When I think of syrups, two brands that I’ve loved since I was a child instantly come to mind – Ribena, a grape flavored syrup and RoohAfza, a rose flavored syrup that’s a Ramadan staple in many a South Asian household. However, if you ask me what my favorite flavors are, I wouldn’t hesitate to say Vanilla, Caramel and Hazelnut. I invariably add one of these flavors to my coffee whether I’m purchasing a cup of Joe at a café or buying coffee at a gas-station. Apparently, I’m not alone. Ten years ago, flavoring syrups accounted for 30 percent of sales for the specialty coffee market. Flavoring syrups have since expanded beyond café’s and restaurants to coffee sold at gas stations and convenience stores. Retail outlets including Cost Plus World Market, Walmart, T.J. Maxx, Grocery Stores and on Amazon.com, also carry them.

Megan Myer, of San Francisco, doesn’t do syrups at home. Instead, she fuels up at gas stations. Her hazelnut or vanilla flavored coffee-fueled car trips traditionally took place between Minneapolis, her home for many years and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she grew up.

“I’ve been using flavors since about 1999, when I worked at a coffee shop during college,” says Megan. “I was raised on twigs and berries, so using flavored syrups was almost a punishable offense when I was growing up. I’m always a sucker for hazelnut. All the nut flavors really: hazelnut, orgeat, pistachio. However, the latter two are difficult to find at gas stations. I won’t turn my nose up at vanilla, if offered,” she reveals.

Mariam Khan of Boston, has a “syrup habit”. She drinks coffee on occasion but only if it’s flavored. “Since I don’t really like the flavor of coffee, I have to add syrups or buy my coffee flavored,” she says. “I like Hazelnut and caramel the best – any flavor besides peppermint really.” Mariam sometimes even gets steamed milk at coffee shops flavored with hazelnut syrup.

“Why have coffee if she doesn’t even like the flavor?” I ask.

“I can’t possibly drink syrup, now can I?” comes her cheeky response.

Mariam Khan is typical of the young adult market. “Flavored specialty coffee drinks continue to grow in appeal, especially among young adults, and iced coffee is in high demand during the summer months,” says Bob Hager VP Marketing, Monin Gourmet Flavorings, a world leader in premium syrups and flavoring products. All Monin syrups, sauces and purees are halal certified and their Crème Caramel, Roasted Hazelnut, French Vanilla and Sugar Free French Vanilla Syrups are amongst their most popular flavors.

“The sweeter flavor and creamier texture of iced coffees and frozen blended lattes and mochas is especially popular with this age group, and Monin has expanded its product line to meet this growing demand,” says Mr. Hagen. Unlike parents and grandparents who tend to drink coffee only in the mornings or with dessert after dinner, more and more young adults choose specialty coffee beverages while socializing with friends during the day, he adds.

For more than 85 years R. Torre & Company, makers of the Torani brand of products, has been obsessed with delivering real, true-to-life flavors in their syrups. As of December, 2011, Torani was the number one consumer brand in flavored syrup, according to IRI, a market research firm that analyzes all the shopper scanning data in USA to provide data on market share for all products sold in grocery/drug stores/mass merchandisers. “Almost any coffee or espresso drink can be made special with just a splash of Torani syrup, and our syrups can be enjoyed hot, iced or blended. An indulgent way to enjoy Torani is in a milkshake or frappe. Our syrup can flavor just about any beverage you can imagine,” says Amy Ware, Brand Director.

Available in over 50 markets around the world, the demand for Torani syrups is particularly high in Saudi Arabia. Torani offers syrups in a range of fruit, nut and spice flavors. Approximately 10% of these are halal certified, including regular and sugar-free versions. Made from all-natural flavoring extracts, they are all caffeine-free and have been blended to offer the most authentic flavor possible. The uses that flavored syrups can be put to aren’t limited to beverages. You can actually flavor desserts with these syrups or use them as a “topping for ice cream, pancakes, waffles and yogurt.”

“Our most popular flavors for coffee drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos are vanilla, hazelnut, caramel and Irish cream. For refreshment drinks, such as Italian sodas and flavored iced teas, raspberry, strawberry, mango, and pomegranate are very popular. And with kids, cherry lime, blue raspberry and orange are always popular!” says Ms. Ware.

Bob Hager, VP Marketing at Monin, concurs that the most popular Monin syrups are always vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, chocolate, “as well as, fruits such as pomegranate and strawberry”.  How does Monin decide which Syrup flavors to develop? What goes into the development process?

“With well over 100 different flavors our approach is twofold. (We see) Is there a trend that has sustainability or an international flavor we seeing moving to the US? Secondly, is there a flavor profile a specific account is interested in. An example of a trend is our recently launched pie flavor syrups. Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie and Blueberry Pie were introduced in the fall as a result of the (America’s) love affair with pies, and their ever increasing popularity. They became an instant success,” says Mr. Hager. Luckily for halal consumers, all flavors of Monin syrups are halal certified, so they can try every single one!

“Flavored syrups can be a concern because many of them may contain alcohol,” says Mujahed Khan, Food Technologist, IFANCA. “If the ethyl-alcohol concentration is too high this may mean that the syrup is not halal. Some syrups may contain flavors from alcoholic beverages this may mean that no matter what the concentration, the syrup will not be halal. It is our job to make sure that the chemical ethanol is below our acceptable threshold and that no alcoholic beverage is mixed into the syrup.”

Halal certification doesn’t appeal to just Muslim consumers. “While my family does not follow Muslim guidelines per se, I find some of our own most basic and inherent guidelines to be similar in many ways, and I find it equally important to scrutinize labels for hidden ingredients,” says Linda Gardner Phillips of Mettawa, IL. “There are really so many things out there that are (intentionally or not) hidden and deceitful. It’s a real minefield for someone who is trying to be a conscious consumer.”

For a complete list of halal certified Torani and Monin Syrups, visit www.ifanca.org.

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