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Dunkin' Donuts makes a play for Starbucks-loving millennials

Dunkin' Brands CEO: Boosting brand identity

The coffee wars are heating up.

Well, actually cooling down, to be technical, as Dunkin' Donuts looks to iced coffee to up it's cool factor among millennials who tend to gravitate to Starbucks.

"I think people have always regarded us as being in the middle," said Nigel Travis, chairman and CEO of Dunkin' Brands.

But he wants to change that.

"Millennials love Cold Brew," Travis told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday, referring to Cold Brew Coffee, launched nationwide at Dunkin' Donuts locations earlier this month.

Dunkin' Brands, which also owns Baskin-Robbins ice cream, is upping its technology game as well.

"Millennials love technology," Travis said. "We launched our app back in 2012. We've now got 5 million [DD Perks] members. It's probably the fastest-growing rewards program in the category."

Travis said the Baskin-Robbins app, launched just two weeks ago, "blew away our expectations," already beating year-one expectations.

Dunkin' Brands is also trying to attract millennials as workers.

"Franchisees will tell you ... [finding workers] is biggest issue facing them," Travis said.

"We're at relatively full employment," he said, but pointed out young unemployment remains high.

From April to July, the number of jobless 16- to 24-years-olds increased by 1.9 million, to 20.5 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One of the hurdles facing Dunkin' and other fast food outlets is "parents don't want [their kids] starting out in our industry," Travis said.

But he countered, saying the food service business is great for career advancement. "The people who go into our industry, the people who progress can progress very quickly [as] store managers, district managers, et cetera."

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