Chilly Profits: Building Sales through Blended and frozen Beverage by Laura Everage

As any cof­fee café owner knows, one of the most impor­tant keys to suc­cess is hav­ing diver­si­fied prod­uct line. No longer is generic ‘Coffee of the Day’ a suf­fi­cient way to sat­isfy a customer’s desire for a great tast­ing qual­ity cof­fee. Even when that cof­fee is hail­ing from a spe­cific farm that is pro­duced in a man­ner that is good for the envi­ron­ment and the peo­ple who pro­duce it.

Aside from diver­si­fy­ing cof­fee and espresso-based bev­er­ages, cof­fee café own­ers have been enjoy­ing suc­cess from the frozen and blended bev­er­age cat­e­gory. In fact, it is now con­sid­ered an essen­tial sta­ple for cof­fee cafes, and why wouldn’t it be, the “frozen bev­er­age” cat­e­gory sales con­tinue to grow, with Mintel report­ing cat­e­gory sales are expected to increase 68 per­cent between 2007 and 2012, with most of that growth occur­ring in 2010.

Planning for Success Across the board from con­ve­nience stores to quick ser­vice restau­rants, oper­a­tors are mak­ing room for frozen bev­er­ages and smooth­ies on their menus. And, what makes it so appeal­ing to café own­ers, is that cus­tomer inter­est is high, and so are prof­its. “Since its incep­tion, the iced blended drinks have always been one of the high­est profit mar­gins in a cof­fee house,” explains Lynn Merriam of Java Frost. “The aver­age mar­gin ranges between 65 and 70% for a $3.50 to $3.99 frozen bev­er­age. And, they have a proven track record for all seasons.”

The chill of February may be here, but now is the time to start think­ing and plan­ning for warm weather months. To make the most of this cat­e­gory, start think­ing about updat­ing your selec­tion now, by test­ing new prod­ucts well in advance of the warm weather. “Don’t wait until the weather changes and then start scram­bling to get your frozen and blended bev­er­age selec­tions final­ized,” says Desiree Mimlitsch, direc­tor of mar­ket­ing for Big Train. “By test­ing prod­ucts ear­lier in the sea­son, you can final­ize your offer­ings well before the sea­son arrives. Through sam­pling poten­tial new fla­vors and frozen bev­er­age com­bi­na­tions, you can get cus­tomer feed­back early enough before the sea­son hits.”

Hot Trends in Frozen Beverages There is no doubt that adding cold, frozen bev­er­ages to the menu will grab the atten­tion of a broader demo­graphic and boost sales dur­ing a sum­mer sea­son. Izzy Griffith, buyer for Visions Espresso reminds retail­ers to be sure to “under­stand your clien­tele and region before you begin to cre­ate your offer­ings.” Just like the cof­fee and espresso cat­e­gory, frozen bev­er­ages and smooth­ies offer café own­ers the oppor­tu­nity to speak to a broad range of con­sumers.” Some like blended or iced bev­er­ages because they are look­ing for indul­gence; oth­ers are look­ing for an indul­gent expe­ri­ence that is a bit less indul­gent on the calo­ries. As for what to offer, Griffith sug­gests to “stick to the best sell­ers, and then pro­mote exotic, sea­sonal and healthy blends to grab the atten­tion of a broader demographic.”

While frozen bev­er­ages made with organic and Fair Trade ingre­di­ents are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, it is the fresh and fla­vor­ful taste com­bi­na­tions that draw con­sumers to the cat­e­gory. “In the spe­cialty bev­er­age indus­try, we see the fresh or frozen fruit is pre­ferred over the pow­der or syrup based mixes,” explains Griffith. “The grow­ing aware­ness of liv­ing healthy will con­tinue to steer the mar­ket in this direc­tion. And, the avail­abil­ity of sin­gle serve fresh frozen fruit pack­ages tells us por­tion con­trol and con­ve­nience are also trends.”

Mimlitsch points to retail estab­lish­ments such as the Pinkberry yogurt shops, based in Los Angeles, that are help­ing drive con­sumer inter­est in health­ier bev­er­ages made with fresh ingre­di­ents – as well as a tart fla­vor pro­file (Pinkberry’s sig­na­ture taste). To that end, Big Train recently intro­duced the Tart Smoothie Mix. In addi­tion to the refresh­ing light cit­rus fla­vor that is per­fect alone or when paired with dif­fer­ent fla­vors, the line has pro­bi­otics, which is good for healthy diges­tion plus no trans-fat or hydro­genated oils. The inclu­sion of pro­bi­otics in the line touches on the grow­ing trend of frozen bev­er­ages made with func­tional addi­tives. “More tra­di­tional good-for-you ingre­di­ents will con­tinue to be in demand,” explains Mary Toohey of America’s Food Technologies, Inc. “Ingredients with estab­lished ben­e­fits con­sumers under­stand will be pop­u­lar. However,” she warns, “retail­ers must be care­ful with the claims they make regard­ing func­tional additives.”

But health­ful offer­ings won’t sell them­selves. “This is where con­sumer edu­ca­tion is very impor­tant,” explains Mimlitsch. “Consumers can read labels at a retail store to find the nutri­tional con­tent of a prod­uct, but with frozen bev­er­ages, it is the oper­a­tor who must do the explain­ing so that cus­tomers can under­stand the dif­fer­ences in more nat­ural choices.”

The Right Equipment To make it all hap­pen, oper­a­tors are search­ing for all the right pieces, from prod­uct and equip­ment, right down to mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als. When it comes to equip­ment, oper­a­tors are look­ing for high per­for­mance and low main­te­nance options. Whether it is the new Blendtec 15 AMP Extreme, with its 2 jars and blades, The Blending Station® Advance from Vita-Mix, or the lat­est from Waring, today’s gen­er­a­tion of blenders and other frozen bev­er­age dis­pensers are quite intu­itive to use, cut­ting down on oper­a­tor error, while increas­ing speed of ser­vice and consistency.

For instance, The Blending Station® Advance lets you blend any recipe to per­fect con­sis­tency at the touch of a but­ton. With 93 speeds and 34 dif­fer­ent blend­ing pro­grams, each com­bin­ing the right speed and tim­ing, the machine helps elim­i­nate guess­work and allows café oper­a­tors to cus­tomize their blenders to pro­duce sig­na­ture drinks all with a sim­ple pro­gram­ming chip.

Island Oasis has spent the past few years devel­op­ing a prod­uct line specif­i­cally for the spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try. The turnkey sys­tem includes the line of Barista Fria prod­ucts that can be used in a vari­ety of cof­fee bev­er­ages and fruit smooth­ies. Adding to the ease of the pro­gram, Island Oasis offers mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als to help drive sales along with equip­ment designed to make prepa­ra­tion of the bev­er­ages fast, easy and vir­tu­ally fool-proof. ‘The won­der­ful thing about this pro­gram is that it offers retail­ers every­thing they need to build a suc­cess­ful frozen bev­er­age busi­ness,” explains Matt Brandenburger, who heads up the Barista Fria divi­sion for Island Oasis. “We bring the company’s 25 years of expe­ri­ence as a leader in the restau­rant and bar busi­ness, to the spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try, and offer a pro­gram that will help raise the bar for retail­ers. The Barista Fria bev­er­ages are extremely easy to cre­ate. Simply add the mix – in fla­vors rang­ing from straw­berry to mocha to spiced chai – then hit the but­ton and the machine shaves the ice and blends a drink in 8 sec­onds, a pitcher in 10.”

Reinvent Your Café Destination bev­er­ages are a sure-fire way to boost sales, espe­cially in this econ­omy. Retailers must open their minds to new ideas, be cre­ative and rein­vent exist­ing drinks by adding fla­vors you already have on hand.

Delivering value to the con­sumer is the key to increas­ing sales, and value can be cre­ated by offer­ing a prod­uct the con­sumer per­ceives as being dif­fi­cult to pre­pare at home, and offer it in a con­ve­nient form,” explains Toohey.

Whether that is deca­dent offer­ings, such as deli­cious choco­late and ice cream blends; light offer­ings using yogurt or fruit blends with green tea; or quick energy with an extra shot of espresso and pro­tein, build­ing cus­tom frozen bev­er­ages with sig­na­ture recipes that meet the needs of a vari­ety of con­sumers is the key to suc­cess,” adds Toohey.

Then, once your menu is set, make sure your com­mu­ni­ca­tion plan is well inte­grated. Toohey notes the var­i­ous ways to con­nect with cur­rent cus­tomers as well as those who have yet to ven­ture into your café. “Explore your options,” she says, “update your web­site, blog, sam­ple your new offer­ings at com­mu­nity events, pass our fliers and coupons to local busi­nesses. Have a plan! Reinvent your café!” CT