Coffee is the most popular hot beverage in the U.S. and the second-most popular hot drink in the world. Translating this success into ready-to-drink (RTD) cold coffee drinks has had checkered success in the marketplace. The RTD category peaked at $515 million in 2007, but has since been declining. Can new, innovative coffee drinks turn this trend around?

To answer this question, many marketers and manufacturers tend to conduct their own market research, hold brainstorming sessions and follow a fairly traditional new product development process. Perhaps there is another option. Flavor suppliers, like Symrise, have developed internal capabilities that complement CPG marketers' capabilities to identify, quantify and validate new flavor concepts.

As illustrated in this case study, the process of developing tomorrow's tastes can be started by surveying current marketplace trends. Secondary data sources show several RTD coffee product development platforms from both a global and North American perspective. Interestingly, most of these beverages are not presented in a "coffee forward" fashion, but rather, heavily marketed towards the added ingredients--most commonly, milk.

The beginnings of a "white opportunity space" began to emerge for Symrise--authentic, American black coffee--and how best to incorporate it into innovative products, to breathe new life into the RTD coffee category. 

Frank Rapacki, director, Consumer Insights, explains testing new concepts was the next logical step. Oftentimes, this testing is done with either consumers or with in-house product developers, resulting in approval for concepts very close in or very far out. In order to test concepts at a level that presents neither of these extremes (and which may have a better ability to mimic marketplace success), Symrise has created a proprietary online panel of some 800 "Foodies;" it is called the Flavor Designers Club. Spanning both genders, a range of ages and ethnicities, these consumers are screened for media consumption habits, creativity, articulation and, most importantly, a passion for food, flavors and beverages. 

Using the qualitative consumer insights that were obtained (see chart "Coffee Drinkers' Rationale"), Symrise developed two platforms to address coffee lovers' need for authenticity (the "American style" of black coffee--not necessarily the creamy, milk-based drinks often offered in the RTD category): premium/authentic and health-conscious. Premium/authentic was executed as Barista Premium Coffee Coolers: coffee house-inspired flavors and blends, true coffee flavor, satisfying and never watered down. Health-conscious was executed as JavaFruit, with the following desired attributes: good-for-you, natural, lower in calories, juice goodness and fruit fusion. 

Concept boards, complete with visuals and creative concept execution, were produced to get reactions from consumers.

Presentation of the concepts to the Flavor Designers Club resulted in desirable hedonics: 76% of Foodies rated the Premium Concept in the Top 2 Box, while 59% rated the Fruit Concept in the Top 2 Box. 

The reality of mass production requires products be formulated that can be consistently and cost-effectively produced, with good quality, safety and consumer appeal. Product developers and flavor chemists can work jointly to address these challenges, without compromising on concept appeal.

Innovation processes, such as that offered by Symrise, can be mutually beneficial to both manufacturers and flavor suppliers. Rather than approaching a formulation challenge alone, utilizing a flavor supplier partner may provide a cost-effective method to help a company strategically get that next novel product into market more quickly. pf

For more information:
Symrise Teterboro, N.J.
Angelica Sensini ï 973-774-6111