Lattes now come in all the colours of the rainbow, but is it just a fad? Photo: Matcha Mylkbar
The specialty latte market is booming amid the ‘food porn’ social media craze, with coffee shops experimenting with outlandish new flavours – including supposed superfoods.
Pumpkin spice is the latest flavour to tempt coffee lovers, with Starbucks releasing the product in Australia before Halloween.
Other specialty lattes appearing at trendy cafes nationwide include turmeric, broccoli, mushroom, beetroot, charcoal and blue algae.
The surge in the variety of lattes – Australia’s favourite coffee market – has coincided with a growing interest in diners taking photos of food.
About 65 per cent of Australians admitted to photographing food while eating out to share on social media, according to research last year by online reservation platform OpenTable.
Retail expert Dr Louise Grimmer said the trend also reflects the popularity of the ‘wellness’ movement.
“Clever marketers have positioned their products as providing health or wellness or ‘clean’ attributes, and the latte is just the latest product to have a ‘wellness’ makeover,” she said.
“Turmeric is the latest of the ubiquitous ‘superfoods’ or super ingredients and so, of course, we see it incorporated into lots of different products such as hot drinks.
“We’ve seen this previously with products like wheatgrass, kale, spirulina, ginger – this is just the latest fad.”
In Australia, independent coffee shops make up about 95 per cent of the industry. Coffee shops chains have not taken off in Australia in the same way as they have in other countries, which is telling of the country’s vibrant coffee culture.
Dr Grimmer said these unusual lattes help independent coffee shops differentiate themselves from the competition.
“Offering interesting flavours – especially if the café becomes ‘known’ for unusual flavours – is a really strong way to appeal to new customers and to keep existing customers,” she said.
“Australian consumers are changing the way they spend money, with more of their disposable or household income being spent on ‘experiences’ including dining out and on takeaway food and drinks including coffee.
“Experiences can be shared on social media and this is an appealing prospect for many consumers, particularly Gen Y.”
Speaking of experiences, Dr Grimmer added that she suspects the increased interest in hemp and cannabis-infused food and drinks could see the coffee industry enter this space in the future.
While superfood lattes are marketed as a ‘healthy coffee’, there is yet to be reliable evidence revealing associated health benefits as a result of drinking turmeric, mushroom or broccoli lattes.
In fact, Canadian-based Australian chef Mike Ward said some coffee outlets such as Starbucks are adding more sugar to their products.
“They’ve increasingly stretched our palates to accept sweeter and sweeter offerings,” he told The New Daily.
“Many of the blended drinks at Starbucks are now approaching the sugar levels contained in popular soft drinks. This is by design.”
Mr Ward said experimentation with lattes has been so successful because, traditionally, coffee has always been a ritualistic purchase.
“It’s a feel-good purchase. It even offers us a break,” he said.
“Retailers are very well aware of this. They’re also very well aware that they need to retain consumer retention with a constant stream of new products.”