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Blended Bliss:
Expanding Your Menu and Profits with Frappés

By Darcey Howard

Specialty coffee rules the morning hours. It’s no secret that gourmet coffees, lattés, mochas and chais jumpstart America’s day - it’s why you’re in business. But how is your business after 11:00 a.m. each day? How does a small shop, or even a big one for that matter, provide menu variety to satisfy customer palates that noticeably change in the afternoon? Some offer pre-made lunch items and push iced teas and coffees. But there’s something else that’s driving customers to coffee houses in those lonely afternoon and evening hours… the frappé-based blended drink. It’s an exploding category that’s hit a sweet spot with consumers and even some of the most skeptical retailers who are striving to seek that fine balance between a flexible menu and a profitable one.

You Have Your Reasons
The truth is - and much of the industry already knows this - demand is in place. That part of the equation is established. In the last five years, sales of iced blended beverages have increased at a rate of 6.8 percent per year, and industry experts say the trend will continue.

But I can already hear you listing out your apprehensions: perhaps you don’t have room for the equipment or products needed; you may be questioning its profitability; you’re concerned it may somehow lower your coffee and tea aficionado status; you may think blended drinks take too long to make; or perhaps you simply don’t have time to train your team to learn how to make a whole new type of offering. Not to worry.

Let’s address your concerns. The equipment needed to prepare blended beverages is minimal and you likely already have many of the pieces in place today. You’ll simply need a blender, a frappé base and syrups. The new all-in-one blender bases also take up less storage and counter space than ever before, making it easier for small shops to enter the category. Most are shelf stable and, because they include real milk and coffee grounds, eliminate the need for storing extra jugs and brewing extra espresso as well. Neutral flavored bases are also a plus - they provide a blank canvas that won’t interfere with the true flavors you’re trying to create and allow you to showcase your own roasts.

At an average range of $3.50 to $4.50 per drink, blended beverages may be among the most profitable offerings on your menu. The original demand for blended frappé-based drinks started in warmer climates in the South and Southwestern U.S., where hot meals and warm drinks are less appealing, especially in the afternoon. The trend has now spread to almost every state in the country. It fills the void for customers seeking a high-end drink in the afternoon. Blended beverages may be the answer to waking up your cash register from its afternoon nap.

The Spice of Life
If variety is truly the spice of life, get ready to live it up a little. One of the beauties of using a neutral frappé-base is the ability to create endless drink possibilities with one product. So with one container of frappé base and a line-up of flavored syrups you can offer literally hundreds of different blended drink options on your menu - and establish a whole new line of signature drinks to set you apart from the coffee chain across the street.

They don’t call this the specialty coffee and tea industry for nothing. Less-than ingredients don’t qualify for specialty. And you shouldn’t give up quality as you branch out to blended beverages. Look for a frappé base that is made with real, quality ingredients that include things like real milk, quality oils and sweeteners and premium coffees. You certainly don’t have to lose your aficionado title by adding blended beverages to the menu.

Fulfill a Need for a Dieting Nation
Forty percent of the U.S. population, or roughly 116 million Americans are on a restricted carbohydrate or sugar free diet. Low carb blender bases and sugar free syrups allow you to create an entirely new category offering to satisfy a customer indulgence but without the guilt. Products made with Splenda can be mixed to create skinny treats for the growing number of diabetics and low carb dieters across the country, with drinks that contain as few as five net carbs per serving.

And finally I will address the issue of the amount of time it takes to make a blended beverage and training needed. Minimal is the answer to both. It takes roughly the same amount of time to make an iced blended beverage as it does to make a specialty cup of coffee and the training needed is considerably less.

While the standard latté appears to be here to stay, frappés offer customers the chance to experiment more, at different times of the day and during warmer months when coffee just doesn’t do the trick. They also attract a younger audience with a sweeter tooth, such as teenagers and college students. And with signature drinks named after candy bars and desserts, younger children will enjoy heading to the coffee stand with Mom.

If you’re not offering a blended beverage line-up, now’s the time to start. It’s a good way to help create new opportunities to watch your sales grow, attract new customers and cool off in the summer months. Happy blending!

Darcey Howard is a product manager at Seattle-based syrup maker Da Vinci Gourmet. She is the brains behind Frappease, the industry’s first neutrally flavored frappé blender base. Da Vinci Gourmet has formed a niche within the gourmet and specialty foods industry with its flavored syrups for specialty coffee and tea drinks and sodas.

Tea & Coffee - June/July, 2004
Modern Process Equipment


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