From coffee to “crafted” and floral to functional, this year’s National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show featured a wide variety of foodservice beverage trends. Of course, that’s not hard to say, considering that the May event in Chicago featured as many as 2,300 overall exhibitors. 

In advance of the show, industry operators and other experts judged entries in NRA’s annual Food and Beverage Awards (FABI) program. Here are this year’s beverage award winners and product descriptions, provided by each company.

Brooklyn Crafted Mini from BCGA Concept Corporation, Brooklyn, N.Y. 

Unlike many competing products, Brooklyn Crafted Mini Ginger Beer is made with 100% real, unfiltered ginger pieces. The 7oz mini bottles are perfect on their own or incorporated into cocktails. Made with no artificial ingredients—no high-fructose corn syrup here—and no preservatives, it provides all the health benefits of ginger. Flavor profiles include Traditional, Earl Grey, Lemon & Lime and Mango.

Organic Elderflower and Rose Lemonade from Belvoir Fruit Farms, Leicestershire, U.K. 

The delicate scent of elderflowers, grown on Belvoir’s own farms and hand-picked at the height of spring, combines with the heady floral taste of real rose petals for a deliciously perfumed sparkling drink that stands on its own and also makes the perfect base for unique summer cocktails and mocktails. Belvoir organic sparkling lemonades always blend the freshest flowers, 100% real pressed fruit juice and lightly sparkling water.

La Colombe Draft Latte from La Colombe Coffee Roasters, Philadelphia

This revolutionary cold coffee beverage delivers a unique, café-style drinking experience. The InnoValve can, a patent-pending process, enhances the ready-to-drink Draft Latte with the foam traditionally found in a hot latte for a quality, on-the-go treat.

Natalie’s Matcha Lemonade from Natalie’s Orchard Island Juice, Ft. Pierce, Fla.

Bartenders and mixologists looking for exotic ingredients and healthy lemonade alternatives will like this authentically clean juice. Made from only four minimally processed ingredients—water, Florida pure cane sugar, lemons and brewed matcha—it is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.

SomruS Original from SomPriyaFine Spirits, LLC, Chicago

The world’s most awarded cream liqueur blends handcrafted rum with cardamom, saffron, almond, pistachio and rose for an exotic tasting spirit. An Indian-inspired liqueur named for the elusive “nectar of the gods,” SomruS Original shines on its own, mixed in a beverage, baked into dessert or even added to a cup of tea for a decadent hard chai latte.

Still more exhibitors featured more new offerings. For example, the Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, sampled Barrilitos aguas frescas in bubblers, bottled Topo Chico mineral water, new Odwalla Craft Lemonades in bubblers and crafted Coca-Cola Georgia Peach and Coca-Cola California Raspberry fountain drinks with real regional fruit flavors. Elsewhere, PepsiCo sampled bubly, its new line of flavored sparkling waters. Eight new varieties include Lime, Grapefruit, Strawberry, Lemon, Orange, Apple, Mango, and Cherry.

NRA officials also identified coffee innovations as a leading show trend. 

Said NRA, “Craft, cold-brew and nitrogen-infused coffees were on tap—literally and figuratively—throughout the three exhibit halls. We talked to a few exhibitors about quality, convenience and other factors fueling the craft coffee movement.”

California-based Copper Cow Coffee aims to enhance your grab-and-go or delivery options with Vietnamese-style coffee. Its biodegradable, single-serve pour-overs come with separate sweeted, condensed milk packets. “All you need is hot water,” says sales rep Lillian Mayer. “You don’t need to train a barista.”

NRA officials also identified coffee innovations as a leading show trend. Said NRA, “Craft, cold-brew and nitrogen-infused coffees were on tap—literally and figuratively—throughout the three exhibit halls.

Oakland, Calif.-based Blue Bottle Coffee offers more grab-and-go options, including 8oz cans of cold-brew coffee. Its New Orleans-style iced coffee, made with milk and chicory, is packaged in a paper milk carton—just the like the ones from elementary school.

TradeCraft Outfitters distributes craft coffee from 30 independent roasters to restaurants, hotels, offices and institutional foodservice. In addition to espresso, draft latte and nitro coffee from its roasters, the Chicago-based company also showed off hot coffee on draft powered by “a secret of sensors and pumps,” says Danny Locash, senior director, new market development.

In the retail market, Chameleon Cold Brew is known for its 10oz bottles of coffee, in espresso, mocha, vanilla and other flavors. But like so much else in Texas, the Austin-based company goes big for foodservice. In addition to 5-gallon boxes (“like boxed wine, but for coffee,” says Chicago-area sales manager Rich Chatat), Chameleon offers kegerators for its nitro- and cold-brew coffees.

Originally appeared in the August, 2018 issue of Prepared Foods as Show and Tell.