Are edible coffee products becoming more popular?

For obvious reasons, most people around the world think of coffee first and foremost as a beverage. But what about using it to flavor food? Or even turn it into food?

It may come as a surprise to know that coffee has been used in a range of food products for over 150 years. To date, the market for coffee flavors and coffee-flavored foods continues to grow and represents a notable opportunity for brands looking to branch out.

To learn more about the market for edible coffee products, I spoke to Kelleigh Stewart of Big Island Coffee Roasters, as well as Brittany Heyd and Meli James, the co-founders of Mana Up. Read on to find out what they told me.

you might also like our article on food and specialty coffee pairings around the world.

A brief history of coffee flavored food products

Global coffee consumption dates back to the 15th century, but it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that we started seeing coffee incorporated into food.

One of the most notable early products was Camp Coffee, a mixture of sugar, water, chicory extract and coffee extract that was created in Glasgow, Scotland in 1885. It started as an alternative to instant coffee, but was quickly adopted by the British. bakers to make a first form of coffee cake.

Besides coffee cake, another notable coffee dessert that has been around since the 19th century is tiramisu. This layered cake-like dish is made by dipping ladyfingers in coffee, topping them with a mixture of mascarpone and egg yolk, and dusting with cocoa powder.

Coffee flavored gelatin (or coffee jelly) also appeared in the 19th century, with its first mention in a British cookbook in the early 1800s. It gained popularity in Japan around 150 years later in the 1960s. .

One pairing that has become increasingly popular in recent years is coffee and chocolate. In particular, several popular specialty coffee roasters (including Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia) and chocolatiers have teamed up to offer a higher quality version of a classic product.

coffee and chocolate

How are edible coffee products evolving?

Over the past few years, more than ever, we have witnessed an enormous amount of innovation in the edible coffee segment.

Sriracha coffee, for example, has become a cult condiment, as has espresso-flavored balsamic vinegar. Coffee grounds are also increasingly used as a component of dry marinades for meat, as well as a marinade flavor.

Kelleigh Stewart is the co-founder and director of Big Island Coffee Roasters. She tells me more about the brand’s Espresso Bites, another example of innovative edible coffee.

“Although our Espresso Bites taste like chocolate, they don’t contain it,” she says. “They are made with 100% Hawaiian-grown coffee, 0% chocolate, and all-organic ingredients. They also contain less sugar than most chocolate bars.

In addition to eating it on its own, Kelleigh adds that Espresso Bites can be mixed with hot water to create an on-the-go cup of coffee.

She says they’re finding that, perhaps surprisingly, people are also replacing their morning coffee with it.

“When in a hurry or when traveling, people add it to water to make coffee, but most of the time they enjoy it with a cup. Some people even mix it in to give their coffee an extra “kick”.

“Usually it is used as an afternoon pick-me-up; we find that many of our customers keep it in their purse or desk at work and pick it up when they want a little snack.

Brittany Heyd and Meli James are the co-founders of Mana Up, a Hawaiian initiative that supports entrepreneurs across the state. Big Island Coffee Roasters worked with Mana Up’s product accelerator to develop and launch its Espresso Bites.

“We loved the convenience and uniqueness of their edible espresso on the go,” they tell me. “It’s a product that we hadn’t yet seen emerge from the wider market and it’s delicious!”

Kelleigh adds that the idea for the Espresso Bites came from her aversion to carrying bulky brewing equipment when she traveled to New Zealand in 2014.

“We wanted to make our cafe more convenient for travelers and busy people like us,” she says. “When we returned to our farm, we started experimenting with different ways to enjoy Hawaiian coffee, without equipment or water.”

founders of the great island roasters

How has the third wave of coffee brought about changes in this segment?

All over the world, premium food and beverage products are becoming increasingly popular with consumers.

In the coffee sector, we can see it mainly in the third wave of coffee, which is characterized by a number of factors. Along with the continued focus on quality, there is also a greater appreciation for coffee craftsmanship, as well as an increased focus on traceability, transparency and sustainability.

Kelleigh explains that these third-wave values ​​naturally spread to other segments of the broader coffee industry, including coffee-flavored food products.

“People want a closer connection to the source of the foods they eat and the brands they engage with,” Kelleigh tells me. “High-quality food and beverage products often have a powerful origin story, and stories like these are a compelling way to engage consumers.”

She adds that these factors must, of course, be weighed against quality. At the end of the day, it should still be delicious.

“This combination of flavor, authentic story and ethical supply chain creates a relationship between brand and customer,” she says. “This is the basis for success as a craft business.”

Meli and Brittany talk about authenticity and ethical sourcing in particular, but note that one of the reasons they chose to work with Big Island Coffee Roasters was because they represented Hawaiian coffee production on a scale much wider.

“We were compelled to work with Big Island Coffee Roasters on this product for several reasons,” they explain. “One of them was the fact that they showcase coffees grown in various Hawaiian regions outside of Kona.”

coffee cherries

Is there an opportunity for more roasters to launch edible coffee products?

By adding a high-quality edible coffee product to their lineup, specialty coffee roasters can create a new experience for their customer base while maintaining the values ​​that are important to them and their customers.

“In many ways, Espresso Bites are easier to dispense than freshly roasted coffees,” says Kelleigh. “They’re small, have a long shelf life, are drinkable and edible, cheaper to ship, and don’t take up much space. [if you’re travelling].”

Expanding into this market can also be a great way for coffee roasters to increase their exposure and access new markets. Kelleigh says their Espresso Bites have helped them expand their reach beyond Hawaii.

“Last year he was featured on Good Morning America, which was really exciting and gave us great exposure,” she says. “This year we won a Good Food Award, which was truly an honor.

“The Good Food Awards celebrate artisan, handcrafted foods with superior flavor that bring people together and build strong, healthy communities,” she adds. “These are all things that we are passionate about.”

Finally, Kelleigh adds that it has also been an opportunity for them to enhance Hawaii’s reputation as the origin of coffee in the international arena.

“Hawaii is the most isolated population center in the world, and our shipping costs reflect that,” she says. “Our geographic and logistical challenges put us at a severe disadvantage compared to other US roasters. This is one of the many reasons why authentic Hawaiian and Kona coffees are not common outside the state, despite being one of our most important cultures.

“Although drinking Espresso Bites is not comparable to drinking freshly roasted coffee, it has become a new way to celebrate and appreciate Big Island coffeehouses and Hawaii’s agricultural heritage.”

coffee growers on a farm

Clearly, the future is bright for those looking to innovate with edible coffee products. Whether as a flavor or as a product on its own, specialty coffee roasters clearly have the potential to branch out if they choose.

Whatever happens in the coming months, it is obvious that there is a lot of innovation when it comes to product development in the coffee sector. Brands around the world continue to deliver exciting new experiences for global coffee consumers, and edible coffee products are just one of many we’ve seen in recent years.

Did you like it? then read our article on coffee production in Hawaii.

Photo credits : Big Island Coffee Roasters, Mana Up

Perfect daily grind

Please note: Big Island Coffee Roasters is a sponsor of Perfect Daily Grind.

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