World’s Best Cup of Coffee

Countless places claim to have it, but what really makes a cup of coffee great?

It depends on who you ask and possibly what generation they’re from.

One constant that spans the generational divide is those who just need a cup or two of Joe to get them through the day.

Still, if you’re a millennial, you might be more likely to prefer a bearded beaning wearing barista who might just be the Michelangelo of the macchiato. It’s no surprise that this age bracket makes up 31% of all specialty coffee consumption.

Gen-Z, on the other hand, with their on-the-go lifestyles, don’t have time to pour over the intricacies of brew times and grind settings. Instead, they’re looking for something that’s ready-to-drink (RTD) when they need it.


This could be why, according to a report from Mintel, 60% of Gen Z consumers drink RTD compared to only 49% who drink brewed ground coffee. It may also be due in part to their fondness of iced/cold coffee, with 57% of Gen Z consumers first regularly drinking cold coffee beverages.

Yet, it appears that they aren’t the only ones. In fact, in a recent quarter, 75% of Starbucks’ sales came from cold beverages.

With global sales of RTD coffee reaching 26.3 Billion in 2022 and expected to reach USD 42.36 Billion by 2030, it’s becoming clear that more and more consumers worldwide are willing to trade in their mugs for canned and bottled coffees.

This move toward RTD can be a boon for developers on multiple fronts.

It allows companies to capitalise on the popularity of coffee, cold brew in particular, but also address other consumer trends such as the demands for functional benefits, indulgent and creative flavours, and plant-based dairy alternatives.

A Coffee Bar on the Go – Variety hits RTD

Functionality is on the Menu


No other pairing is as synonymous as coffee is with caffeine.

Illustrated by nicknames like liquid energy, high octane, and rocket fuel, to name a few, a single 8 oz (236ml) cup contains upwards of 100mg of caffeine. That’s compared to around 50mg for the same amount of black tea.

Caffeine itself is functional and one of the most popular ingredients for those looking for a boost of energy.

However, 35% of consumers are now looking for functional benefits besides energy from coffee.

RTD coffee can provide unique opportunities for functionality that are difficult for traditional coffee to match.

Many developers are looking toward ingredients such as ashwagandha or other adaptogens and nootropics. Known for their calming and stress-relieving properties, they can provide a synergistic effect with the naturally present caffeine, helping consumers get all of the energy with none of the jitters.

High protein offerings make a natural fit with cold coffee beverages due to their overlapping use of dairy. Increasingly, the same can be said of functional plant-based proteins and dairy alternatives as well.

Dominated by Dairy with a Place for Plant-based

From a splash of cream to indulgent lattes and decadent dulce de leche frappés, dairy has dominated the coffee landscape and was integral to the early success of RTD offerings.

Yet despite dairy’s dominance, plant-based dairy’s percolation into the coffee space has been brewing for a while now.

When making the switch from animal-based dairy, developers have leaned toward grain, legume, seed, cereal, and nut-based ingredients.

Oat is one of the most popular in the coffee world right now, both in the café and in the bottle.

Oat lends natural sweetness and can have a good mouthfeel to balance out the acidity of the coffee.

It is an excellent ingredient for building sweet flavour profiles, like tiramisu or crème caramel.

The ability to deliver exciting and indulgent flavours like these is incredibly important to a majority of consumers.


According to FMCG Gurus, Globally, 74% of consumers say they like to see new and unusual flavours in coffee and tea products. Furthermore, 77% of global consumers find limited-edition flavours most appealing in the coffee category.

Nevertheless, impressing consumers with shelf-stable espresso isn’t without its hurdles.

The Challenges of Bottling up Barista-Level Quality for RTD

Depending on the choice of ingredients for your bottled or canned coffee, you may face a number of challenges.

Utilising functional ingredients could throw off the balance of your profile, requiring masking for these off-notes.

Additionally, animal and plant-based protein sources might cause textural issues. Even changes to the type of fat source used can cause implications for your development,

For Better-for-you RTD offerings, you may want to reduce/remove fat or sugar altogether. This will lead to a reduction of mouthfeel, which might need to be addressed through the use of stabilisers and bulking agents (i.e., gellan gums or carrageenan.) or flavours that can enhance perceived mouthfeel.


Most coffee RTDs on the market are subjected to ultra-high temperature (UHT) or ESL treatment to extend the shelf life.

When choosing flavours for your RTD applications, we always have to consider the time and temperature of your processing environment, as these aspects can significantly impact flavour volatiles.

The importance of this can’t be understated.

After all, coffee contains over 800 chemical compounds responsible for its iconic taste and aroma.

Identifying these compounds is what helps our flavourists and applications scientist choose the perfect flavour solution for your RTD coffee beverage.

Whether you’re looking to enhance an indulgent sweet profile, mask some of the natural bitterness in the coffee, or just add creamy/milky notes for a smooth finish, Edlong’s experts have got you covered.

Learn more about all the ways Edlong is ready-to-help with your next ready-to-drink coffee project.

About the Author: Emily Sheehan, Applications Manager, EMEA

Hi! I’m Emily Sheehan. I’m the Applications Manager, EMEA at Edlong, and my job is rooted in creating exciting new possibilities for our people and processes. It’s inspiring to reflect on how much Edlong has achieved and even more amazing to be involved in such thoughtful innovation. We enjoy pushing boundaries in food and flavour, and we welcome everyone in the food industry to join us. If you’re in need of expertise or inspiration, I’d love to collaborate and help you design flavour solutions that resonate with consumers!

Topics: Beverages
Resource Type: Article
Resource Region: EULATAMUS


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