“Beverages account for $1 out of every $5 consumers spend away from home,” says David Henkes, senior principal for Technomic. “They are a critical part of the overall experience and, because of their central importance, it’s absolutely crucial for restaurant operators and their suppliers to understand how innovation impacts consumer satisfaction.”
From staples such as soft drinks, teas and juices to emerging categories like cold-brew coffee and enhanced waters, hot and cold beverages accounted for more than $181 billion in annual sales and totaled more than 113 billion servings in 2016, according to Technomic’s 2017 Away-From-Home Beverage Study, powered by Ignite.
The study called out specific consumer-driven trends that are reshaping menu development. “Flavored waters, plant-based milks, cold-brew coffee, aguas frescas and fresh-pressed juices are some of the categories taking advantage of modern consumer beverage preferences,” says Patrick Egan, Technomic’s manager of research and insights.
While key attributes such as taste and refreshment still dominate the consumer mindset, there is an increased emphasis on beverage health and functionality due to demographic (e.g., generational, ethnic) and regulatory (e.g., regional soda taxes, mandatory calorie labeling) shifts. Diet beverages sweetened with zero-calorie sugar substitutes, for example, are no longer perceived to be healthy.
No longer are consumers simply looking for a convenient meal complement; rather, they are coming to foodservice operations seeking fulfillment of diverse beverage occasions such as snacks, pick-me-ups or meal replacements. Still, price and taste remain the top two drivers for guests.