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Beverage trends: Consumers gulp down coffee, natural, seasonal and premium

5 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

(Photo: Flickr user Katherine Lim)

When you sit down at a restaurant, it’s one of the first questions your server asks: What would you like to drink? Likewise, when you’re welcomed into someone’s home, it’s usually one of the first things your host asks: Would you like anything to drink? There’s a reason why beverages are such an important aspect of the food industry and day-to-day life — in part due to the biological need for hydration, the topic of beverages is a menu category that touches every consumer, across all day parts and all segments. In Datassential’s newest MenuTrends Keynote report on non-alcoholic beverages, we combine powerful data from MenuTrends, our industry-leading menu database, with opinions and behaviors from consumers, and data from operators. The following is just a sip of the insights included in our newest report detailing today’s beverage landscape.

After tap water, brewed coffee is the most consumed beverage

If you’re one of the many people who start every day with a coffee in hand, you probably won’t be surprised at this survey takeaway: brewed coffee is the most consumed beverage after tap water. More than 40% of adult Americans report drinking coffee on any given day, resulting in a higher daily incidence rate than bottled water, juice, and carbonated soft drinks (CSD). Consumers’ top two perceptions of coffee include its great taste and the fact that it provides a wake-up jolt of caffeine. Coffee consumption is highest in the morning (with 54% of people reporting that they drank hot coffee during breakfast), and then tapers off until spiking again in the afternoon. Thus, coffee isn’t just a big player at coffeehouses and breakfast establishments – operators have around-the-clock opportunities to attract customers. Some operators have capitalized on this with post-lunch happy hour discounts to attract business from people needing an afternoon pick-me-up. Starbucks has offered the Frappuccino Happy Hour, where the blended beverages are half-off from 3 to 5 p.m., and similarly, Dunkin’ Donuts has offered 99-cent coffees and teas in the afternoon.

Consumers want premium, natural ingredients

Healthy eating continues to trend, and so does healthy drinking. Consumers are moving toward healthier beverage choices and are interested in beverages with premium ingredients and natural sweeteners. More than 40% of consumers are interested in beverages that use premium ingredients, such as locally-sourced coffee, heirloom and artisan teas, and cold-pressed juices. When it comes to that morning cup of joe, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of descriptors that indicate a premium offering: words like “local” and “certified” are among the fastest growing coffee terms on menus. Take Chick-fil-A, for instance, which created a website to promote its “coffee with a story” campaign highlighting its specialty-grade coffee and the actual farmers that grow it.

Increasing health awareness has also affected other beverage categories, like soda. The greatest barrier to consumption for soda is the fact that people view it as an unhealthy choice with too much sugar. Operators are responding by offering healthier alternatives and a wider variety of beverage options. Earlier this year Burger King stopped marketing diet soda as a beverage choice for kids’ meals, instead showcasing better-for-you options such as fat-free milk, apple juice, or chocolate milk. The move toward fresh and healthy has spread throughout the industry as Burger King, Taco Bell, and Panera Bread have all recently announced plans to eliminate artificial flavors from their menus.

With only 4% of consumers perceiving soda as a healthy choice, beverages such as green juices and teas have become popular choices on menus. Nutrition-rich greens, like kale and spinach, have also increased their presence on beverage menus, often used in green smoothies. On beverage menus, kale has grown more than 400% since 2010. Coconut water, a trendy beverage for hydration, has increased more than 200%. Matcha green tea, kombucha and alternative nut milks, such as almond and soy, are all trending.

Experimenting with new flavors

In lieu of mainstream soda, many operators are capitalizing on the craft/small-batch soda trend. Incorporating natural, seasonal flavors into house-made sodas can appeal to consumers who are looking for a more unique, healthy drinking experience similar to that of craft cocktails and mocktails. Using seasonal flavors and natural ingredients in house-made sodas appeal to more than a quarter of consumers. Nontraditional soda flavors, such as lavender and blood orange, are just some of the rapidly- growing trends operators and manufacturers can explore. Flavors are integral to beverages, and beverages are an integral part of any operators’ offerings, but even those who aren’t necessary looking to transform beverage options will find that many of our flavor insights can translate to innovation on food menus.

That’s just a sampling of our MenuTrends Keynote report to wet your whistle on the wealth of insights we’ve gathered on non-alcoholic beverages, including details on consumer behavior and motivations for beverage categories ranging from shakes and smoothies to enhanced sports drinks.

Maeve Webster is the senior director of Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. For more information about ordering the MenuTrends Keynote Non-Alcoholic Beverage Report, contact Brian Darr at [email protected].


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