As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time for operators to look at what’s trending for the New Year. With consumers more interested than ever in trying new flavors and ingredients, restaurants have the chance to really get creative with drink menus. So what beverage trends will drive traffic and growth in 2019? Here are five things to watch for:
Although Americans are sweet on sweets, they are developing a taste for sour. For example, sour beer styles such as goses, lambics and wild ales are proliferating. And this summer, Sonic Drive-In offered a Pickle Juice Slushie for an interesting summer sip.
It’s no surprise, then, that sales of kombucha are on the rise, thanks to the fermented drink’s tangy taste and purported health benefits. According to Technomic’s 2018 Beverage report, 43% of consumers who say they are more likely to purchase beverages that contain probiotics. These types of drinks are winning offerings for operators.
Other sour options gaining traction on menus are shrubs, switchels and drinking ciders. KeVita Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic, for example, emphasizes its probiotic content in flavors such as ginseng and turmeric-ginger.
2. Mocktails and sessionable (low-alcohol) drinks
Up until recently, mocktails have been an afterthought on most bar and restaurant menus. Today, however, bartenders are employing the same ingenuity and techniques to developing the low- and no-alcohol side of the menu.
Often, that means using flavorful fruit juices and sodas as a base for these drinks, as mixologists look for quality and vivid flavors. Technomic’s 2018 Beverage report finds that 67% of consumers say they would be more likely to purchase beverages that are 100% fruit juice, too, while 54% say the same about handcrafted beverages, so non-alcohol drinks can get a boost by being menued as “fresh-squeezed” or “all-natural.”
Additionally, tea is often a component in sessionable low-alcohol drinks, because it offers floral and earthy base notes.
3. Trending fruit flavors
Among the usual sweet flavors found on menus, unique fruit flavors, such as cactus, are taking the beverage menu by storm. More specifically, spiny fruits such as prickly pear and dragon fruit are popping up on beverage menus. Prickly pears are a seeded fruit that yields a ruby juice, while dragon fruit—also called pitaya or strawberry pear—is attracting the attention of consumers.
When it comes to refreshing beverages, citrus is a perennial favorite flavor. That accounts for the appeal of orange juice, lemonade and citrus-flavored soft drinks. However, consumers are exploring more unique varieties—bergamot orange, yuzu, calamansi, citron, makrut lime, pomelo, Meyer lemon, blood orange, ugli fruit (a Jamaican form of the tangelo) and more.
According to Technomic’s 2018 Beverage report, one of the traffic drivers for purchasing a drink at a restaurant is consumers wanting to try a new drink flavor, so for operators looking to boost interest in beverages, these new and unique ingredients and flavors can be a big win.
4. Cold brew
This cool category remains popular—according to Technomic’s Beverage report, more than a quarter of consumers (27%) say they would consider ordering cold brew if it was available. Although a few restaurant operators are brewing on-premise, it’s easier to satisfy the thirst for this smooth, rich coffee with ready-to-drink packaging, which offers consumers more options. Nitro cold brew is the latest twist; offered from the tap, nitrogen adds a creamy mouthfeel. In canned coffee, widgets can provide the same texture.
Iced coffee, too, is attracting more fans, who often choose ready-to-drink options for convenience and taste. Iced coffee is generally offered either black, with milk, lightly sweetened or in flavors such as vanilla or cocoa.
In the water category, sparkling water is growing, driven in part by consumers who are concerned about sugar but still looking to satisfy their craving for carbonation. That’s the strategy behind the launch of bubly, PepsiCo’s foray into sparkling water . bubly comes in eight real fruit flavors with no sweeteners or calories but plenty of sparkle.
Operators looking to harness these trends and turn them into more traffic or higher check averages should not only offer beverages that feature unique flavors, low-alcohol (or no-alcohol), sparkling water and more, but they should also make sure to promote these types of drinks on social media. By ensuring diners know that new and exciting drinks are available, operators can count on attracting new and repeat drink customers.
This post is sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice