MONIN showcases the limitless menu possibilities when quality coffee and flavoured ingredients join forces to drive seasonal trends in the café market.
With the months getting cooler, it’s not just food menus that undergoes a transformation. John Davidson, Head of Advocacy and Innovation at Stuart Alexander, an exclusive distributor of MONIN in Australia, is equally excited for the flavour opportunities the cooler months present for beverage solutions.
“Australians have pioneered cold brew in summer, and now it’s time to move over to hot beverage serves, which always reigns supreme,” says John.
“Nostalgia is currently playing a big part in consumer’s decision making. Particularly coming out of two COVID years, they don’t have a lot of purchasing confidence and are looking for familiarity. The want something delicious and something they understand flavour-wise.”
As such, John says baked and cocoa flavours from the MONIN range are ideal to satisfy these cravings, especially when paired with coffee, a roasted product itself. He’s also a fan of dark chocolate, white chocolate, salted caramel, and biscuit-style flavours such as gingerbread and chocolate cookie, which John says MONIN has worked really hard to perfect at its innovation centre.
“Once you get these flavours into a glass and taste it, you can really feel the love and effort that’s been put into creating these syrups,” he says. “What you get in the glass is real chocolate cookie, for example. It doesn’t smell like artificial or highly processed chocolate cookie. It smells yeasty, baked, cooked, warm, fragrant, chewy, and bready. Once you can put that into a serve and offer a gingerbread latte or hot chocolate on your menu, it heightens the senses and elevates your offering. It’s something additional in the barista’s arsenal.”
While coffee will always remain the hero ingredient, John says it’s time for baristas and the wider hospitality industry to experiment with how delicate flavour pairings can work together and how to do it seamlessly.
“If we had a really dark roast with chocolatey notes, for instance, you could add a MONIN chocolate flavour, but for an extra level of complexity, add walnut brownie flavour to give the coffee a more nutty element,” he says.
“Creativity is almost limitless. We already have specialty coffee, specialty chocolate and specialty milks. Australia is by far leading the world in coffee serves, so there’s no reason we can’t play with coffee flavours and extend it in the same way great chefs do with desserts or a bartender does to a cocktail menu. There’s a gap between specialty coffee and specialty menus and I believe there’s room to have some serious fun there. I’d love to see more baristas embrace a mocha and see what level they can take it to.”
During the cooler months, John says caramel, vanilla and hazelnut are MONIN’s top three best flavour sellers by far. The next two favourites fluctuate between popcorn, salted caramel and toasted marshmallow, but John says biscuit flavours such as chocolate cookie are also on the rise.
All MONIN syrup flavours are made with a pure cane sugar base and natural ingredients for intensity of flavour and shelf life. They are non GMO, and free from gluten, dairy, fat, protein, and cholesterol. Where flavour can’t be harvested from a tree, MONIN uses specialised technology to innovate unique flavours.
This technology includes the use of Supercritical CO2 machines and rotary evaporators which are used to distil and synthesis flavours. For example, a chocolate cookie placed in a supercritical CO2 machine with immense pressure can be infused into a concentrated sugar syrup. John says the fact that the flavour is distilled at such a low temperature preserves the integrity of each authentic flavour.
“This is the same equipment that’s used to make Chanel No. 5 [perfume]. MONIN is investing in equipment that is pioneering the next tier of flavours, and we’re seeing market trends as a result,” he says. “Bar tenders are already embracing this equipment and bespoke flavours, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on the World Barista Championship stage soon.”
For now, John says business owners such as Nawar Adra, Founder of Ensemble of Coffee Research and Education and Stitch Coffee, are at the top of their game when it comes to menu and beverage creativity.
Nawar opened his flagship coffee shop before Sydney’s second lockdown in 2021. At first, he had only intentions of offering coffee and pastries, but soon added sandwiches and cookies, until all of a sudden, customers kept coming back, and it wasn’t just for the coffee.
“We developed a cookie using our Higgs Field blend featuring beans from Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia, which had notes of macadamia, chocolate and berry. Then we added MONIN’s cookie syrup with a bit of chocolate and a touch of salt to enhance the flavour, and it’s been a winner,” Nawar says.
At the café’s dedicated chocolate bar are matcha tea and matcha pods, house-made vegan sticky chai, and Kandy Chai, Matcha Chocolate and Panama Gesha Coffee Chocolate bars. Nawar is also working on a steeped mocha bag with ground coffee, chocolate husk and chocolate nibs, and is looking to develop soft-serve ice-cream with coffee and MONIN infused flavours.
“We have to keep evolving and looking for new ideas. We don’t stop moving and exploring in the market. Everyone in Australia does coffee consistently well, but we do sometimes lack a bit of a commercial mindset and can be too emotionally attached to one thing,” Nawar says.
“Many people in the coffee industry come from a background where you don’t add anything to coffee, but why not? Car manufactures and cosmetic brands always come up with new product development, but coffee has been stagnated for the past 20 years. We’re only now starting to see a breakaway such as the addition of mushrooms, superfoods and cascara spirits, but there’s room for so much more.”
With this in mind, Nawar is of the firm belief that infused coffees are one of the best things to happen to the coffee industry. He has experimented himself with cinnamon-fermented coffee and believes it’s a great way to help consumers experiment with flavour.
“I personally think if we are to evolve this market, we need to think about how to make beverages more exciting and interesting for consumers, so they can taste what’s there rather than thinking someone needs a particular palate to taste a certain flavour. People are looking for something new, so we need to start looking out of the box,” Nawar says.
As a business owner, Nawar says he can no longer afford Gesha coffee on his menu at around $2000 a kilogram. Instead, he is open to mixing beverages together without the exorbitant price tag.
“Why don’t we give customers the best vanilla latte or a nice coffee with a little MONIN syrup in there. It’s a great quality product, so take a risk. What’s the worst that can happen?” he says.
To help businesses drive innovation and navigate the world of flavourings, MONIN has dedicated training facilities and test kitchens in Sydney and Brisbane for customers to experiment with flavour options.
John says MONIN is passionate about engaging with the broader coffee industry and being an authentic contributor to help specialty shops, franchise customers and large chains develop exciting and delicious menu options.
“We are just as passionate about flavour as baristas are. When it comes to MONIN products, a small amount can go a long way to amplifying a beverage. It’s about trialling the range, playing with them, injecting them, and seeing what customers like, the same way a barista would trial a new single origin,” John says.
“There is always an opportunity to drive something extraordinary and now is the perfect time to get people excited about being experimental with your café menu.”
For more information, visit stuartalexander.com.au/brands/monin
This article appears in the April 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.