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Iced cappuccino product keeps customers shivering for more.

Chateau Miel has developed an espresso-based gourmet frosty cappuccino called Ice Cap that is making foodservice-and retail shop owners smile and their customers return.

According to Vicki Wheeler, Ice Cap co-developer and vice president of Chateau Miel, "We have made a special niche in the iced cappuccino market that no one has touched. Our thicker gourmet cappuccino appeals to more people than the standard iced cappuccino recipe. The product is defining a legitimate top end to the cold cappuccino market because we select and roast our own beans and then brew them in a very large, but traditional, espresso machine. We even make the topping by hand."

Often, cold cappuccino drinks use instant coffees, coffee extracts, artificial flavors, brewed coffees and inferior beans. Ice Cap does not. All of their espresso base is custom brewed. The attention to detail and effort spent on this fresh brewed espresso is noticed by the trade and the consumers they serve. Fresh lowfat milk is mixed to the product itself by the operator on site in a custom decorated dispenser made available by Chateau Miel.

A special all natural, handmade, low-fat crunchy chocolate topping that comes with the product and extraordinary field support have also been cited as important elements in the success of this traditionally based iced cappuccino beverage program.

The response has been tremendous. Independent gourmet foodservice operators and chain buyers are discovering sales of Ice Cap year round. According to field reports, Ice Cap moves the iced cappuccino category away from just being a summer drink. Ice Cap is developing a reputation as the "gateway coffee drink" that introduces younger, more affluent people to coffee. Appealing to health and environmental concerns, Ice Cap is all natural with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Decaf represents approximately 20% of their business and is especially appreciated when Ice Cap is served as an after dinner treat.

In an age when convenience is a key concern in the food and beverage business, Ice Cap is useful because of its clear separation between the foodservice and consumer packaging. Food service operators are provided with a complete equipment and point of sale program to help support their in-store marketing. A fancier packaged counterpart is available in two sizes for consumers to give as gifts or take home to make in the blender.

Ice Cap is showing incredible year-round growth at a time when other segments of the gourmet food and beverage market are stabilizing. Meeting the expanding production needs has required innovation and heavy capital investment by the parent company, Chateau Miel. Continuing high double digit sales increases for the Ice Cap line now requires this small niche gourmet coffee product to be made in larger production runs.


Tom and Vicki, the husband and wife team of Chateau Miel, opened a gourmet espresso bar in 1984 called Princeton Pantry in San Jose, California. In addition to selling gourmet foods, they began to experiment with producing their own iced cappuccino beverage. With continued encouragement from customers, the Wheelers refined the product now known as Ice Cap. The success of Ice Cap began to create a larger customer base and expanded sales for Princeton Pantry.

The popularity of Ice Cap soared and in 1986 the Wheelers formed Chateau Miel, Inc. to manufacture and market their new product.

With 32 years of retail, gourmet and coffee experience combined, Tom and Vicki forged ahead into the iced cappuccino market. In 1990, the Wheelers moved their business to Chowchilla, California where manufacturing and distribution became more cost effective.

Chateau Miel needed to efficiently and effectively produce consistent, traditional espresso as a large volume base ingredient. This adjustment is especially important because Ice Cap gained initial acceptance in specialty shops because of its rich espresso quality. The keys to expansion were new volume production methods that retain traditional espresso brewing. The goal is to maintain or improve Ice Cap's quality and consistency.

In order to meet new demand levels and maintain their niche position as a legitimate product for coffee connoisseurs, the decision was made to design a large volume traditional espresso machine. Ultimately, one of the world's largest espresso machines came from this process, designed by the Wheeler's and Ice Cap.

Manufactured by America's Best Culinary, this huge espresso machine has two sides, each with three separate heating elements and compressors. Its six large volume pumps produce the finest espresso available at the rate of 30 gallons per hour. This machine consistently produces a top quality espresso which is far superior to espresso produced by over-worked machines, strongly brewed coffees, instants or extracts.

A stable supply of traditionally brewed gourmet espresso is still the vital link to growth for Ice Cap. "We wanted to legitimize the cold cappuccino market by maintaining quality with broad distribution. We are expanding our position in the coffee world," said Vicki Wheeler.

"Our clients want us to jump through hoops to make this product in the traditional way and we do. More than that. our customers want a hand-made product that makes money. Ice Cap is extremely profitable for the retailers. That, too, is a rarity".

The Ice Cap flavor profile is distinct. "It is amazing," said one chain manager, "It must be addictive, because people come back for Ice Cap's special flavor. We have generated new waves of regular customers and that is rare."

Traditional roasting

Just as with traditional gourmet coffees, the selection and roasting of quality beans makes all the difference for Ice Cap.

"Depending on the beans," said Tom Wheeler, Ice Cap's ceo of Chateau Miel, "we roast and then blend two, three and even four bean combinations to maintain that distinct product's profile."

The sound of coffee beans tumbling in the traditional Probat drum roaster is familiar at the Chowchilla, California processing plant. Multiple shifts provide fresh roasted beans for the large, six pump espresso machine used for Ice Cap.

At Chateau Miel, we roast only a small amount of beans at a time. According to Wheeler, "This allows us to roast each batch to its fullest potential. We need to do that to maintain the gourmet nature of this product. Though our non-traditional product is making a real impact in the market now, the processes we use requires the same tried and true attention to detail that has always defined custom roasted and brewed coffee beans.

Ice Cap goes granita

The Cappuccino "granita" (slushy), or granita Latte is the latest rage in the specialty coffee market. The concept is to take cappuccino and place it in a machine that will freeze and churn the liquid into a slushy consistency, resulting in a refreshing, icy delight. Much to the frustration of shop-owners, the concept is easier said than done. With most machines, retailers have discovered problems with inconsistent texture, flavor and left-over product. There are also problems with the additional sugar or emulgum (brix) that must be added to prevent the mixture from freezing solid.

Chateau Miel has been experimenting for some time with various machines used to make the granita, but with the same disappointing results as the retailers. "We tried just about every granita freezer out there, but found consistency was unreliable. It would be soup one day, frozen solid the next, One of the goals of Chateau Miel is to serve Ice Cap easily and with consistent quality. Most machines would have compromised that. We didn't like the idea of having to add the extra sugar, either," said Tom

Recently, however, Chateau Miel has researched a machine that delivers the results they had been searching for: consistently perfect Ice Cap granita's. When used with the Ice Cap brand Frosty Cappuccino, this freezer produces perfect granita's without added sugar or the problems in quality and consistency. Additionally, these machines are manufactured in the U.S., and are UL and NSF in the Ice Cap give the finished product a "smoother than average" taste. Since the retailer doesn't need to brew the espresso, preparation time is minimal, and the retailer mixes only what is also "shelf stable", without preservations, until ready to use.

"We've known for a long time that Ice Cap would be great in a granita, as long as we could find the right machine." said Tom. "The response by consumers has been fantastic. Even people who don't usually care for coffee come back for seconds of the Ice Cap granita."

A hit with retailers

Retailers from the East Coast to the California shores are singing the praises of Ice Cap.

"I have customers who would go into withdrawal without it. They have to have it every day," says Penny Wilburn of Nordstrom's Espresso Bar in San Jose, Califorma. Donna Tobias of the Crossroads Care at the University of San Francisco agrees. "People say it is very addictive. People ask what it is and after they try it they turn it on to their friends. We have even had requests from people to start selling it in larger cups."

Some retailers have become so excited over Chateau Miel's Ice Cap that they have taken this product a step further. "I put Ice Cap and gelato together and it is the most sinful float....l have kids who will drink Ice Cap but not milk," says Wilbum.

On the other side of the country the fervor over Chateau Miel's Ice Cap is also mounting. Ken Garazin of Barnie's Coffee & Tea Company in Lombard, Illinois says, "Our customer response has been excellent. It has probably been the best selling new product we have ever introduced. The quality is excellent. The packaging is very upscale in design and their customer service is excellent." Garazin also says many customers like to buy Ice Cap right off the shelf.

The excitement over Chateau Miel's Ice Cap continues not only across the United States but internationally as more retailers continue to jump on the band wagon for this very successful hot coffee alternative.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Ice Cap, specialty cappuccino product, by Chateau Miel
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Previous Article:Kona industry also suffering with low prices.
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