New York (CNN) — It’s true: Dunkin’ is turning two of its most popular drinks into boozy beverages.
After setting the internet abuzz last week, Dunkin’ will officially announce Monday the debut of Dunkin’ Spiked Iced Coffees and Iced Teas, which are both scheduled to roll out in the coming weeks.
The two malt-based beverages, scheduled for an early September release, will feature eight flavors between them, all based on the chain’s iced coffee and tea flavors.
Dunkin’ is joining a crowded field of soft drinks going hard. It’s part of the growing trend of ready-to-drink beverages hitting shelves as consumers crave new combinations of their favorite flavors.
With the increasing competition, the category is growing: Sales of RTDs amassed more than $10 billion in US sales over the past 12 months, a 7% increase from the prior year, according to a new NIQ report.
However, the Dunkin’ brand could help it stand out.
“Like other well known non-alcoholic brands, Dunkin’ wants to capitalize on a built-in audience and established brand equity as it pushes its way into alcohol,” Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest, told CNN. “This trend is just getting started.”
The Dunkin’ name will certainly help it stand out in the hard tea category, which is dominated by Twisted Tea, brewed by the Boston Beer Company. Notably, Twisted Tea is now the beer company’s largest brand, surpassing Truly, which has seen its popularity fade, and Samuel Adams beer.
The hard tea “maintains a massive share and continues to grow,” Dave Williams, vice president of analytics and insights for Bump Williams Consulting, told CNN. “There is certainly evidence that other hard tea brands can find success, but none have been able to rival Twisted Tea for dominance.”
Dunkin’ President Scott Murphy told CNN that the creation of Dunkin’ Spiked means “you can start and end your day with Dunkin’, which is a testament to our continuous drive for innovation and understanding our fans’ desires.”
Stanford said that Dunkin’ “has as good a chance as anyone to make that category resonate with drinkers.”
However, Dunkin’ might find the hard coffee category more challenging, which isn’t as popular as other soft drinks going hard. There are only a smattering of brands on sale, like espresso martinins from Kahlua, a jarred cocktail from Beam Suntory’s On the Rocks and Loverboy, a canned cocktail from some of the stars of Bravo’s “Summer House.”
Bigger competitors in the category have also failed. Last year, Pabst Blue Ribbon axed their hard coffee flavor drink because of poor sales. In 2019, a partnership between Molson Coors and La Colombe to sell a “Hard Cold Brew Coffee” didn’t resonate with consumers and the drink was discontinued within a year of its release.
It’s a relatively undeveloped space for a few reasons, including their rich flavoring that makes it potentially difficult to drink multiple beverages at a time, limiting their appeal compared to fruitier and lighter options.
“Spiked coffees aren’t as sessionable as hard teas, seltzers, and ready-to-drink cocktails,” Stanford said. “They feel and drink like more of an indulgence item, which inherently has a lower consumption rate than a drink that offers refreshment with the buzz.”
What’s in the drinks
Dunkin’s new spiked coffee comes in four flavors, including original, caramel, mocha and vanilla, and have about 30 milligrams of caffeine, less than the average 100 milligrams of caffeine found in a cup of coffee. The iced coffee contains 6% alcohol by volume.
Drinkers can buy a variety pack, consisting of a dozen 12-ounce cans, three each of all four flavors. The original flavor is being sold in a four-pack of 12-ounce cans or a single 19.2-ounce can.
The hard tea option also comes in four flavors, including slightly sweet (a mixture of black tea with a twist of lemon), half and half (a combination of half black tea and half lemonade), a strawberry dragonfruit flavor and mango pineapple. They also contain caffeine, ranging from 15 to 30 milligrams, depending on the flavor and will hit shelves in late August. The hard tea contains 5% alcohol by volume.
Similar to the hard coffee, the tea offering comes in three options, including a variety pack of a dozen 12-ounce cans containing every flavor. The slightly sweet ice tea flavor is being sold in a six-pack of 12-ounce cans and a single 19.2-ounce cans.
Pricing has yet to be released and they won’t be sold at Dunkin’ locations because of alcohol laws. At launch, customers can find them in 12 US states, which include Florida, Massachusetts, New York and Texas. Dunkin’ Spiked’s website also has a locator for grocery, convenience and liquors stores that are selling the canned drinks.
This isn’t Dunkin’s first venture into alcohol: Over the past few years, it has created several beers with fellow New England-based company Harpoon Brewery —which also helped Dunkin’ develop and manufacture its Spiked lineup. In 2020, Dunkin’ and Harpoon released a doughnut-infused beer and last year sold a coffee roll cream ale, plus a cold brew coffee porter. The Dunkin’ Pumpkin ale is also coming back this fall.
“We knew we had the opportunity to create something special when we saw the positive response to our previous seasonal collaborations for Dunkin’-inspired beers,” Brian Gilbert, Vice President of retail business development at Dunkin’, told CNN. He added that the privately held brand noticed the “growing appetite for adult beverages,” which inspired Dunkin’ to continue adding to its alcohol portfolio.
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