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What does “premium coffee” mean?

Segafredo Premium Coffee
Photograph courtesy of Segafredo Zanetti®

There is no question that the idea of “premium coffee” appeals to consumers. Nearly half (44%) of consumers say they are more likely to purchase a premium coffee over a standard variety at a bakery cafe, according to Technomic’s 2018 Bakery and Coffee Cafe Consumer Trend Report.

What are the hallmarks of premium coffee? How does premium differ from a standard cup of joe? And, most importantly, how can foodservice operators craft a premium coffee experience for Business & Industry (B&I)?

Key areas for operators to consider when crafting a premium coffee program include: taste and variety, coffee quality and promotion. Beyond a great tasting, quality product, a premium experience means collaborating with a coffee partner that is engaged with clients and actively working to increase participation and grow their business.

Taste and variety

Consumers prefer rich, smooth and complex brews, and a good producer or roaster avoids off notes such as bitter, burnt flavors. Foodservice operators should taste through available blends and select a variety that will please their clientele. To appeal to a wide range of consumers in B&I environments, select a range of offerings like Segafredo Zanetti® light roast Brillante®, medium roast Vivace™ and dark roast Enzo®, as well as blends designed for all beverage needs such as espresso, cold brew and nitro cold brew.

Coffee quality

Just as premium wines depend upon terroir, so do top-quality coffee beans. The environmental aspects of soil, climate, topography and altitude all contribute to the end quality and flavor of the beans. Farming practices also impact bean quality—and ultimately, the coffee in the cup.

Today’s consumers are also socially conscious and concerned about issues such as sustainability and social responsibility. In fact, 48% say they expect foodservice facilities to be transparent about where they source their coffee, according to Technomic’s Bakery and Coffee Cafe report.

To check off all the boxes and cater to these customers, consider offering options like Segafredo Zanetti®  Crescendo® coffee, which is Rainforest Alliance Certified™, another hot-button topic for consumers. Another option, Segafredo Zanetti®  Ethiopian coffee, is a sustainably sourced coffee that is certified both Fair-Trade and USDA Organic.

Blend creation and roasting

Blending is where the magic happens. When creating blends, experts test-brew micro batches of beans with various roasting levels, cup and taste them individually and note the nuances of aroma and flavor. Then they design blends that can range from light, mild and sweet to strong, rich and full-bodied.

Roasting green coffee beans brings out the aromatics, flavors and acidity that make a great cup of coffee. The process is both an art and a science; it takes expertise and state-of-the-art roasting equipment to bring out the best in beans. Experienced, premium coffee roasters understand how important the perfect roast curve is to quality and consistency. Mastery and experience is required for consistency.

When choosing a coffee supplier, operators should first consider the quality of the product, of course, but consistency is equally important. To do that, it’s crucial to work with a roaster that has demonstrated mastery of the process.

This way, the operators themselves can continue to provide the same premium coffee to their customers, batch after batch. By maintaining a focus on quality and consistency when looking for a supplier, operators can promise their customers a cup of great coffee will be available every time they come in.

Brewing and preparation also affects the quality of the finished cup. Keep these machines scrupulously clean and sanitary, following manufacturers’ maintenance recommendations.  Be sure to monitor holding times and discard batches when freshness is no longer optimal. Any supplier operators work with should be an active partner and engage them in training. Suppliers should also make sure equipment is set up properly to help ensure the coffee program is executing at a very high level.

Crafting a premium coffee experience to grow participation

In addition to selecting quality coffee, operators also need to elevate coffee presentation to keep customers engaged and coming back. Here are a few strategies for doing so.

While the quality of the coffee is critical to consumers’ perception of a premium coffee program, what makes the biggest impact is the experience the consumers have with product—from the smell of freshly ground coffee welcoming them in, the types of cups coffee is served in, what kind of beans and blends are being brewed, customizable flavors and creamers and more. Make sure to choose a brand that’s been validated with years of experience in a cafe environment that knows the business of coffee and how to help grow a business.  Segafredo Zanetti®, for instance, understands the coffee business and iteratively tests blends and roasts to know what resonates with consumers, so operators know they are getting the best advice and best product.

A premium coffee brand should always come with premium support and a focus on helping to grow their clients’ business by offering insight on what consumers are looking for, the latest blends, help with promotional materials and more.

Some things that operators can offer to boost business include:

  • Promotions: Offer free samples or loyalty cards to drive traffic into cafeterias.
  • Limited time offers: Limited-run products and seasonal flavors, such as a Cinnamon & Maple Spice Latte for winter, drive check averages and visit frequency at coffee bars. 
  • Merchandising and signage: Meaningful merchandising, on-campus advertising and visuals (such as signage for bundling programs, floor decals or signage reminding employees there is premium coffee in the cafeteria) can increase traffic in cafeterias.
  • Branding and promotional materials: Make sure branding is also in place to clearly communicate to employees that a specific brand of coffee is being served. According to Technomic’s 2019 Breakfast Consumer Trend Report, 34% of consumers say they are loyal to a coffee brand or to a foodservice location that serves their preferred coffee.   

Segafredo Zanetti® is an emerging brand here in the U.S., backed by four generations of coffee experience and more than 350 cafes around the wold. When looking for a premium coffee partner, consider Segafredo Zanetti® and all it has to offer—with a winning track record in B&I, plus a long history of coffee passion and expertise, it’s an easy choice.

This post is sponsored by Segafredo Zanetti®

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