Findings from Technomic Inc.'s 2017 Away-From-Home Beverage Study indicate that non-alcohol beverages are a large and growing part of the foodservice industry. From staples like soft drinks, teas, coffees and juices to emerging categories like cold-brew coffee, energy drinks and enhanced waters, hot and cold beverages accounted for over $181 billion in annual sales and totaled over 113 billion servings in 2016. Although soda and regular coffee continue to drive beverage volume overall, formats like specialty coffee (hot and iced), bottled water and energy drinks are expected to continue their already rapid growth in the next three to five years.
"Beverages account for $1 out of every $5 consumers spend away from home," said David Henkes, senior principal at 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." Adds Patrick Egan, manager of research and insights, "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."
While key attributes like taste and refreshment still dominate the consumer mindset, there is an increased emphasis on beverage health and functionality due to demographic (i.e., generational, ethic) and regulatory (e.g., regional soda taxes, mandatory calorie labeling) shifts. No longer are consumers simply looking for a convenient meal compliment; rather, they are coming to foodservice operations seeking fulfillment of diverse beverage occasions like snacks, pick-me-ups or meal replacements. As such, manufacturers and operators need to come prepared with multifunctional items that can serve a variety of dayparts.
Additional key takeaways from the report include:
Diet beverages sweetened with zero-calorie sugar substitutes (e.g., aspartame) are no longer perceived to be healthy. Other, more natural sweeteners such as agave, Stevia and honey are among the better-for-you sweeteners capturing increased consumer and operator attention.
While brand-name beverages are still critical to consumers—over 50% consider brand name either somewhat or very important—younger generations tend to downplay brand importance relative to older generations.
Pricing and taste remain the top two attributes operators emphasize when sourcing their beverage products.