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Caribou to give low-carb lattes a shot

Caribou Coffee is leading its industry by reformulating some coffee drinks for diet-conscious consumers.
/ Source: The Business Journals

Caribou Coffee is leading its industry by reformulating some coffee drinks for diet-conscious consumers.

Next month Minneapolis-based Caribou Coffee Co. Inc. will offer reduced-calorie and reduced-carbohydrate versions of its caramel and vanilla-flavored lattes. The new coffee line, called Skinny 'Bou, is the first of its kind among large coffee chains, said Ted Lingle, executive director of the Long Beach, Calif.-based Specialty Coffee Association of America.

"We feel we are responding to consumer need," said Chris Toal, Caribou vice president of marketing, adding that if successful, the concept could be extended to other Caribou beverages and food items.

The chain experimented with lower-cal and lower-carb drinks in September, using sugar-free syrups already in stock.

"People liked the concept, but we struggled with the taste of the syrups," Toal said. The company solved that by having a supplier develop a new syrup made with Splenda sweetener.

The company will launch the new line with an in-store campaign designed by Minneapolis-based Periscope. The campaign pieces feature a yellow measuring tape wrapped around a Caribou coffee cup's tapered waistline.

"The idea is that after the holidays you put away all the wrapping paper, the in-laws, the peanut brittle and the cookies and then you find yourself looking for your waistline," said Kerry Casey, creative director and writer at Periscope. "That's why we tied the launch to New Year's."

A 12-ounce, lower-cal latte -- made with skim milk and the Splenda syrup -- has 80 calories, compared to 220 calories in a regular caramel or vanilla latte.

The lower-carb version -- made with Splenda syrup and heavy cream-- has 7 grams of carbohydrates, compared to 33 grams in a regular latte. The heavy cream adds fat and calories, but people on low-carb diets only worry about carbs.

Lingle added,"If it really is low calorie and low carb, and it tastes great, I think they're really on to something."