MILAN – Caribou Coffee was founded in Minnesota in 1992 from the idea of its founders, John and Kim Puckett with the purpose of creating day-making experiences, goes beyond the beans. Nearly 30 years later, Caribou Coffee serves in more than 700 coffeehouses worldwide. We spoke about customization – that for now is only available at Caribou Coffee locations in the United States – with Gretchen Hashemi-Rad, Category Manager for Caribou Coffee.
Caribou Coffee is a national premium company with over 750 coffeehouses in the world but still embraces customization: how do you manage this desire for customization in so many shops?
At Caribou Coffee, we are extremely proud of the things that make us different when we consider product offerings, real ingredients, and guest experience. We continue to raise the bar in the coffeehouse space, rolling out new beverage innovation and incentives that will enhance our guests’ overall experience.
With the new app, Caribou Perks members can do even more – like sharing rewards with friends and checking in to earn or use reward points at each visit. They can also customize their favorite beverage with non-dairy milk for no additional cost when they order ahead.
Through our Caribou Coffee App you can create an original, customized, hot or cold handcrafted beverage. We offer a set of standard customization options that are easy to manage and execute consistently. This includes choices like milk type, sweetness level, flavor shots, and size. But you can also choose your coffee roast preference, ice level, or add a shot of espresso to your favorite handcrafted beverage.
Customization is an option no matter how you order, but allowing these options in the app helps streamline the customization process without overwhelming staff or slowing down service.
The app also allows all guests to save their favorite customizable drinks and frequently visited stores at the click of a button. Utilizing digital ordering platforms like the mobile app also allows guests to order ahead for pick up orders. This not only speeds up the ordering process, but also reduces wait times.”
What are the major trends for younger generations, regarding the customization of new coffee and tea beverages?
“Coffee is such an innovative space. While an unwavering love of specialty coffee and tea is at the core of what we do every single day, our guests’ wants and needs are always evolving, and we are here for it! We continue to see an increasing demand for cold beverages, especially from our younger guests and even in the winter months! This is the first year we are seeing iced pumpkin drinks outpace hot pumpkin drinks on our menu, a trend we’re excited to keep an eye on.
In 2018, we had the idea to add bubbles to our tea because of bubble tea’s global popularity. We became the first national coffeehouse to offer bubbles in iced drinks. Bubble tea offers a unique and enjoyable drinking experience with its combination of flavors, textures, and colorful appearance, and we wanted to bring that to our guests.
Since launching bubble beverages as a limited time offering in 2018, we have brought the drinks back every summer. As mentioned above, due to the overwhelming amount of popularity our guests can now find them on the menu permanently.”
What are the main challenges in creating new recipes following new trends?
“Keeping new beverages operationally friendly and easy to execute, so our guests have a
consistent experience both day after day as well as store-to-store is one of our biggest priorities when innovating on new trends.”
How often is it necessary to reformulate the recipes on the menu?
“The frequency at which we reformulate recipes at Caribou Coffee varies. The decision is based on several factors, including customer preferences, industry trends and seasonality. We regularly gather guest feedback to understand which menu items are popular and which may need a refresh.
We also keep a close eye on coffee and beverage industry trends like emerging flavor profiles, preparation techniques, or ingredients gaining traction we may want to incorporate into our menu. We also introduce limited-time menu offerings throughout the year, which is a great way to keep things new for the guest and learn which flavors or beverages might make sense to add to the permanent menu in the future.
What always makes Caribou different is our commitment to clean and real indigents like real white, milk, or dark chocolate chips in our mochas or the real pumpkin puree that is featured in all our fall pumpkin beverages.”
What are customer favorite customized beverages on Caribou Coffee menus? Why are they so successful?
“Espresso Shakers are guest favorites on our menu, traditionally offered with vanilla, caramel or white chocolate flavor. Currently, our limited-time Pumpkin Espresso Shaker with a white chocolate flavor shot is quite popular due to its seasonality. One of our other favorite twists starts with a white chocolate espresso shaker, swapping the white chocolate for regular milk chocolate and customizing with a full marshmallow flavor shot.”
In customization, the main factors to be considered are the ingredients and/or the aesthetics of the final drink. Do you consider social networks/posts to be important for consumers nowadays?
“Absolutely, we believe social networks and posts play a significant role in shaping consumer behavior and preferences.
Earlier this summer, we hosted a customization contest via our TikTok and Instagram pages. We encouraged guests to share their favorite way to customize an iced or blended Caribou Coffee beverage using #CaribouCustomization and #entry and tagging @cariboucoffee for a chance to have their customized drink featured in the Caribou Coffee app for a limited time.
Our winner was the Iced Cinnamon Roll Latte, which became available on the app starting August 14.
We’ve seen the importance of visual appeal increase, specifically with our Gen Z and Millennial guest base. We find visually striking and aesthetically pleasing drinks are more likely to be shared on social media, which gives us additional exposure to entice new guests.
Is plant-based milk changing the rules of customization?
“Yes, for this reason Caribou Perks loyalty program members have the ability to customize their beverages with non-dairy milk at no additional charge when ordering through our app. Something we were very proud and excited to announce earlier this year.
With dairy-free and plant-based offerings becoming increasingly important to our guests and the planet, we still wanted to encourage Caribou Perks members to continue customizing their favorite beverages with non-dairy milk.
The “why” behind this decision:
o Customization – real, quality beverages that guests can customize to their liking.
o Beyond guest satisfaction, nixing the upcharge is more environmentally friendly.
o Caribou Coffee has always been a trailblazer, from innovating exciting beverages to integrating sustainable practices that make a difference.”