RTD Cold Brew Coffee: Flavors, Innovation Still Evolving

Trends and Challenges: Cold-Brewed Coffee

With a 2015 sales increase of 115%, representing $7.9 million of revenue in the ready-to-drink market*, cold-brewed coffee is currently brewing up a storm. And it’s no wonder since the delicious cold-brew is less acidic and sweeter than traditional hot-brewed coffees that tend to extract unpleasant compounds, negatively affecting flavor.

For the uninitiated, cold-brewed coffee is simply coffee grounds that are steeped in room temperature or cold water for 18-24 hours. Many people believe that in addition to a better tasting coffee this process also gives your java more caffeine, however, this is a myth unsupported by science.

What is true is people are starting to have some fun with cold-brew coffee flavors in this growing market. Mocha, caramel, salted caramel, vanilla, and espresso have joined seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice, coconut, and mint. Of course, lattes are never far behind any coffee or tea trend.

What may be even more of an exciting trend is that cold-brewed coffee is now becoming an ingredient in other popular categories such as energy drinks. At Flavorman, we are thrilled to see this for reasons that will become apparent.

The Challenges

Refrigerated distribution may be the biggest marketing challenge for companies wanting to sell their unprocessed or minimally processed ready-to-drink cold-brewed coffees. Not only can it be expensive, it’s also a logistical nightmare that is compounded by cold-brewed coffee’s relatively short shelf-life. This dynamic makes it particularly difficult for the entrepreneur, unless he or she has a relative in the refrigerated distribution industry.

To a lesser extent, production can also be a challenge since there are a limited number of contract manufacturers in the country equipped to make products in the cold-brew space.

A New Hope

Remember a few paragraphs ago when we said we were excited to see cold-brewed coffee being used more as an ingredient? That’s because this is one of the few viable ways to get around the refrigeration dilemma since now we can begin to think about processed bottled and canned products to put on the market. Energy drinks, flavored drinks, and especially Lattes can be thermally processed without completely ruining the cold-brewed coffee component, meaning no more refrigeration requirements and longer shelf-lives.

So if you’re thinking about jumping into the cold-brewed coffee space, consider something like a ready-to-drink cocktail. Vodka, cold brew and vanilla peppermint, perhaps? If alcohol is not your thing, maybe a dirty chai latte or a mocha coconut-flavored concentrated cold-brew energy shot? Or perhaps a soda in the form of a carbonated, cold-brew espresso? How about a Mexican chocolate flavored cold-brew protein shake?

We could go on for days with our ideas, but if you’re wondering if your cold-brewed coffee idea is doable, feel free to contact us.

*Figures from Mintel.com Market Research Group