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No, Tim Hortons did not sell its coffee recipe to McDonald's

Tim Hortons wants you to know that it did not sell any aspect of its closely-guarded coffee recipe – including its supplier, blends and beans – to its competitor, McDonald’s.

“I don’t know why this story originated, or how it grew the way it did, but I can 100 per cent confirm that it is a myth,” Mike Hancock, Tim Hortons chief operating officer, said in an interview with Yahoo Finance Canada this week. In fact, he says, there are just three employees in the company that actually know the formula for blending and roasting the Tim Hortons coffee that goes into a double-double.

“Our coffee recipe is the most valuable asset in the entire company,” Hancock said. “We have not sold or shared any part of our coffee business with any competitor.”

While it is certainly still known for its coffee and doughnuts, Tim Hortons has been busy rolling out a wide range of menu innovations that are distinct from its traditional product lineup, including everything from Beyond Meat burgers to chicken fingers. It also recently opened up a contemporary “innovation cafe” that offers espresso drinks, draft lattes on tap, cold brews and pour overs.

But coffee is still the focus, Hancock says, and customers should expect more coffee-centric initiatives from the restaurant chain going forward.

“All the initiatives that you’re seeing right now and that you’re going to see continue over the next year are really focusing on coffee,” Hancock said.

“You’re going to see us doing more and more initiatives as time goes that that is going to make it very clear that our core product and core offering is coffee. We believe we have the best quality coffee in the whole industry and we’re going to make sure that we can serve it consistently.”

Kevin West, head of coffee excellence at Tim Hortons for 20 years, is pictured at the company's coffee roastery in Ancaster, Ont. (Sally Nicholls)

One of those initiatives is the introduction of Tims FreshBrewer Technology, which the chain says will ensure that every cup of Tim Hortons coffee is served consistently.

“When you serve as much (coffee) as we do, there’s sometimes mistakes in restaurants,” Kevin West, Tim Hortons’ head of coffee excellence, said in an interview.

“This new brewing technology really allows us to control temperature and allows us to control different water pressure... It’s really geared towards allowing us to deliver over the 1,000 cups of coffee that we sell every day in our restaurants.”

Communication about Beyond Meat a challenge

At the same time, Tim Hortons has rolled back one of its new – and arguably most-hyped about – menu innovations. The company confirmed last week that it will be pulling its Beyond Meat burger and Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches from locations in all provinces, except Ontario and British Columbia.

“It was never intended to be a permanent menu item, like a lot of menu items you may have seen introduced over the summer,” Hancock said. “But we had overwhelming demand and success both from our guests and our franchise offers in those markets, so we extended the offering.”

Hancock said while adding Beyond Meat products was a fairly seamless process in terms of production, the biggest challenge was communicating what the new product was to customers.

“When we actually launched nationally, there was some education required. Folks came in with questions of, is this meat? Is this not meat? Why is it called Beyond Meat?” Hancock said.

Tim Hortons is now offering new Beyond Burgers at nearly 4,000 restaurants nationwide (CNW Group/Tim Hortons)

Hancock said the Beyond Meat burger and breakfast sandwiches are still not considered a permanent menu options in Ontario and B.C., and that the company would still consider bringing the product back to other locations.

In the meantime, the focus is coffee.

“Even though we’re innovating, listening to the feedback of our guests, adding new products and adding new categories, the foundation of everything that we do is coffee,” Hancock said.

“We sell between a billion and a half to two billion cups every single year, we have 80 per cent of Canadians that visit our restaurants every single month and it’s the most important product that we sell.”

Yahoo Finance Canada