Coffee made the jump from being a hot morning staple to an anytime pick-me-up and social drink years ago. But the buzz nowadays on the caffeine-rich beans is about other places they are showing up -- including being infused with nitrogen, alongside probiotics and in flour.
Americans have a heritage of embracing bubbles in their beverages. Craft brewers have infused their taps with nitrogen to make their drinks richer and creamier. This concept has crept to add some fizz and richness to cold-brew coffee. As soda sales continue to decline, nitrogen-infused coffees are being positioned as an alternative.
Nitro coffees take many forms. Many contain dairy, but earlier this month at the Fancy Foods Show, Califia Farms introduced Nitro Cold Brew, the industry’s first non-dairy draft latte.
For its nitro brew, Califia Farms combines cold brew coffee and its signature almond milk with nitrogen. To get a drink with a creamy, rich mouth-feel, they add macadamia nut milk -- which contains more fat -- Califia Farms senior marketing director Kaitlin Barton told Food Dive.
The nitro cold brew process produces a rich micro foam, which Barton said is similar to drinking a Guinness or draft beverage.
The beverage can be seen as a good-for-you alternative to carbonated soft drinks that isn’t loaded with calories, sugar, or the caffeine of energy drinks.
And, Barton said, the drink is unique.
“When bubbles are present, it adds something more special to the beverage,” Barton said. “It is also very refreshing.”
Combining probiotics with coffee: a no-brainer
Adding probiotics to coffee is a newer concept because the beverage hadn’t been able to support the digestion-helping microorganisms. That has recently changed. Probiotic company Ganeden has created a strain of probiotics that withstand shelf-life and digestive transit challenges, company president Mike Bush wrote in an email. The product is now found in more than 150 beverages, including coffee.
“You cannot taste or smell anything other than the coffee’s own aromas and flavors, but when you drink it, you know there is an additional value to it,” Tanja Nadisic, spokesperson for European coffee company Gala d.o.o. wrote in an email. Gala d.o.o. plans to launch its first coffee product in the United States containing Ganeden’s BC30 probiotics at the IFT expo in Chicago.
In January, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Jus by Julie launched the first ever vegan probiotic cold brew coffee. Each 16-ounce bottle features 1 billion CFUs of vegan Ganeden BC30 probiotics.
Jus by Julie creates juices and cleanses, and representatives said combining probiotics with coffee was the next logical step.
“Coffee is something most Americans have at least once a day, so it was a no-brainer to combine the two,” Rachel Joyce, copywriter and digital content specialist for the company, wrote in an email.
Cold brews, coffee flour and cascara tea
Coffees made without the traditional hot-brewing process have become trendy in recent years. Retail sales of the chilly coffees expanded 339% from 2010 to 2015, according to Mintel. The sales surge doesn’t necessarily mean the drink is popular -- only 0.4% of ready-to-drink coffee sales in 2015 came from this product line.
Despite the low sales percentage, beverage executives have many reasons to pursue the trend. The cold brew process creates a naturally sweeter, less acidic and more highly caffeinated coffee, Virginia Lee, a senior beverages analyst at Euromonitor International, told Food Dive. Companies may market the cold brew product as a healthy beverage because they lack large amounts of added sweeteners and creams.
The cold brew filtration process also produces coffee that is more caffeinated than a hot brewed coffee, Lee said.
“That allows it to compete against energy drinks like Red Bull as an on-the-go energy beverage,” she said.
The energy-boosting advantages of coffee are also making appearances in cereals through the use of coffee flour, which is made from the fruit that surrounds the coffee beans. Last year, Earnest Eats launched a cereal containing coffee flour as part of its energized hot cereals line, Lee said.
Cascara tea, which is also derived from coffee fruits, is gaining ground.
“Some specialist coffee shops are serving cascara as an iced tea, and some companies are modeling it as a ready-to-drink tea,” Lee said.
This isn’t the only way to meld the popular hot beverages. Lee said a half-coffee, half-black-tea beverage is popular in Hong Kong, and could do well here. With growing interest in Asian foods and consumers embracing new flavors, she said, this drink could be on the horizon.
“It could have legs because it has the caffeine of coffee and tea,” Lee said.
Even if this combo doesn’t take off, Lee said consumers can expect to see more mixtures of coffee and non-dairy milk alternatives.
“Plant-based foods are very popular in the U.S., and so is cold brew coffee,” she said. “It is a good marriage.”