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11th Annual flavor survey. (Cup Service).

Every year Tea & Coffee Trade Journal reports on the coffee and tea flavoring industry. After speaking with some of the top flavor specialists in the industry, we learned some interesting facts about this integral part of the coffee and tea industries.

Hazelnut, Vanilla Nut, Irish Cream, Chocolate, Amaretto, these flavors are what consumers traditionally request when ordering a flavored coffee beverage. Lemon, Earl Grey, Peach, Rasberry, sound familiar, of course because these flavors often appear in a steaming cup of tea. However, the varieties of flavor extend way beyond these popular flavors. There are more exotic flavors found in both coffee and tea, flavors such as cookie doodle, apple toddy, and rainforest crunch spice up a cup of joe, and tropic diablo crunch, cinnamon banana, and even cola flavored tea. These are combinations that only a flavor specialist could dream up. There are coffee and tea traditionalists who will argue that a flavored beverage is not real coffee or tea, but with around 30% of the specialty coffee market sales, someone is drinking these beverages. Flavored beverages are a good transition for coffee and tea drinking amateurs, those who haven't discovered the subtle nuances of a plain cup. We asked some flavor experts the follo wing questions about their industry. They provided insight in to this highly profitable industry and some figures that open one's eyes to the expansive influence of this industry.

Of the total specialty coffee market, what would you estimate the dollar volume of the flavored coffee segment to be?

In the multibillion dollar specialty coffee industry, according to the experts, flavored coffee accounts for approximately 20-30% of total specialty coffee sales. Having an established industry as a foundation for promoting a product helps the flavor industry maintain healthy profits. Willy Palmer of Flavor & Fragrance Specialties provided the following, "We believe the flavored coffee market at retail to be about $750,000,000. That's based on the assumption that nearly 30% of all specialty coffee sold is flavored. This number is for sales of unbrewed coffee, add brewed coffee to the mix and the number goes up significantly." Seconding the amount of 30% of sales, Jeff Nichols of Danisco Cultor said, "Flavored coffee in the whole bean segment represents about 29-30% of all specialty coffee sales. The ground segment does include flavored coffees but not near at the levels found in whole bean. Since specialty coffee utilizes an assortment of distribution channels, establishing a valid dollar total would be very difficult. At best you could extrapolate this data using an average selling price, green bean data and the 30% coffee share, but this would still be a rough estimate." Flavor Waves representative Michael Abrams estimated a bit lower than others, he added, "If one could find an accurate statistic reflecting total dollar volume of the specialty coffee market, then one could calculate 20% of that volume, and that would be a good estimate." And Donald Wilkes of Blue Pacific, did not provide a percentage amount, but an estimated dollar amount, "This is a very difficult question to answer given the various product categories that make up "flavored coffees" For example, many specialty shops serve syrups as their "flavored coffee" where other shops might feature flavored beans. If you look at the total syrups and flavored beans it is estimated to be between $20 to 30 million annually."

Do you think the flavored coffee market will continue to increase its market share or just hold onto what it has? Or has the flavored coffee market declined?

The flavor industry's sales seem to have either slowed or completely flattened, with increases in sales here and there. They also seemed to agree that when more roasters and fast food chains jump add flavors to their product line-up, sales would, of course, increase. Bill Sieber, director of the Coffee & Tea Flavor Division of Melchers, said, "The market for flavored coffees continues to grow but at a very slow pace compared to what we experienced in the eighties." He believes that "volumes will increase when fast food chains enter the marketplace." Palmer, of Flavor & Fragrance Specialties, said, "The majority of my customers tell me their flavored coffee sales have leveled off. However several companies that market flavored coffee well, with seasonal items, web pages, and catalogs continue to have growth that exceeds their regular sales. As roasters of international stature continue to introduce flavored coffees to supermarkets and mass marketers, the volume increases dramatically, though with just a few pr oducts. More high volume restaurant chains added flavored to their menu this year." Bernd Zimmer, Frey & Lau Gmbh, said, "We think the European Market is just starting and will increase." Jeff Nichols said, "Our market research data repeated over the past five years indicates that the flavored coffee market share within specialty coffee has remained fairly constant. The data indicates that within a 1% range, the flavored coffee portion remains around 30% of total whole bean coffee sales." Michael Abrams factored in demographics in his response; he said, "As more of our population advances in age closer to the twenties, then flavored coffee consumption should rise. It must be remembered that flavored coffees are for non-coffee drinkers. Thus as our population increases, more flavored coffee drinkers will be added to the list, in direct proportion." Donald Wilkes, Blue Pacific, had a decidedly different view of the sales. He sees declining sales as imminent. He noted, "I think the market will be downsizing over the next few years as the flavor industry goes through consolidation and the larger manufacturers change the minimum order requirements of the acquired companies. This will mean higher minimum orders or inventory issues for roasters and will most likely require them to limit the variety of flavors purchased to only higher volume items."

Can flavored coffee mask an inferior coffee?

The resounding answer to this question was No, flavored coffee cannot conceal a poor quality coffee. This mentality helps bolster the flavor industry's reputation of supporting the specialty coffee industry's quest for a high quality cup. William Sieber, Melchers, responded, "Flavors cannot mask the taste imperfections in poor quality coffees." Jeff Nichols agrees, "No. A critical step in the building an excellent flavored coffee is in fact bean/roast color optimization. The selection of bean flavor characteristics, bean quality and roast color has as much to do with product quality as the flavor itself does. The goal is to establish a fine flavor balance between the coffee and the flavor, to reach the rich sweet creamy taste preferences of the flavored coffee consumer. Small flavor attributes can be effectively masked by the added flavor. Only excellent coffee and flavors produce those winning combinations." Willy Palmer provided an almost scientific approach to the idea of flavors covering an inferior coffe e, "The question is, can flavored coffee mask an inferior coffee. If by inferior coffee you mean one with faults, the answer is a simple no. Oxidized, stale, or otherwise blemished coffee will taste like bad flavored coffee. Good coffee flavors are designed to balance the profile of good coffee. If inferior refers to bland, or coffee available in large quantities, yes, flavor can work well. We prefer mild coffees with balanced acidity and body for flavored coffee. Outstanding assets might determine the characteristic of a varietal, but they usually alter the balance we seek for a flavoring blend." Michael Abrams of Flavor Waves, approached the question a different way. He thinks certain flavors may improve the taste a bit, but he does not recommend using low quality beans, "Strong flavors such as Cinnamon, Amaretto, and perhaps certain liqueur flavors can have some ability to mask inferior grade coffees. However, we never recommend using lower grade coffees for flavored varieties. Stale, fermented, and harsh Robusta coffees will have an overall negative impact on the final taste profile of any flavored coffee. If one sets up a taste panel with any flavored Arabica coffee, and compares the taste to the same flavored, inferior grade coffee, the liking score will always go down. This is also true for Cinnamon and Amaretto flavorings. It should be remembered that flavored coffee consumers want a peak flavor experience, just as regular coffee consumers. We need to treat the flavored coffee segment of consumers as a real live group of our fellow humans looking for a peak taste experience. Turning them off early in their coffee consuming years, will certainly risk their growth potential into non-flavored coffee, future consumers. Thus, please never use inferior grade coffees for your flavored products." Donald Wilkes, noted, "No. Flavoring has masking properties but bad coffee is usually due to the complexity of the acids (over 20 various acids found in coffee) and high caffeine from the origin of the beans used. To mas k the bitterness of low quality Robusta beans, you would be better to roast the bean at a higher temperature than to add additional flavor or so-called flavor masking agents. The key is to get rid of the caffeine and reduce the acidity. Breaking the chemical bonds through buffering agents or enzymatic pretreatment of the beans is also an alternative, but is a rather labor intensive and difficult to control process." One dissenting voice was that of Bernd Zimmer of Frey & Lau, when asked about flavored coffee masking an inferior coffee, he responded, "This depends on the quality of the flavor, but we think clearly yes."

In Part 2, we will look at the demographics of the flavored coffee drinker, its seasonability and how the large fast food chains in the U.S. use flavored coffee. Stay tuned.
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Author:Leverett, Lyn
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 20, 2002
Words:1601
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