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Brew-Ah-Ha! Menu Innovation Perks Up Sales for Coffee Chains

225_Expresso Blended Ice with OREO_0124Variety is the pumpkin spice of life—or so it seems as coffee chains pour on the flavor innovations, as if on a quest to replicate the success of Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Rolled out nationally in 2004, it’s the company’s top-selling beverage, with more than 350 million of the seasonal staple sold over the past 15 years.1

No wonder, then, that Starbucks has branched out with other seasonal concepts, including the Juniper Latte (so named for its juniper syrup). The Juniper Latte saw limited distribution in 2017 and was reintroduced more widely last holiday season.1 The coffee chain’s Maple Pecan Latte, available iced with aerated skim milk (a.k.a. “cold foam”), brewed up seasonal business last fall.1

According to Emily Wood Bowron, assistant vice president of strategic marketing at coffee and tea supplier Red Diamond, “Maple has become kind of a big buzzword.”1

Foodservice Operators Savor Sales from Seasonal Flavors 

Eggnog and butterscotch also continue to whet foodservice operators' thirst for sales, growing 46% and 45%, respectively, over a four-year period, reported market research firm Datassential.1  Gingerbread seems to have put more jingle in operators’ cash registers too, growing by 39%.1

But while seasonal flavors seem like a surefire way to perk up sales, classic flavors remain popular. Blueberry topped the list as a specialty coffee flavor with a 54% growth rate.1 What’s more, Datassential determined that vanilla, caramel and chocolate still rule the roost of coffee flavors during the first eight months of the year.1

And when it comes to capitalizing on the pumpkin spice craze in a millennial market thirsty for new flavor experiences, simplicity may be the key. As Gerard Bastiaanse, senior vice president of marketing at coffee supplier Farmer Brothers Coffee, pointed out, “A pumpkin spice is the price of entry for operators.”1 Bastiaanse suggests simple variations with infusions of caramel or cream flavor, or pumpkin praline with pecans and caramel.1

Big Chains Brew a Higher Check Average 

Starbucks’ commitment to flavor innovation helped the chain taste sweet success again as it beat investor expectations for the third quarter ended June 30.2 The coffee juggernaut generated 3% global growth in traffic and a 6% boost in same-store sales systemwide, sending the company stock spiraling upwards 8%.2

The uptick in same-store sales during the afternoon hours reverses a 12-quarter slump, and Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson attributes the success to beverage breakthroughs. “We are delivering exciting new beverages that are resonating with customers, particularly our cold beverage platform, which was the catalyst for growth in the afternoon,” he explained.2  “A customer favorite—Nitro Cold Brew—remains on track to be deployed across all U.S. company operated stores and be supported by advertising by the end of the fiscal year.”2

Not to be outdone, Dunkin’ posted a 2.4% increase in same-store sales for the first-quarter of the year—the largest quarterly gain in four years, driven in part by premium drinks and the company’s espresso rollout.3

Dunkin’ enhanced its mobile app, making it “more nimble and flexible” to appeal to espresso drinkers, who tend to skew younger, according to the company’s CEO, David Hoffman.3 But like the app improvements, the espresso rollout is expected to be well received by a broad base of customers. As Hoffman put it, “We’re a brand of a size that we can democratize espresso for all of America.”3

The chefs at Mondelēz International Foodservice always have sales-boosting culinary concepts brewing. Check out our recipe for Espresso Blended Ice with OREO Cookie Pieces. Reach out below to explore menu concepts customized for your foodservice operation.


1 Thorn, Bret, “Operators experiment with new flavored coffees,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Feb. 1, 2019

2 Fantozzi, Joanna, “5 things to know about Starbucks’ sales streak,” Nation’s Restaurant News, July 26, 2019

3 Dawson, Gloria, “Dunkin’ CEO: ‘We can democratize espresso,’” Nation’s Restaurant News, May 2, 2019



Topics: Millennials, Restaurant Operations, Snacking, Trends

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