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Why Flavourtech is eyeing the RTD coffee market

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Flavourtech explains how its latest partnership can assist cold brew coffee producers and why slurry processing is the best way to achieve premium RTD beverages.

As a global technology manufacturer specialising in aroma recovery, extraction, and evaporation solutions, Flavourtech has a front row seat to macro trends shaping the RTD (ready-to-drink) coffee and tea segments.

From this vantage point, the company can see sales are growing at a significant rate and, according to Global Sales Manager Paul Ahn, this is due to younger generations seeking convenient beverages that are more natural and healthier than carbonated soft drinks.

“Consumers’ busy lifestyles have made RTD coffee an attractive choice for those looking for a quick caffeine fix. The RTD coffee sector is a dynamic category with placement in supermarkets, convenience stores, and food outlets,” says Ahn.

“Products come in various formats including flavoured and supplemented beverages, traditionally brewed products which are served hot or cold, and popular cold brew coffee.”

Flavourtech believes consumers are driving the ongoing premiumisation of this sector to the benefit of beverage manufacturers focused on quality and innovation.

In recent years, the company has noticed a marked shift in cold coffee consumption in its home market. Ahn says Australian consumers are not willing to drink milk with coffee flavouring.

“Consumers want a product where the coffee is the hero flavour, and not diluted by milk or plant-based milk products. A lot of supermarkets are now selling bottles of liquid coffee concentrate to make coffee-based beverages at work or home. The coffee aisles are getting bigger and bigger, and we have been able to help beverage companies, both big and small, capitalise on this trend through the use of our innovative processing technology,” Ahn says.

“Cold brew coffee, which is extracted at room temperature and produces a brew with unique characteristics, is proving particularly popular. The National Coffee Association in the United States stated in a 2023 National Coffee Data Trends report that the number of people who drink cold brew regularly has increased by 60 per cent since 2019.”

To assist manufacturers in producing higher quality cold brew concentrates, Flavourtech has recently partnered with Danish water technology company Aquaporin.

By leveraging Aquaporin’s expertise in forward osmosis and highly selective water removal, Ahn says Flavourtech offers an approach it refers to as “cold concentration”.

“With Aquaporin Inside technology, Flavourtech aims to help cold brew producers update their process to include a cold concentration step of osmotic pressure difference. FO exploits this pressure difference and allows movement of water molecules through a semi-permeable membrane without the application of heat. The process minimises the loss of flavours and essential nutrients, with the resulting concentrate maintaining a higher nutritional value and a superior taste reflective of the original coffee’s flavour profile,” he says.

“This advanced water removal technology ensures a gentle concentration process that not only enhances the efficiency of production but ensures batch consistency and empowers producers to meet the growing demand for premium cold brew concentrates.”

Flavourtech also offers RTD coffee and tea producers an innovative way to produce premium liquid extracts from coffee and tea slurries.

The company’s IES (Integrated Extraction System) couples SCC (Spinning Cone Column) technology with the extraction of soluble solids.

“The IES is unique in that it is able to easily process a slurry of water and milled roasted coffee beans, meaning flavours are at their freshest,” Ahn says.

“Our IES is designed for the coffee and tea industry with the aim of producing the highest quality RTD beverage, full of the natural aroma from the raw material itself: the roasted coffee beans or tea leaves. Before the IES, these natural, desirable aromas were typically lost or damaged through processes that were not designed to capture or maintain them. The result is a RTD coffee or tea extract lacking flavour.”

Ahn says one of the key characteristics of the IES is its ability to capture and preserve key flavour notes for inclusion in the final extract.
“Aromatic compounds of fresh-brewed roast and ground coffee, or distinctive varietal characteristics of tea blends, are captured by the SCC at their peak quality by processing slurries at low temperatures and short residence times. When a slurry of coffee beans or tea leaves and water is introduced into the SCC, the beverage is brewed within the closed system. The SCC effectively performs the dual roles of flavour and soluble-solids extraction simultaneously, thus avoiding intermediate flavour loss or degradation,” he says.

“Capturing coffee and tea aroma from liquid extracts does not compare to slurry processing as many of the important aromatics are damaged or lost during the extraction process itself. Capturing aroma from a slurry is far superior.”

Ahn says, in coffee slurry processing, the IES produces a final coffee extract that is as good as, if not better, than freshly brewed coffee.
“The gas chromatography analysis shows a graphical comparison between a commercially available coffee extract and one produced by the IES,” he says.

Ahn adds that the high concentration of volatile compounds and dominance of ‘front-end’ characters in the IES sample are attributable to the fact it was collected from a slurry of fresh-roasted coffee, not a liquid extract.

“The IES is quite versatile, one day you can be making RTD tea, the next day RTD or soluble coffee. This versatility also extends to the ability to capture different aroma profiles from the same raw material by simply adjusting some user settings. This feature allows the manufacturer to offer a variety of flavours to meet the target taste preference,” he says.

Another key feature of the IES, Ahn says, is the flexibility of a continuous modular system.

“The flexibility of a modular approach means some of the individual IES modules can be combined with existing processes or installed in stages,” he says.

Ahn adds Flavourtech systems are designed with the customer and application in mind.

“Our design and engineering teams offer our customers a custom-built process to produce the highest quality RTD beverage [and] it all starts from the raw material itself — the roasted beans — where the flavours are at their freshest and best. The result being a premium product with more flavour and antioxidants, ensuring manufacturers have the upper hand over their competitors,” he says.

For more information, visit flavourtech.com

This article was first published in the March/April 2024 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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