Beverages are important ingredients in a foodservice brand. Other than their primary function to quench thirst, of course, they can be destination products and become firmly linked to specific food items. Yet, beverage preferences are constantly evolving, and it can be challenging to keep up with changing tastes.
Today, customers are looking for added value in their drink selections. According to Euromonitor International, three major trends are affecting the beverage category in 2017:
- First, customers are looking for interesting experiences, giving rise to a demand for new and fun beverage qualities.
- Second, there is increased attention to health considerations, shifting sales of sugary sodas and juices to more functional/enhanced hydration options.
- Third, there is a strong demand for compelling brand identities, such as authentic, region-specific, unique, or exclusive/non-mainstream characteristics.
The following strategies can help connect to these three customer needs and in turn grow your restaurant’s beverage sales.
Strategy #1: Build the beverage story
People love stories. A strong beverage story can help frame an experience and create excitement around a product. For example, Humble Honey Soda (New Zealand) connects with customers by starting a movement and communicating its unique brand identity. It promotes honey as a healthier, tastier alternative to sugar, and pledges investment of time and money to create more honey bee hives with each bottle sold. This beverage brand tells a compelling story by describing itself as “a drink that tastes better, feels better and is better for the world we live in,” and uses the messaging “Inside every bottle there’s two teaspoons of honey. Outside there are more bees in the world.” Other ways to build a richer brand story include communicating product origin, heritage, sustainability efforts, and ethical considerations. Packaging design and menu descriptions can also help express a brand’s identity.
Strategy #2: Create sensory and experiential moments
As customers look for interesting experiences, multi-sensory attributes and unexpected flavors will intrigue customers and generate buzz. Seasonal products can also make the experience more special. Interesting beverage properties, textures, flavors, scents, sounds, and appearances, as well as unique tactile glasses can create memorable moments. Many foodservice brands are recognizing the importance of creating these moments to connect with customer needs.
For example, Cafe Demitasse in L.A. offers a “Lavender Liquid Hot Chocolate” in the colder months that infuses lavender extract into the drink to give it an interesting aroma and flavor. Starbucks uses a similar strategy of unexpected combinations with its Teavanna Matcha & Espresso beverage, a visually appealing layered coffee/tea mix. PostTea also has some interesting flavor profiles, such as its Cocktail Collection, with Pina Colada and Mojito teas. Another way to create a unique moment is to allow customers to create their own combinations, such as the interactive Pepsi Spire that is used in restaurants to dispense customized beverages. With a focus on the sensory and experiential, foodservice operators can meet the demand for interesting beverage experiences to attract and retain customers.
Strategy #3: Present hydration with a twist
According to a report by Euromonitor International, customers in 2017 are focusing more on health, with hydration as a top priority. Surprisingly, bottled water is expected to be the fastest growing category in global packaged beverages over the next five years. “Enhanced hydration,” that offers the added value of nutrition and/or flavor, has also seen rapid growth, particularly in the functional water/plant water beverage types. Euromonitor predicts an opportunity in offering a more robust portfolio of enhanced hydration options that range from everyday consumption to beverages designed to be consumed post-workout.
Hydrive Energy Water offers this enhanced hydration by adding vitamins and caffeine to its drinks, and removes calories and sugar. Similarly, formula O2 describes itself as “a natural recovery drink,” with oxygen, electrolytes, and caffeine inclusions. In the U.K., Coldpress is taking the popularity of coconut water one step further, adding interesting fruit flavors to the drink. Coldpress founder Andrew Gibb explains this strategy, stating that: “The pursuit of nutritional integrity and a healthier lifestyle should never mean dumbing down your taste buds.”
Strategy #4: Highlight health benefits
As customers look to lead healthier lifestyles, nutritional qualities such as antioxidants, superfoods, and probiotics have become important beverage attributes. This customer demand for more nutritional options has led to beverages with interesting ingredients. For example, New York’s “The End Brooklyn” offers a non-dairy, decaffinated latte that includes blue green algae (called E3 Live), lemon, ginger, honey, and coconut milk. Adding nutritional ingredients to traditional beverages can also help them to gain increased attention. Daily Greens Green Ade, for instance, creates a new type of lemonade drink with superfood benefits.
By creating sensory and experiential moments, presenting hydration with a twist, highlighting health benefits, and building the beverage story, more beverages will offer added value and connect to current customer demands. In these ways, more interesting experiences, exciting nutritional options, and compelling brand identities are available in the beverage category.