My first smooth tasting, naturally sweet, cooling sip told me that cold coffee would be hot.
This is really innovative, I thought.
It’s been 10 years since I experienced the pleasures of Todd Simpson’s cold brew. Innovators have since broken free of the consumer perception of coffee as sugary bottled capps and frapps to energize a largely youthful coffee drinking segment.
Youthful coffee drinkers are an important reason why the number of past-day coffee drinkers rose to 62% this year, a recent high according to the National Coffee Association’s just-released 2017 National Coffee Drinking Trends (NCDT) study.
NCA credits innovation as a primary driver of growth.
Stubby-bottled Stumptown, inspired by Japanese baristas, led the way and continues to break new ground with its sparkling ready-to-drink cold brew introduced this winter.
This summer expect millions to pop the top on a cold can of 100-calorie carbonated ginger citrus or honey lemon coffee.
The idea for these 12oz canned coffees was not hatched in a lab. Baristas at Stumptown-owned cafés, beginning in April 2016 in New Orleans, began mixing up fresh seasonal cold brew sodas, according to the company. Sparkling jammers, made with 23 grams of sugar cane-sweetened original cold brew concentrate mixed with soda water and a hint of lemon, were a hit. Sparkling cold brew expanded to all of Stumptown’s stores last summer. Eventually, 40 to 50 variations were tested. What they discovered is that consumers preferred ginger and honey. The new line marks the first time an RTD innovation was developed from on-premises trial and error, according to Stumptown’s v.p. of marketing Josh Groff.
The percentage of past-day coffee drinkers plunged during the recession and then stagnated as older coffee drinkers (those with the greatest likelihood of a daily coffee habit) passed from the market leading to slight declines. This year’s NCDT showed a big spike in coffee drinking among 13-18 year-olds whose daily consumption rose to 37%, up 14 points over 2014’s 23%. Some are wary of downing energy shots as a substitute for pills but most are responding to a broad range of new coffees. (See,Youthful Surge).
The popularity of espresso-based lattes is responsible for the record-breaking number of cups of gourmet coffee consumed in the past-day – 59% in 2017 versus 46% in 2012.
“Non-espresso-based beverages” is a new category in the survey consisting of non-espresso, gourmet coffee-based beverages. It made a strong debut in past-week consumption, particularly among young coffee drinkers. Frozen blended coffee, a well-established category popular in southern regions was the preference of 14% of respondents but the most impressive gains are cold brew at 11% and nitrogen-infused coffees which were consumed by 3% of respondents in the past week.
Cold coffee isn’t new. Japan’s Ueschima Coffee Co. gets credit for the invention of shelf-stable canned coffee in the late 1960s, but in the US Stumptown is a successful innovator because of its focused iteration. That focus allowed it to hone its basic product into something with broader appeal.
As Scott Anthony of Innosight, observes: “Iteration and innovation are friends, not foes. The only way to successfully innovate is to be prepared to iterate like crazy.”