiotics and prebiotic fibers. These ingredients are recognized as assisting with everything from refuel and muscle building to digestive health and immunity.
“Coffee and health is an opportunity for the coffee industry to connect with consumers,” says William (Bill) Murray, NCA president and CEO. “The message is clear: coffee is good for you. But it’s up to the industry to share that story.
“Coffee is America’s most beloved beverage,” he says. “New consumer values have changed the game for coffee. But the industry is adapting--and thriving--by embracing innovation and transparency.”
Milk processors can do the same!
More than ever before, consumers are paying attention to what’s in their cup, glass, bottle or can. It’s time to get smart with your formulation efforts.
Functional coffee beverages provide a convenient opportunity for dairy processors to enter the non-dairy space. Imagine a range that includes lattes with milk, oats and almonds. There’s something for everyone and it’s being produced by a dairy. Further differentiate through the addition of extra nutrition.
Danone North America continues to grow its Stok cold-brew coffee brand. The Stok Protein Espresso is now available in 15-ounce cans and is a blend of coffee and dairy. The brand also now offers cold brew with almondmilk and cold brew with oatmilk.
The NCA does not see a significant change in the quantity of coffee that people are consuming, but the association says there has been a clear change in the quality and consideration of each cup. Driven by younger coffee drinkers, NCA is seeing a gradual but steady increase in the share of coffee prepared out-of-home and consumed after breakfast.
The under-40 demographic is a powerful force in the coffee market. They are driving growth in cold brew and ready-to-drink, which are both demonstrating impressive growth trends, according to Murray. Considering how recently they’ve reached mainstream markets, awareness of these beverages is high: 80% and 89%, respectively.
Both of these categories offer opportunities for innovation, from preparation methods to functional ingredients. Milk processors are key to these efforts.
JoeFroyo Functional Cold Brew is right on trend. The perishable beverage combines the kick of caffeine from cold-brew coffee with probiotics and protein from drinkable yogurt. Free from artificial colors and sweeteners, and containing no lactose, gluten or preservatives, the drink is fortified with milk protein isolate and whey. The refrigerated drink uses high-pressure processing to extend shelf-life without relying on chemical preservatives.
“The functional beverage market is seeing exponential growth right now, but wherever we looked, we could see drinks that sacrificed taste for benefits or benefits for taste,” says Zach Miller, president and CEO. “With JoeFroyo, we tried to create a functional beverage that checked all the boxes. It’s full of long-lasting energy, natural health benefits and we never compromise on great taste.”
At the beginning of the year, Shamrock Farms introduced Rockin’ Protein Energy. The new refrigerated beverages combine the naturally occurring caffeine from coffee with a whopping 30 grams of high-quality dairy protein for a powerful one-two punch ideal for sustained energy. Varieties are: Café Latte, Caramel Latte and Mocha Latte.
Smari is rolling out Kaffi Icelandic Protein Coffee. The new 8-ounce refrigerated coffee-milk line comes in three varieties. Keto Latte is designed for the keto dieter, with 60% of calories coming from fat, 35% from protein and 5% from net carbs. The 8-ounce bottle contains 110 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar and 10 grams of protein. The perishable beverage provides as much caffeine as almost 2 cups of coffee (150 milligrams). There’s also two flavored lattes. They are: Iced Mocha and New Orleans.
In Germany, DMK Group now offers Milram Kalder Kaffe Powerful Cold Brew Coffee beverage made with low-fat milk. Containing no-added-sugars, the perishable product is marketed as a natural energy drink.
Super Espresso from Kitu Life is a 6-ounce can loaded with 180 milligrams of caffeine from three shots of organic espresso and no added sugar. It does, however, provide sustained metabolic energy from whey protein concentrate and coconut medium-chain triglyceride oil (MCT) oil. It also contains l-theanine, an antioxidant found in green tea. This combination of ingredients is said to provide a smooth, sustained, energy boost without the crash.
“Everybody needs energy, and until now, the only fast and effective energy options on the market are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients,” says Jordan DeCicco, co-founder. “Super Espresso provides the energy we all need without the sugar, and the added benefits of healthy fats and a little bit of protein.”
Many of these natural energy drinks do not contain added sugar, further contributing to their healthful positioning. Ingredients such as inulin/chicory root fiber may assist with sweetness without contributing to sugar content. Such fiber is also recognized for its ability to mask off tastes from intense sweeteners, and in some applications, contributes a creamy mouthfeel without adding fat.