Coming soon to Dunkin’ Donuts are blended milkshakes, espresso beverages, breakfast burritos and crème-filled croissant donuts. At sister chain Baskin-Robbins, more than a dozen new ice cream flavors are set to debut next year. And on retail shelves, parent company Dunkin’ Brands Group is planning to introduce more branded coffee and ice cream products.
“Product innovation is our lifeblood,” said Chris Fuqua, vice-president of Dunkin’ Donuts brand marketing and global consumer insights and product innovation. “It’s who we are. It’s what we do every day.”
Executives discussed forthcoming innovation across brands and channels during the company’s investor and analyst day on Oct. 1.
At the donut chain, Mr. Fuqua said, “we are focused on building our coffee culture.” Dunkin’ Donuts recently launched its first macchiato, made with steamed milk and topped with a double shot of espresso, available hot or iced. The beverage may be customized with flavor swirls, different dairy options and sweeteners.
“Macchiato is a good example of how we are trying to move into that espresso-based business a little more,” Mr. Fuqua said. “There’s a lot of runway there. It will make us more successful as we move west if we have more of an espresso focus than we do today.”
Dunkin’ Donuts also recently installed blenders in its restaurants nationwide and began offering smoothies and frozen coffee beverages with plans to add a “vast array of products” going forward, Mr. Fuqua said. And on the success of flavored iced coffees introduced this year, including Oreo, Chips Ahoy! and Baskin-Robbins inspired flavors, the chain plans to launch more varieties next year.
On the food front, more breakfast sandwiches, limited-time donut varieties and afternoon snacks are on the way. Items include a maple bacon donut, a snickerdoodle filled croissant donut, and new burritos in sausage and vegetable varieties, made with a spicy omelet, brown rice, corn, black beans, peppers and onions.
Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t the only brand cooking up new menu innovation. Baskin-Robbins plans to follow its introduction of 14 new flavors in 2015 with 16 more next year.
“To make a flavor, we look at them two years in advance,” said Bill Mitchell, president of Baskin-Robbins U.S. and Canada and Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins China, Japan and Korea. “We hold a worldwide flavor summit in Burbank, Calif., where we bring in partners from all over the world to talk about ice cream innovation. We figure out which one works, which one might not work, which flavors are hip, which flavors are not hip.”
Just over a third of new flavors contain less sugar, he said. The chain also debuted lactose-free flavors and Greek frozen yogurts.
“We are looking at a lot of different options for that consumer, the veto-vote consumer that says, ‘I want a healthier-for-you option,’” Mr. Mitchell said.
Recently introduced platforms at Baskin-Robbins include warm cookie sandwiches and warm cookie sundaes. Consumers may mix and match cookies, ice cream and toppings to create a custom confection.
“But … it’s much more than that,” Mr. Mitchell said. “It gives us the opportunity of brownies or waffles or whatever we would like to do in a warm bakery platform.”
Efforts to expand the brand into grocery and retail have included the introduction of seasonal bagged coffee varieties and refrigerated coffee creamers. The company is slated to introduce a new chocolate creamer and a line of shelf-stable creamer packs.
“(It’s a) small business, but … really about the brand relevance of Dunkin’ and getting that consumer to see that name as they open up the refrigerator,” said Paul Carbone, chief financial officer. “On the Baskin-Robbins side, it’s about ice cream pints and freezer bars.”
The company has doubled its distribution of Baskin-Robbins branded items over the past year and said it is working with leading national retailers on innovation and growth plans for 2016.
Dunkin’ Brands also launched Dunkin’ Donuts K-Cups coffee pods nationally in May through a partnership with the J.M. Smucker Co. and Keurig Green Mountain. The products gained 5% market share in the first 90 days.
“As we look forward, there are a lot of products you could think of,” Mr. Carbone said. “We are going to go slowly. We are going to go diligently, deliberately. It is a business that is profitable for us, profitable for the franchisees. This isn’t about going fast. This isn’t about growing a giant C.P.G. It is really about driving brand relevance. And that will be the main factor as we talk about it and as we move it forward.”