America’s coffee fetish isn’t going away anytime soon, but retailers are adding more frozen and chilled beverages to their dispensed offerings as some consumers prefer something cold over a hot beverage in the a.m.—and increasingly throughout the day.
“In general, younger generations seek specialty drinks more so than older generations, who prefer standard brewed coffee,” said Lauren Hallow, associate editor, concept analysis, Technomic.
Recent research from Technomic indicates that out of the seven fastest-growing nonalcoholic segments, “chiller” is third best performing at the top 40 U.S. convenience stores. Other cold surging categories include lemonade (+71%), iced coffee (+57%), mocha/fruit smoothie (+33%), frozen-blended coffee (+29%) and iced tea/other specialty coffee (+25%).
Bob Pierce, senior vice president North American sales and global accounts for Bunn-O-Matic Corp., which manufactures dispensed-beverage machines, agrees that younger generations are looking for cold, refrigerated or frozen beverages such as lattes, smoothies and teas. Equipment that was previously in use during the midday and evening hours is now operating around the clock.
“Today’s c-stores need to offer choice for their customers,” Pierce said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the office worker, laborer or student who comes into your store, each is looking for choice and variety. More operators are adding hoppers in order to expand their selection to include mocha or fruit-based options, for example.”
A penchant for specialty beverages has further spiked interest in cold beverages vs. hot.
“Chilled or frozen coffee drinks don’t fit the typical U.S. taste profile, but mix coffee with sugar and other ingredients, then pour it over ice, it really hits home,” Pierce said. “This trend has now evolved from pouring over ice to serving the beverages frozen,” or granita-style.
Bunn-O-Matic developed the first granita-style machine in the country, a trend that started in Europe, based on urgings from customers frustrated with machines that didn’t hold up well and retailers’ difficulties getting replacement parts. The Bunn-O-Matic brand of granita machines is called Ultra, and the equipment is designed to maximize convenience, variety and efficiencies.
“We strive to help our retail customers get as much uptime as possible,” Pierce said. “That means easy to fill and maintain, while offering the flexibility to add more flavor options.” The Ultra machine design allows for easy auto fill and less cleaning. Retailers can change a product out to adjust to the seasons—they may want to offer a pumpkin spice during the fall and then transition to something else in the winter months.
Pierce also said the quest for healthier chilled and frozen drinks has introduced add-ins such as vitamin C and fruit to make smoothie-type drinks. The newer machines make meeting consumer preferences easier than ever, especially as enthusiasm for customization continues to grow. Consumers can personalize their beverages with additional ingredients and flavors, as well as choose the texture (e.g., smooth and silky or larger ice crystals).
Another bonus: Many of these specialty beverages are nondairy based, which means that equipment is often easier to maintain and clean.
“Overall, the chilled and frozen beverage trends we are seeing bode well for the c-store business,” Pierce said. “Quality ingredients from suppliers combined with reliable and efficient, flexible equipment means operators can reap the profits more easily.”
This post is sponsored by Bunn-O-Matic