Shelf-stable options expand opportunities for cold brew coffee
Heartland Food Products Group
November 28, 2017
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This post is sponsored by Heartland Food Products Group.

Cold brew has taken over the coffee scene in recent years, appearing on menus at coffee shops and restaurants as well as in coolers and on shelves in grocery and convenience stores. Cold brew sales across all channels totaled $205 million for the one-year period ending in October 2017, according to research compiled by Heartland Food Products Group. Cold brew is a favorite with consumers thanks to its smooth taste and high caffeine content. Shelf-stable versions that offer the quality of authentic cold brew without the need for refrigeration or brewing equipment will create even more opportunities for the category to grow.

What sets authentic cold brew apart?

The only ingredients used to create true cold brew are ground coffee and cold water, which steep together for 12 to 24 hours. Taste is the most significant differentiator between authentic cold brew coffee versus other liquid coffees, according to Dr. Mark Corey, director of research and development for coffee at Heartland Food Products Group, which owns the Java House Authentic Cold Brew brand.

“Unlike other liquid coffees where several processes and ingredients are used to define how the product tastes, when crafting an authentic cold brew coffee, less is always more,” Corey said. “Because it has been brewed without heat or other advanced extraction methods, there are significantly less astringent, bitter and sour tasting notes in authentic cold brewed coffee than there are in coffees that have been hot brewed, over extracted, or brewed cold and then cut with coffee derivatives or additives.”

Heartland is helping lead a taskforce with the National Coffee Association of USA, Inc. and its members to help determine industry considerations and best practices for serving cold brew.

Bottling small-batch quality

While cold brew is popular in cafes, consumers have readily adopted packaged versions that can be consumed at home or on-the-go. Refrigerated and shelf-stable cold brew beverages accounted for $68 million and $16 million in sales, respectively, in the one-year period ending April 1, 2017, according to Nielsen Homescan data.

Cold brew’s premium quality attracts a higher-spending consumer demographic. The average grocery cart of a cold brew shopper totals about $67.74, compared to $50.52 for the average shopper who buys other types of liquid coffee, according to a 12-week basket analysis by media marketing company Catalina ending April 15, 2017.

To achieve small-batch quality in its Java House packaged cold brew offerings, Heartland studied the cold brew operations at dozens of independent coffee shops.

“Most coffee shops used a Toddy Cold Brew System behind the counter or in the back room to make their cold brew,” Corey said. “When we were designing our brewing center we asked ourselves how we might recreate this experience on a large scale so that we could share Java House Authentic Cold Brew Coffee with as many other coffee lovers as possible.”

Heartland brews its Java House products in small batches, and each one “is hand-crafted and evaluated by brewmasters and coffee experts to be sure it meets our authenticity and quality standards,” said Corey, who is himself a licensed Arabica Q-Grader.

Shelf-stable cold brew offers convenience for consumers and foodservice

Packaged cold brew beverages and concentrates make it possible to serve and consume cold brew coffee just about anywhere. Shelf-stable versions are especially convenient because they don’t need to be refrigerated, which eliminates cold chain concerns and frees up fridge space.

“When the need for refrigeration has been removed from the equation, and the hard work of crafting a small-batch cold brew coffee has been done for you, any size batch of authentic cold brew coffee can be prepared on demand,” Corey said.

Using a concentrate such as Java House’s 4:1 pure cold brew concentrate can “save operators from having to deal with messy grinds, variability in staff processes and the balancing act of minimizing the waste that comes with brewing too much versus missed opportunities for sales from brewing too little,” he said.

In addition to plain cold brew coffee and cold brew concentrate, the Java House brand also includes several flavors in its ready-to-drink line, such as Vanilla Frappe and Mocha Frappe. Flavor-enhanced cold brew will gain popularity in the coming year, according to a report from consultancy Andrew Freeman & Company, which predicts that flavors from hazelnut to lavender will show up in coffee cups in 2018.

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