As coffee shops around the world closed their doors during lockdown, RTD coffee sales in supermarkets and convenience stores skyrocketed. A growing number of consumers in search of their caffeine fix have been turning to RTD coffee over the past few years and brands have been responding with innovative NPDs that stand out in a competitive market.

A global pandemic may have put a spotlight on RTD coffee, but the category has been riding a longer wave of success. According to Allegra World Coffee Portal, cold-brew coffee generated $10.4bn US sales in 2019, achieving an exceptional 7.3% growth*. Innovation in the RTD category is set to drive the category forward in 2021, and we can expect to see the following trends make their mark.

Coffee-infused colas

‘Mash-ups’ have long been a popular tool to renew interest in a brand, and this trend looks set to do the same for RTDs. Now starting to hit shelves around the globe, this emerging trend is exactly what you would imagine; a fusion of cola with coffee to create a beverage with at least double the caffeine.

Coffee-infused cola is being released by the category’s big players in a variety of formats and flavours, including original, vanilla and caramel flavours. Smaller brands will be watching their progress closely and we can expect to see more premium offerings on the market in 2021.


Tapping into the provenance trend, coffee drinkers around the world are seeking out RTD coffee that has a distinct flavour profile from coffee beans connected to a single country, region, producer or even farm. This trend is changing how roasters use extracts in RTD coffee as consumers opt for lighter roasts with distinctive characteristics, sourced from specific areas of the world. Sustainability credentials also play a major role here.

At Treatt, we have nurtured outstanding relationships with our supply chain and produce a wide variety of single-origin coffee extracts for RTD coffee products. All of our extracts are FTNF (from the named fruit) to bring out the authentic flavour characteristics of the coffee beans.

Cascara teas

Cascara tea is made from the dried skins of coffee cherries and is known as an anti-oxidant rich superfood that is highly sustainable. While it may not officially be an RTD coffee, this tea is booming in North America as consumers look for innovative alternatives to regular coffee. Cascara tea is offering shoppers an opportunity to enjoy a lighter caffeine boost, with a serving containing around 5 – 20mg of caffeine per serving, in comparison to regular coffee that has around 100mg of caffeine per serving.

Hard RTD coffee

Like hard seltzers, hard RTD coffee offers a healthier, low-calorie alternative to other alcoholic beverages on the market. These flavoured beverages marry up two of the fastest-growing beverage trends in 2020, adding sugar fermented alcohol (used in hard seltzers) to RTD coffee. Hard RTD coffees are often combined with milk and flavours such as salted caramel and chocolate, to give a creamy, sweet flavour.

Functional energy drinks

Brands are repositioning RTD coffees as the beverage of choice for health-conscious shoppers who need an energy boost, dubbing them as functional energy drinks. As consumers look to switch out traditionally sugar-laden energy drinks for healthier energy drinks, that give them their much-needed pick-me-up without the white stuff, we expect to see more low-calorie RTD coffees with natural flavourings and vitamins hit the market.

There’s a good reason why this trend is growing; functional energy drinks that use natural and organic ingredients are on the up, with Grandview Market Research predicting sales to reach $32 billion by 2025, which accounts for nearly 40% of the US market*.

As a category, RTD coffee will continue to grow as innovation drives consumer interest, particularly NPDs that provide shoppers with a unique flavour experience. Whether it is through single-origin coffee or developing a creamy mouthfeel with nitrogen, an NPD that goes above and beyond to provide consumers with a caffeine fix can expect standout on shelf and sales to follow.

About the author: Grant Cates

Grant Cates is a Coffee & Tea Category Manager at Treatt, a leading ingredients manufacturer and solutions provider to the global flavour, fragrance and consumer goods markets. Grant works across the company’s range of coffee and tea extracts.

Developed by Treatt’s team of international experts, the company offers powerful, authentic solutions for a range of applications, including RTD coffees, iced teas, juices, colas and still and sparkling waters. For more information visit