Industry Perspectives on Serving Coffee in Schoolsa

coffee-may2019.jpgSchools can’t serve in-demand coffee drinks without good-tasting, regulation-compliant products, and “Spilling the Beans,” written by Contributing Editor Kelsey Casselbury and published in the May 2019 issue of School Nutrition, touched on how foodservice directors and supervisors are constantly looking for options that students will love. Industry members have done their part in formulating products and recipes, and SN took a moment to talk to two partners—Red Diamond Coffee and Tea and General Mills, which recently launched a new concept of YoGo Coolers and accompanying recipes—about their experiences in working with schools to find the right options for that particular program.

Emily Wood Bowron
Assistant Vice President, Red Diamond Coffee and Tea

School Nutrition: What trends is Red Diamond seeing when it comes to teens drinking coffee? 

Emily Wood Bowron: Iced or cold coffee drinks are highly appealing to this age group, and options can be selected for both flavor and appeal as well as health. 

When appealing to this younger demographic, it’s important to keep in mind the preferences of their maturing palates. To best reach these younger consumers, offer lightly flavored creamers or non-dairy alternatives for those with allergies. Coffee alone doesn’t require a nutritional panel, but any sweeteners, creamers or additions should have ingredient lists readily available.

With iced coffee being so popular among the younger age group, a less-sweet option like Red Diamond’s Fitz Cold Brew Coffee is a great alternative that has less sugar content than many sodas.

SN: From your perspective, what’s the benefit of serving coffee in high schools? 

EWB: A great way to think about coffee offerings in schools is to show how it can enhance a breakfast program. Coffee can be a great add-on to accompany a breakfast item, or it can be consumed on its own for those students in a rush. 

SN: Do you have any tips for operators considering adding coffee to the menu line-up? 

EWB: Consider a “coffee of the day” with rotating options between flavored coffees like Southern Pecan, French Vanilla, Hazelnut, etc., or a coffee bar with a variety of milks, creamers and topping options like cinnamon and mocha. The customization that comes with creating a coffee drink is highly appealing to students.

Chef Monica Coulter
K-12 Corporate Chef, General Mills Convenience & Foodservice

School Nutrition: First things first: What is a YoGo Cooler? 

Monica Coulter: YoGo Coolers are a coffee shop-inspired twist on a yogurt smoothie that resemble iced coffees and other beverages that appeal to today’s teens. The drinks combine Yoplait® ParfaitPro® yogurt, milk, sugar-free flavored syrup and instant coffee (can be decaf) with additional variations available that include fruit and no coffee.

The coolers appeal to operators because students who might ordinarily skip taking a milk are delighted to take a Cooler. The USDA Smoothie Memo recognizes the Coolers as smoothies allowing them to credit as one cup milk and one meat alternate in reimbursable meal programs. At breakfast, the yogurt can credit as a grain after the first grain has been served.

SN: What was the impetus for General Mills to create the YoGo Coolers? What are you seeing in schools that made you decide this was a smart business decision?

MC: Sleepy teens love their coffee drinks, particularly iced coffees that they purchase at their favorite restaurants or coffee shops. Schools are picking up on this trend, and we’ve seen more middle and high schools add their own cafes on campus or start serving coffee and coffee-like drinks. 

From a General Mills perspective, we are always looking for ways to help school operators boost participation. We saw an opportunity to help schools ‘perk up’ perception of their school meal program, get older students excited about eating at school and create a participation-driving menu item using yogurt.

SN: Were YoGo Cooler recipes developed specifically for schools? 

MC: As with everything we roll out for school meals, we aim to make sure it will work in a school kitchen environment with the specific needs of K-12 foodservice professionals in mind. I created several recipes for the Coolers—all which can be made without a blender. They require only a few easy steps and can be prepped and portioned the afternoon before serving.  After mixing the ingredients in a 2-gallon or larger container, operators simply portion 13 ounces into clear serving cups with lids. Ice can be a nice addition, but it is entirely optional.

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