British caterers may have completely under-estimated the public interest in flavoured coffee, according to research by flavour supplier Taylerson's Malmesbury Syrups.
Although the concept of the ‘flavoured latte' is a standard part of a modern beverage menu, it is generally thought that British consumers are less keen on adding things to their coffee than Americans.
The drink is made with a shot of a flavoured syrup added to a standard espresso latte and, while vast numbers of American consumers order their coffee with an additional splash of vanilla, or hazelnut, or amaretto, the British trade has never sold flavours to the same extent.
With the exception of one modern Starbucks-inspired trend for gingerbread lattes at Christmas - a business which reaches astonishing levels in December and then ceases immediately - the British consumer is not thought to be a fan of flavoured coffee.
However, one of the smallest flavour companies on the market, Taylersons of Malmesbury, has now come up with a private survey which suggests that interest in flavours is wider than had been thought.
The survey is thought to be adequately comprehensive, having been undertaken by a professional company questioning several hundred consumers in all areas of the UK.
The surprising major finding is that 46% of out-of-home coffee drinkers have actually tried a flavoured coffee, with women fractionally more likely to try a flavoured coffee than men.
The other surprising finding is the age range of those who have tried a flavoured coffee. It is no surprise at all that students and the 18+ age group have experimented with flavours more than anyone else. What is surprising is that in all age groups, right up to the over-sixties, well over 40% of those questioned have drunk a flavoured coffee.
In most regions of the UK, about half of those surveyed had done so. The figure in London was 67%, but this was surpassed in Bristol, where 71% of those questioned had tried flavoured coffee.
"I was surprised but not too surprised," commented John Taylerson. "The consumers who buy directly from me are biased towards the younger groups, but we will be tracking the figure of older consumers in out-of-home situations, as it's the rate of growth that will be of most interest."
The consumers' choice of flavours was no surprise. Chocolate flavouring in various forms (such as mocha) was way ahead of anything else.
Vanilla, caramel, amaretto, and hazelnut, which are all thought to be the ‘standard' flavours for coffee, came next in preference, but cinnamon clocked in with a surprising 10%.
Of flavours expected to become the new, fashionable favourites, toffee scored 6% and ginger also delivered a single-figure result. However, Taylerson tips ginger as the next big flavour for coffee, and says that it is already his own best seller.
It was put to John Taylerson that the research simply recorded the number of people who had tried flavoured coffee, not the numbers who actually liked it or drank it on a continuing basis. It could mean that a certain per cent tried a flavour, hated it, and never drank another, pointed out one questioner.
"Sales volumes that I am seeing, and the number of repeat purchases, say people love them," answered John Taylerson. "Go and look at the feedback on Amazon and Google; people like flavoured syrups.
"Or at least, they like mine!"
By Ian Boughton