Nestlé knows a thing or two about making great coffee creamers. Coffee mate and natural bliss have long been American favorites, and our speed in developing plant-based options like almond, coconut, and oat milk varieties are keeping pace with popular trends in our consumer’s kitchens. Through our partnership with Starbucks, we saw our next opportunity to delight consumers — develop a creamer inspired by beloved Starbucks café flavors that consumers can enjoy from the comforts of home.
As a product developer, it’s my job to bring new products to life by choosing the right ingredients and technology. It all starts with a discussion — what do we want out of this product? Who are the people buying it? And, above all, what is the taste we’re aiming for? After all, taste is king.
In this case, the team knew exactly what was needed. The flavors from customer-favorites in the Starbucks cafes like Caramel Macchiato, Cinnamon Dolce Latte, and White Chocolate Mocha should be available for coffee-lovers to enjoy at home alongside their home-brewed Starbucks coffee. The flavor profile targets were clear, our unique challenge was bringing it to life in a creamer.
Daring to Take the Leap
Our journey started with a trip to Starbucks HQ in Seattle to meet our new colleagues and to understand their priorities. We learned that they had been thinking of developing creamers in the past and now with our new partnership we were able to leverage Nestlé’s more than 50 year expertise in the creamer category and Starbucks nearly 50 year heritage and well-loved coffee house flavors to bring Starbucks Creamers to market for consumers.
The first step in any new project is showing courage. The newly combined Starbucks and Nestlé teams had to decide to take the leap and bring their knowledge together to make creamers a reality — for Starbucks it was about moving into a whole new category, for Nestlé it was being brave and trusting ourselves enough to bring the flavors from Starbucks beloved signature drinks to life in a creamer that consumers would love.
I’m glad we all took the leap.
Starting With the Right Base
The first challenge of creating a great creamer is making sure the base offers the right texture, sweetness, and background notes. We weren’t looking to take an existing creamer base and apply signature Starbucks flavors, we were truly creating a completely new base to fit Starbucks flavor profiles.
Mouthfeel, what you feel in your mouth as you drink your coffee, is incredibly important in creamers as it has the power to evoke feelings and even memories to create that perfect coffee moment, personalized to each individual. A good creamer should bring some weight and thickness to a cup of coffee. Black coffee itself has a thin texture, so our goals with creamers is to add body to the cup and enhance every sip. It was important that we emulated the creaminess of the customer-favorites from Starbucks cafes, which lead us to use a traditional dairy base for this product.
Where Coffee mate offers a broad range of exciting flavors, and natural bliss offers good mouthfeel with simple ingredients made with only the essentials, the differentiated Starbucks creamer would offer outstanding creaminess and the fabulous signature flavors you know and love from the cafes.
Recreating a flavor is all about understanding the balance of its various taste components. To do that, you have to drink a lot of coffee! That’s exactly what we did — expert flavor panelists tasted the signature cafe drinks and mapped out the “fingerprints” of their taste. Through sensory testing like taste and smell alone, the experts decipher the makeup of a drink like White Chocolate Mocha to understand how ingredients come together to build its flavor.
From there it’s all about taking those flavor notes and crafting the ingredients that bring it to life as a creamer that will emulate that flavor when added to coffee. With only seven months to develop these products, we had to move with great speed — flavor iterations moved through development, consumer testing, and refinement much quicker than normal.
The Starbucks R&D team was integral in helping us finalize the flavors, offering their expert insights to ensure we nailed the tastes that Starbucks customers love. It exemplified the strength of the global coffee alliance between Nestlé and Starbucks — a true collaboration between companies, each with their own unique history and expertise that when combined can offer great products to coffee lovers.
I’m really proud of our new creamers, not just because I think we’ve made a fantastic product that consumers will love, but because they represent the strength and agility of my colleagues. As we continue to evolve our company’s culture, I continue to feel proud to work with a team of creative, collaborative, and innovative experts who are committed to developing products you’ll be excited to pick up from the grocery store.
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