Speaking to BeverageDaily.com after the firm launched Steel Horse Coffee – a roasted coffee with 150mg of added cocoa flavanols per serving, Brian Miller, VP sales and marketing for Mars Drinks North America, said it took nearly 12 months to develop the new functional coffee.
Steel Horse Coffee (pictured) was launched this spring through Mars Drinks’ single-serve hot drinks system, and the firm says the beverage encourages workplace productivity, by pairing coffee (for mental clarity, alertness) with circulation-supporting cocoa flavanols (phytonutrients derived from cocoa beans).
Consumer feedback had been “overwhelmingly positive”, Miller insisted, with the majority of consumers expressing their preference for a “bold and hearty coffee with notes of dark cocoa and molasses”.
Development challenges for Steel Horse Coffee involved selection of the right coffee base for sensory acceptance, Miller explained, while the biggest challenge was handling the high flavanol cocoa extract (which is a fine powder) as well as ensuring even blending with the coffee.
“The unique mixture of flavanols naturally found in cocoa is available in no other food. However, these cocoa flavanols are easily destroyed during normal processing,” Miller explained.
Proprietary processing technique
So to protect the cocoa flavanols and retain their health benefits, Mars Drinks patented a proprietary processing technique called CocoaPro, to extract them from the cocoa bean preserve them in the highest possible concentration.
Understandably, Miller was tight-lipped about how this process works, but he said it begins as soon as the beans are harvest and continues throughout the production process until the final cocoa extract is produced.
Mars Drinks has no plans to extend Steel Horse coffee into retail channels, given that its single-serve Flavia brewing systems are solely designed for the office environment, with the coffee created “to help fuel office productivity through the combination of coffee and cocoa flavanols”.
He added: “These two ingredients help support the demands of both mind and body, and are ideally suited for the needs of the office.”
Expanding on the “huge potential” that he says Mars Drinks sees in the single-serve office drinks category, Miller said the firm’s business extended into North America, Europe and Asia; all these markets were seeing growth, he added, some extending into double digits.
Tremendous growth in office single-serve
Single-serve was “fundamentally changing the way offices consume hot beverages”, Miller said, and was also on the rise in emerging markets.
“Emerging markets have not yet seen the tremendous growth that some of the more established markets have seen and therefore Mars Drinks sees the potential for growth continuing into the foreseeable future,” he added.
Miller explained that Mars Drinks brewers in its Flavia range were designed to fit any size office, “from collaborative spaces to conference rooms to pantries”.
“We recognize the need for offices to have drinks that can satisfy all taste preferences while providing a reliable machine that brews a high quality drink each time.”
He added: “The Flavia brewer does this by ensuring each drinks is brewed directly from pack to cup with no taste contamination between drinks, so tea will never taste like the coffee that was made before it and vice versa.”