Onsite operators appeal to the 18- to 34-year-old marketplace with cappuccino, latte drinks. Brought to you by Kraft Foodservice.
Taking a page from Starbucks Coffee, Panera Bread and other major marketers, onsite operators are tuning up their coffee offerings to attract Millennial consumers and their huge discretionary spending power. They're reaching out to digitally fluent, socially networked, always-in-a-hurry 18- to 34-year olds with convenient coffee on demand away from home.
In particular, Millennials have demonstrated a soft spot for rich, creamy cappuccinos and lattes in varied flavors, served up anywhere from the college dining hall to the corporate cafeteria to the theme park midway. Operators make their signature cappuccinos manually with whole-bean or ground coffee or opt for convenient cappuccino mixes or liquid coffee concentrates that can be dispensed from an automatic machine with the push of a button.
Overall, cappuccino consumption among Americans increased from 34 percent in 2012 to 40 percent in 2013, according to the National Coffee Association's National Coffee Drinking Trends Study, 2013. Meanwhile, latte consumption rose from 25 percent to 36 percent over the same period, the study found.
“Part of the reason Millennials are so important is that they account for 21 percent of all discretionary consumer spending in this country,” says restaurant consultant Aaron Allen of Aaron Allen and Associates in Orlando, Fla. “They are spending a lot of money and coffee is one of the beneficiaries of that.”
Allen advises marketers to target Millennials with coffees that are different from those Starbucks and other commercial players offer. The goal is to create a java worthy of photographing and posting on Instagram or tweeting to friends.
“They don’t want their parents’ coffee,” Allen says.
At Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., the InterMetzo Café posted a 20-percent increase in sales this spring compared with the same period a year ago. Much of that is due to prompt, precise and personal sales of signature cappuccinos in such flavors as caramel macchiato, café mocha and white chocolate mocha, reports Bill Allman, Metz Culinary Management general manager.
Allman connects with Lebanon Valley students by posting the cappuccino flavor of the day on the department’s Facebook page, which has nearly 1,000 friends.
In the Bon Appétit Management-run cafeteria of The College of Idaho in Caldwell, Idaho, barista Lee Ann Clayton regularly launches new latte flavors. Her creations include the college’s signature Coyote Crunch — tiramisu, amaretto and almond flavors — caramel mocha, white mocha-raspberry, marshmallow, and peppermint-chocolate lattes. On the drawing board for next fall are new sour apple, apple pie and pumpkin pie flavors.
“If you invent something new, they will keep coming back,” Clayton says. “I’m always on the hunt for new flavors to prevent the students from getting bored.”
“We sell a ton of cappuccinos and lattes and iced cappuccinos here,” says Ethan Haggerty, manager of cafes and the dairy bar at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn.
Following the example of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts — the coffee powers in the area — UCONN has a calendar of specialty coffee promotions.
“We did salted caramel this year, because that was the new thing,” Haggerty says. On a typical day, UCONN coffee outlets have 10 or so flavors available, including the seasonal special.
“In the fall we do pumpkin lattes, and we have done shamrock lattes around St. Patrick’s Day,” Haggerty says. “The kids really gravitate to those specials.”
At Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I., students buy coffee from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. in the main dining venue and from 8 a.m. to midnight in a student-run café on campus.
“Some of our students really live on the IV drip of coffee,” says Pierre St-Germain, associate director of dining services. “All-nighters, especially in the first year, are rites of passage here.”
More than some young adults, RISD students have a taste for black coffee, but there are fans of coffee with vanilla, caramel and mocha flavors and pumpkin lattes in the fall.
The market for cappuccino and the like is large also in theme parks, where Millennials are well represented as customers. At Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., young adults favor sweetened and blended frappuccinos, mochas, lattes and iced coffees much more than regular brewed coffee, notes Robert Clunie, operations manager, food and beverage, of the Disneyland Hotel.
“I wouldn’t say they are connoisseurs of coffee,” Clunie says. “They treat it like an indulgent shake.”
Nevertheless, Clunie predicts that over time their palates will mature and they will appreciate the innate flavors of the bean. In his opinion, rich and creamy specialty coffees are “a gateway” that will lead them to regular brewed hot coffee, just as young adults often graduate from sweet drinks to premium wine and from mainstream beers to craft brews.
“What we have found is that a certain segment of people becomes more sophisticated and seeks more than what they were introduced to,” Clunie says. “I see it happening with coffee, and I have already seen it happen with wine and beer.”