Potential New Additions for Starbucks France Range: What Would Work?

Coffee drinking is part of French culture, which makes hot coffee ranges in foodservice an important consideration. On the one hand traditionalism means consumers often stick to country-specific classics, on the other hand it is likely that younger or more experimental consumers would seek novelty. 

French coffee is typically served short and black, with milky coffee consumption limited to breakfast occasions. Such specifics influence hot coffee menus of quick service restaurant (QSR) chains by limiting the number of options offered. For example, Starbucks’ hot coffee range in France currently includes 11 espresso-based hot drinks, while the chain’s US website lists 41, including 12 variants of latte. 

We ran a Score steer with the available 11 options and found out that cappuccino is the top scorer, followed by café latte. Originally Italian rather than French, both coffee formats are characterised by long sizes and milk content. Could this mean that French consumers are currently open to new hot coffee introductions, influenced by foreign cultures? 

As it is similar to both cappuccino and latte, the flat white could be seen as attractive, but would it make a successful addition to Starbucks’ menu in France? Flat white is an espresso-based drink originating from Australia or New Zealand that contains steamed milk. 

Starbucks started serving the beverage in London stores in 2010, and made it part of its year-round menu in American stores in 2015, having gained a specialty café standard status. Has the time come for the coffee chain to launch the drink in France? We tested the Flat White option within the score steer and obtained the following result:

The new option ranks fifth out of twelve with a score of 6.67 and 59% of consumers in France likely to buy it. A score of nearly 7 is a sign that the flat white could be successful in Starbucks’ cafes in France.

Additionally, the menu description can be optimised by split-testing consumers’ reaction to suggested text variants. We picked two descriptions from the product’s English language marketing literature and translated them into French: ‘not-too-strong, not-too-creamy, just-right flavour’ and ‘a smaller, stronger latte’. The two descriptions were shown to two separate consumer subsets, along with the question “Would you buy this product?”:

‘Not-too-strong, not-too-creamy, just-right flavour’ is the descriptor that would influence more flat white purchases in France.

Vypr Score can be used as a tool to provide a snapshot of a category and inform decisions about ranging for both packaged products and foodservice items. This test can be followed by split steers to establish most effective packaging and claims. Vypr is currently expanding into France and Germany in addition to its long-established business in the UK.

The best Christmas sandwiches this year: go crazy or stick to the basics?

This year most UK retailers and food service chains launched their Christmas sarnie ranges in the end of October. Marks & Spencer is offering a variety of twelve sandwiches, including a new vegan option called Nutcracker Sandwich, with a filling of sweet potato, chestnut and cranberry roast, butternut squash, cranberry chutney, pistachios and caramelised pecans. Meat consumers are being enticed by a new Yule Hog roll, as well as a Steak & Peppercorn Sauce sandwich. Brie & Grape filling is used in both a classic vegetarian sandwich and in a gluten-free version.

Food service chains have also introduced a variety of vegetarian Christmas sandwiches. Pret’s Brie, Pistachio & Cranberry and Starbucks’ Very Merry Vegan Wrap with Butternut look particularly interesting. Of course meat lovers still have a lot to choose from – indulgent options, such as Philpotts’ Pigs in Blankets roll, are abundant.

We ran two multi-answer steers in an attempt to rank our mix of commonly-used sandwich fillings, as well as some more novel ones. The combined results are presented below:

The obvious conclusion is that traditional options score highly with consumers when it comes to Christmas sandwiches. An indulgent combination of turkey with pigs in blankets performed best in our test – no wonder the majority of vendors have included it in their Christmas offering in one form or another.

Simplicity also seems to be a theme in this ranking. Over 37% of consumers want a no fuss Turkey Trimmings sandwich. In this context, we noticed that healthier positioning isn’t a winner. The posh-sounding Free-range Turkey & Baby Spinach, as seen in Pret’s menu this year, gained just 22.7% acceptance.

The Yorkshire pudding sandwich performed well, having established itself as a winning combination of traditional cuisine and novel format. Following a last year’s debut, Morrisons decided to bring back its £3 Yorkshire pudding wrapped Christmas sandwich this season.

As for vegetarian options, they mostly underperformed, despite some innovative combinations, such as the bottom two in our ranking. However, Brie & Cranberry, in particular, performed well (33%) with its variation Brie & Grape also showing potential (23%). From these two, only the former managed to enter our top five, qualifying for the preference steer which we ran next:

The results above confirmed the ranking we initially got. The screenshot presents exclusive preferences, where consumers picked the same option every time it was shown, but considering all preferences, which include second and third choices, gives a very similar result.

In this steer Brie & Cranberry topped 15%. Despite not being expressly described as vegetarian, it attracted a larger ratio of vegetarians, vegans and meat reducers (with a combined result of 22%). This classic should certainly be included in Christmas sandwich ranges to respond to specific diet needs, but could it be made more exciting?

We have established above that Brie & Grape is likely to perform relatively well on the market. Perhaps adding grape to the Brie & Cranberry filler could arouse interest? We ran a split-by-description test to vegetarians, vegans and meat reducers only, to see whether these consumers would rather opt for the simpler version or the one with a twist:

The results show that simplicity is a benefit in these choices. With nearly five percentage points more votes, Brie & Cranberry remained our narrow vegetarian winner.

For retailers and food service operators the biggest weapon in the Christmas battle is new product development. In order to get customers to spend, they need to prove differentiation through their own label. However, product developers should aim to strike a balance between the factor of surprise and the intrinsically traditional character of Christmas food. This is when Vypr should be brought into play to test assumptions and screen concepts.

Wine pairings with meat-free food: what consumers want

Thoughtfully pairing wine with food can transform a meal. Although there are no rules set in stone, expert advice is available online to help consumers combine food and wine based on certain qualities, such as acidity, of both the food group and the wine. Currently many consumers are moving towards a more plant-based diet, looking to consume vegetable and non-meat meals rather than meat-based where possible, with wines to match. A survey from last year highlighted that 28% of British consumers identify as meat reducers.

For consumers who dine out frequently, restaurants have a big role in helping them reduce their meat consumption. Plant Based News has commented that they can do so by providing menus which enable diners to avoid meat “without having to make a statement of some kind.” Having a variety of attractive meat-free dishes in the menu is a straightforward way to attract this substantial consumer group but helping them navigate in the world of wine-food pairing could potentially elevate the experience even further.

Using three multi answer steers we asked our panel which wines they would combine with three types of vegan food: starchy meals (based on rice, potatoes or pasta), roasted vegetables, and raw vegetables. We used five wine varieties, which, according to experts, go well with meat-free food. The data obtained from the steers is split into two groups in order to establish differences between the preferences of meat and fish eaters versus people who avoid meat:

A significant difference between the two groups in all three steers is the smaller ratio of meat avoiders opting for “none”. It means that they are indeed 4 or 5 percentage points more likely to order some of the suggested combinations in a restaurant.

Another trend that jumps out when looking at both the starchy food and roasted vegetables combinations, is that meat avoiders have a clear preference to light red wine, as opposed to meat and fish eaters, who skewed towards medium red wine. This trend signals a move away from full, blockbuster-style reds in favour of wines that are more balanced and food-friendly towards a wider range of dishes, including vegetarian or vegan.

As for the raw vegetables, meat avoiders were more inclined than meat and fish eaters to combine them with red wines but less keen on sparkling and dry white wine, which are regarded as a mainstream accompaniment to celery, fresh greens and other raw vegetables. This shows we can expect slightly unusual preferences from this consumer group, due to an inclination to regard as a main meal what is perceived by the majority to be a side dish.

Beyond this, it seems worth including vegan wines as options for such pairings. Interest in vegan wines spreads outside the strictly vegan consumer group to include meat reducers and vegetarians, as proved by a steer, asking consumers whether they would buy vegan wine:

While the overall result in blue is positive, with almost 57% likely to buy vegan wine, the result for meat avoiders is even higher – above 70%. Looking at the responses from fish and meat eaters, it is obvious that they take less interest in the type of product:

Despite the lower propensity to buy vegan wine, for over half of these consumers the vegan positioning is not a deterrent. Instead of fining agents made from animal products vegan wine makes use of clay or charcoal-based alternatives. Fining agents, either vegan or not, are said not to impact wine flavour, therefore meat eaters familiar with winemaking may have a different view to those without such knowledge.

As a takeaway from these results, we think restaurants could base non-meat menu options on similar insights in order to make ordering food with wine easier and create a restaurant experience for meat reducers on par with everyone else’s. Supermarkets, on the other hand, could offer meal deals featuring non-meat food combined with wines that meat reducers find attractive.