This blog post features excerpts from an article previously published on VendingMarketWatch.com titled, “How Do You Take Your Coffee” about trends in office coffee service and creamers. Click here to read the full article on VendingMarketWatch.com.
Arthur Siller, VP of Operations for Avanti Markets NW, recently spoke with VendingMarketWatch about how Operators with OCS accounts need to stay on top of the latest creamer trends to best service their clients.
What are the trends in coffee creamer?
Consumers are increasingly personalizing their coffee, and suppliers have responded.
The variety of plant-based options — soy, almond, oat, etc. — continues to expand. Arthur Siller, vice president of operations and business development at Avanti Markets Northwest, noted that businesses want to keep their employees happy, especially when unemployment is low. Providing employees with a variety of flavor options is one way that employers can show they are taking care of their valued staff.
“For our clients, keeping talent and gaining new talent has become very important”
“For our clients, keeping talent and gaining new talent has become very important,” Siller said. So, we’ve seen, especially on the West Coast, a pretty dramatic shift to where just traditional creamers is not enough. They don’t want just milk, they want unsweetened almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, and three types of soy milk. These options have become increasingly important for our clients, which means they’re important for us.”
“These options have become increasingly important for our clients, which means they’re important for us.”
What about OCS at smaller companies?
Siller said that even smaller and midsize companies — those with 40 to 100 employees, for example — might carry eight different milk options to cater to the individual needs of their staff.
“They’ve got to have almond, unsweetened almond, vanilla soy, unsweetened soy, rice milk, 2 percent milk, 1 percent milk, fat-free milk. They may also ask for their dairy to be organic, or from a local source. Especially in the Northwest, our clients are increasingly interested in supporting companies and brands from their own city.”
In addition to supporting local businesses, consumers like to know what’s in the products they’re consuming every day. Natural and organic products with minimal ingredients or additives are very popular. This is especially true with millennials and people who have dietary restrictions or allergies.
“The other piece that’s driving this trend, particularly with millennials, is the increase in health-consciousness, and knowing exactly what’s in the products you’re consuming,” Siller said. “People want ingredient lists that are short, not long, and they want products that are simple.”
What’s the most popular creamer option?
Siller said that while French Vanilla is “far and away the leader” in flavors, the healthy, better-for-you trend is impacting this longstanding favorite.
“For a long time, vanilla and then hazelnut creamers were the standard, but now unsweetened is a must.”
“Unsweetened has become increasingly popular among non-dairy products,” he said. “For a long time, vanilla and then hazelnut creamers were the standard, but now unsweetened is a must. While every region is different, we certainly see this as trend to provide options without sugar.”
Siller pointed out that sugar-conscious consumers have been driving this trend for years, but instead of opting for chemically-based sugar alternatives, people are now gravitating towards natural and organic options like raw sugar, honey, stevia and agave.
What’s next in office coffee service trends?
The rising popularity of natural sweeteners and non-dairy milks and creamers doesn’t necessarily mean that traditional products aren’t still popular in OCS.
What it really comes down to — and this is true of every segment in our industry — is that our clients want to offer more choices. They don’t want to just limit it to healthy; they want to please everybody. Our clients want to have more options, not less.
That being said, Siller said this may not be the case in 10 years, especially as baby boomers continue to retire and a larger number of millennials and Gen Z enters the workforce.
“Traditional products will continue to lead, but the alternatives may start to take over,” Siller predicted. “For now, they want all the options, but I see a day probably not too far from now where they may say, ‘We just want to have dairy, dairy alternatives, and natural sweeteners in the office.’
Having a large variety of non-dairy options is more expensive, and that not every company is willing to spend that much on OCS, nor does their workforce demand it.
How can an operator be successful in OCS?
Siller said that operators can address the growing desire for greater variety in OCS by being proactive. Operators should take a consultative approach with clients.
“Don’t wait for the day to come where that large, potential new piece of business is making these requests and you’re not prepared.”
“Like anything, I would say to get ahead of it so you maintain control,” he said. “With our sales approach, we try to guide the conversation. If you want to be successful in having more dairy and dairy alternatives, lead that conversation with your client. Don’t wait for the day to come where that large, potential new piece of business is making these requests and you’re not prepared. Instead, you can be the expert and say, ‘Here are 10 dairy alternatives we currently carry, and here’s what makes sense from a cost standpoint.’ They’re a lot more willing to follow you in that conversation.”
Operators may find that they need to carry more products to satisfy the needs of their OCS clients. But it’s worth the extra effort.
“We’re carrying a lot more SKUs of OCS products than we did in the past,” he said. “It presents an interesting challenge for us, having to source all these different products, but the flip-side of that is we’re also winning new business, retaining business, and keeping happier clients.”
Office coffee trends may continue to shift, but staying on top of these trends can lead to growth and success in the OCS space.