Keeping pace with the hottest trends in beverages can be challenging, given the dizzying array of new choices in the marketplace. But one key trend that is well worth watching is the “clean” beverage movement that is being championed by the likes of Panera Bread and Starbucks. Not only does the clean label trend apply to bakery products, it applies to the beverages you serve your customers.
This fall, Panera Bread’s bakery cafes are introducing a new line of “clean” beverages that are free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives, as specified on the company’s previously announced “No No List.” Panera’s brewed teas, lemonades, smoothies, bottled milks and juices are already free of these artificial ingredients.
Along similar lines, Michael DeLaCruz, product development director at Starbucks, convened his team earlier this year to generate ideas for new Evolution Fresh green juice flavors. “We looked at trends on nutrient density and energy,” says DeLaCruz. “We hoped to find a new ingredient for Evolution Fresh to add to one of our existing green juices that would make for an uplifting beverage. Our thoughts went immediately to green tea.”
Evolution Fresh juices are cold-pressed using high pressure processing, so DeLaCruz and team didn’t want to alter the development method by adding a hot, brewed tea. Instead, they settled on matcha – green tea that is dried and ground into a fine powder – as the perfect addition to their new green juice. “Matcha is made from a whole green tea leaf," he said. "It provides a bit of caffeine, more flavor and texture.”
The preparation of matcha during Japanese tea ceremonies has long been associated with Zen, and much research exists on the benefits of mindfulness meditation, according to Cynthia Sass, a New York Times best-selling author. “As meditation becomes more mainstream, this might be one reason matcha has become so popular.”
In Linda Kim's role as an Evolution Fresh brand manager, she is attuned to the flavors and ingredients that inspire the Evolution Fresh customer. “Matcha is definitely a trend in the health and wellness landscape and people are looking to incorporate matcha into their daily routine to recharge,” said Kim. “Combining it with cold pressed fruit and vegetable juice offers a convenient way to get a vitamin-rich beverage and a lift from matcha without added sugar.”
At Panera Bread, testing is also underway to roll out clean versions of the company’s vanilla, caramel and chocolate syrups, used in other barista beverages.
Panera’s bottled beverage line-up will add other clean offerings nationally including BluePrint cold-pressed Beet Red and Green juices, Harmless Harvest Coconut Water and bottled Joia Grapefruit Chamomile and Cardamom Soda. “Our goal is to continue adding new flavors and lifestyle choices in beverage – clean, but evolving with the tastes and seasons,” says Dan Kish, Panera Bread’s head chef.
An extension of the brand’s food policy ideals, Panera’s newly “clean” pumpkin spice latte is made with select ingredients including milk, real pumpkin, whipped cream, spices and salted caramel sauce. The latte was launched at locations nationwide on Sept. 9.
“Our pumpkin spice latte has long been made with real pumpkin and without artificial caramel color – and this year we’re taking real a step further,” Kish says.