Coffee Your Way

Optimized coffee bars an opportunity for retailers

Coffee, dear to so many early-morning hearts, continues to be an area of opportunity and innovation for convenience stores, with new flavors and specialized options making waves on menus. According to Technomic, specialty-coffee mentions have increased 26% on menus nationwide over the past five years, as consumers continue to seek new and exciting beverages away from home—especially at c-stores.


In fact, across all channels, coffee sales are up over the past year by 3%, but convenience stores have seen growth at eight times that rate, according to Nielsen’s vice president of consumer insights, Jordan Rost. “It’s obvious that while some consumers see coffee as an indulgence to enjoy, for many consumers, coffee is very much about convenience and a necessary part of getting through their day,” he says.

Nielsen data is showing growth within single-serve varieties and even whole-bean coffee. “Whether it’s that consumers have become more discerning to the flavor of their coffee or that many people now have coffee available at the push of a button, it’s clear that consumers have more choice, when it comes to convenient coffee, than ever,” says Rost.

To attract consumers who are seeking convenience as well as unique options, c-stores are placing an emphasis on offering syrups, creamers and other mix-ins customers can add to their drinks while at the coffee bar.

This do-it-yourself approach is part of the ever-important customization trend that’s making waves across segments. In fact, 2015 research from Technomic shows that the ability to customize is growing in importance across foodservice. “More than half of consumers agree that being able to customize a food or beverage item increases their value perception,” says associate principal Donna Hood Crecca.

Operators can follow the trend of customization by offering the variety consumers are looking for. A store with little or no options may not be top of mind when it comes to hot drinks, because customers have so many choices at gourmet-coffee outlets and other foodservice venues.

Stores with robust coffee-bar offerings can boost coffee sales and attract additional consumer groups. “More than half of consumers confirm that a variety of milk or creamers, sweeteners, syrups and toppings influences their decision whether to purchase a hot-dispensed beverage in a c-store,” says Crecca, adding that this influence is greater in younger consumers and women especially.

Offering these types of items is even more important now that c-stores compete with bakery-cafes, QSRs and even fast-casual concepts for consumers’ coffee dollars, but retailers don’t have to offer a million different toppings or mix-ins to offer value to customers. Including several flavor shots or syrups as well as flavored creamers is a great starting point—especially if the flavors are on trend. According to Technomic, when it comes to coffee, consumers find warm, familiar flavors appealing. Operators can play to this trend by offering a variety of add-ins and creamers in flavors such as French vanilla, chocolate caramel, hazelnut or even simple half-and-half.

The Coffee Bar Experts™ at WhiteWave Away From Home offer products, equipment, tools and support to help stores build a better coffee bar. Visit to learn more.

This post is sponsored by DanoneWave Away From Home

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