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Are you a coffee trendsetter? We see trends everywhere we look these days, from the latest fashions on the red carpet to which mega star is driving the latest car in the best neighborhood. You find them everywhere you turn--including the specialty coffee industry.

ADMIT IT, THERE ARE SPECIALTY COFFEE RETAILERS WHO ARE always up to date with the latest Tea & Coffee Trade Journal articles, bottomless portafilters, World Barista Championships, click tampers and latte art competitions. Specialty coffee is one of the trendiest industries around. It's officially cool to be part of the coffee world.

BACK TO BASICS

When it comes to the basics of the specialty coffee industry, we have to give credit to the Europeans. Coffee was first introduced to England in 1598, and moved east into Europe after that. It wasn't until 1903 that espresso was invented by Luigi Bezzera, a manufacturing owner who longed to find a way to brew coffee faster. It was only within the last couple of years that we could celebrate the "centennial of espresso."

For the past 100 years, espresso has been enjoyed by only a handful of ways; the most popular being straight shots of espresso and cappuccinos. As daring as European fashion might be and as extensive as their culinary palette is, most people deviate from their traditional espresso by adding a packet of sugar to their cappuccino or sipping a shot of espresso with a sugar cube held on their tongue. That's about as far as one will go.

Let's face it, the U.S. market for specialty coffee has a little more of a sweet tooth than our European counterparts.

Routin syrup dates back to 1883. Companies that followed had something in common with Routin, their syrups weren't used for specialty coffee drinks. The focus was more on culinary infusions. Another popular brand, Monin, first had the objective of creating flavored syrups for professionals of the bar trade, restaurants, and gourmet retailers. Not once did any of them mention the espresso consumer as one of their original target markets.

The discovery of adding flavored syrups in the U.S. dates back to around 1925. While experimenting with flavored syrups, sparkling water and ice in the back of their grocery store in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, Rinaldo and Ezilda Torre created the Italian soda. Then, in the early '80s the flavored latte was introduced, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The interesting thing about a trend is that some are short lived, while others have a long life. It isn't uncommon to see some that go out make a comeback.

So who is out there paving the way for new and innovative products in the flavoring industry? A variety of stand-out syrup companies have remained proactive in expanding our coffee flavoring horizons.

It is wise to keep an eye on them since they are leading the flavor revolution. The most beneficial way to stay ahead of the competition is to watch the more courageous trendsetters in the syrup industry.

We've most likely noticed the seasonal debuts by most all syrup companies of the maple flavors and pumpkin pie sauces, but what is really new and creative?

A great example of a new step being taken would be by Torani/R. Torre & Company. They took first place honors in the new product category for their Torani Pure Flavor at a recent Coffee Fest. They created a product line called Pure Flavor, which contains a concentrated fresh herb and spiced flavors that have been made into a non-sweet liquid form.

Torani has found that Pure Flavor gives chefs, mixologists, and baristas the freedom to experiment with abandon, creating signature dishes and drinks that set their menus apart from their competitors. They have found their line is ideal for a variety of applications, from savory to sweet, starters to desserts, and cocktails to alcohol-free drinks.

They went back to the culinary birth of syrups and gave them a modern edge with their initial six Pure Flavors: Ancho Chile, Basil, Cilantro, Garden Mint, Lemon Verbena and Thai Ginger.

Another bold step in the flavor industry was taken by Monin Syrups with their floral line consisting of: Lavender, Rose, Jasmine and Violet. With a little bit of imagination and a daring palette, you can concoct espresso-based drinks consisting of these unique flavors. They will certainly put you one step ahead of your competition. With spring around the corner, these flavors are naturals to introduce on your menu.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Leanna Mix of Kerry Food & Beverage gives a powerful flavor forecast presentation at coffee industry events. Her company has done extensive market research on the state of the industry, as well as analyzes how the syrup industry is progressing.

Mix illustrates how some of the most noticeable consumer trends can be nailed down to four influences: demographic shifts, the need for more intense flavors, the desire for more natural, authentic and pure flavors, people looking for functional or fortified beverages.

With a continually growing number of ethnic groups in the U.S., the average American palette is changing. Flavors are steering more in the direction of fruity, as well as sweet and tart. "As more Americans continue to travel across the world, we bring back with us flavor experiences we've enjoyed and try to integrate them into our coffee consumption," points out Kerry Food & Beverage's Mix. "This has caused the fastest-growing flavors to be more exotic or tropical. All except for our ever-so-basic vanilla, which continues to grow in popularity."

The new tropical trends in the flavor industry are papaya, guava, and passion fruit. Syrups with spicy flavor characteristics include: pomegranate, blueberry, tangerine, mango, banana, citrus blends, creams, and derivatives of green tea

On the other side of the spectrum, in looking at the fastest decrease in the new product development line, you will find American favorites: raspberry, cranberry and apple flavors. The American palette has also become more demanding in terms of intensity of flavors. The demand has grown dramatically for strong flavors that it hardly seems possible that the flavor could exist naturally.

On the flip side, a demand is increasing for more natural tasting flavors and organic products. During the past few years, the U.S. natural food and drink market was predicted to grow 18% a year through 2007, with organic products growing at 21%, stated Mix. "The natural flavored drinks that are far more prevalent do not have any direct health benefits over artificial, non-fruit flavors. Consumers, however, feel healthier for purchasing and consuming these drinks."

The last influence we've seen is people looking for functional or fortified options with their coffee beverages. Acai has become extremely popular with smoothie lovers for its significant richness of vitamins and minerals.

To be realistic, what kind of additives can you add to your cup of joe that will help meet your daily supplement needs? Gosh That's Good brand actually came out with a great product called Bev Rev. Dissolve this virtually tasteless powder into anything, from Italian sodas to smoothies, lattes to hot cocoa. You name it!

Unfortunately, there are formulation issues when it comes to creating a syrup line consisting of these additives, which can leave little room for experimentation.

With all of the research on the cutting-edge of development and innovative flavored syrups we can look for in the future is great. But the bottom line is, there are a couple of classics that will never die.

Vanilla, caramel (especially thick caramel sauces) and chocolate (dark, milk and spiced) will continue to lead the pack.

You can't go wrong with espresso-based drinks featuring these foundational flavors, but don't lose sight of the fun in experimenting with new tastes. Keep an eye out for the introduction of new product trends, and you will be sure to stay one step ahead of your competition.

Are you ready to be a trendsetter?

Anna Guitierrez has won beverage flavoring awards for Dillanos Coffee Roasters, Washington.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:cup Service
Comment:Are you a coffee trendsetter? We see trends everywhere we look these days, from the latest fashions on the red carpet to which mega star is driving the latest car in the best neighborhood.
Author:Gutierrez, Anna
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:1283
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