“We see consumers generally interested in and have potentially two flavors in their fridge at all times, but always one of them is their core favorite, and that often is French vanilla. The consumer behavior is kind of like you wake up in that first cup, [and] you want something that you can rely on.”
From French Vanilla to limited time offerings: Coffee drinkers stir up flavor combinations
While vanilla remains a popular flavor for a host of applications, the richer-tasting French Vanilla flavor has become a staple for coffee drinkers and is the go-to creamer for many consumers, Goodwin said. International Delight’s French Vanilla flavor held nearly 30% of total creamer sales for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 26, 2023, according to Circana MULO data.
“Our strategy really is focused on delivering both that core delicious flavor that our consumers are looking for, which is number one French Vanilla and then number two we see caramel macchiato," Goodwin said. "So, it's a really big part of our brand strategy to make sure that we're delivering the best-tasting French Vanilla that we possibly can, and our repeat rate has grown significantly over the last couple of years as we've driven trial on that business.”
Consumers also are looking for nostalgic flavors, including seasonal favorites like pumpkin spice to licensed products that tap into a sense of nostalgia like International Delight's Friends-inspired Manhattan Hazelnut Mocha coffee creamers, she added.
“Nostalgia [has been] a really nice complement to the strategy, but I wouldn't say is a requirement for us. It's much more, making sure we're leveraging properties that allow us to reach our target consumer, which is a millennial or a Gen Z and sometimes that's the nostalgia but sometimes it's just with whatever is kind of the latest current property. We like to find partners where there's a natural connection to coffee house.”
The coffeeshop experience at home, younger consumers ask for cream
Several consumer behaviors established during the COVID pandemic also are driving the coffee creamer category forward, at a time when inflation might push more consumers to brew their coffee at home.
“At a macro level, we know coffeehouse at home is ... one of the COVID trends really that is here to stay. When people couldn't go to their local coffee shop they learned how to make their own coffee house beverages at home. And they leveraged a lot of different CPG products, but coffee creamers being a big one to help them deliver that same indulgent experience from the comfort of their kitchen.”
Tthis trend of experimenting with flavors is also prevalent among younger consumers who might have always been accustomed to sweet and flavorful coffee drinks at Starbucks and other coffee chains, Goodwin explained.
“In younger audiences, we know that they're creating their coffee even more than an older audience, and I suspect that that's a generation that grew up going to Starbucks and drinking Frappuccino. So, they were introduced to their caffeine consumption not through their parents with a cup of black coffee or with a little bit of milk but instead in a highly sweet and light experience.”