Plenty of fizz still left in soft drinks, study suggests

September 22 2017

Hold the booze, non-alcoholic drinks are in; at least that’s what a new study is saying.

Findings published by food research group Technomic suggest that non-alcoholic beverages are a large and growing part of the foodservice industry.

In 2016, over 113 billion hot and cold beverages were served, accounting for over $181 billion in annual sales.

Soda and regular coffee continue to drive beverage volume overall but bottled water, energy drinks and specialty coffee - both hot and iced - are expected to continue their already rapid growth over the next three to five years.

With beverages accounting for $1 out of every $5 consumers spend away from home, restaurants can ill afford to neglect their drinks list, says Technomic’s senior principal David Henkes.

“[Drinks] 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,” he commented.

Flavored waters, plant-based milks, cold-brew coffee, aguas frescas and fresh-pressed juices are some of the drinks taking advantage of modern consumer beverage preferences, according to Technomic’s research, which took into account the views of more than 800 foodservice operators and over 3,000 consumers.

It found that diet beverages sweetened with zero-calorie sugar substitutes, such as aspartame which is found in all of Coca-Cola’s diet and ‘Zero’ products, are no longer perceived as healthy.

Instead, other more natural sweeteners - like agave, Stevia and honey - are among the better-for-you sweeteners capturing increased consumer and operator attention.

Younger generations don’t seem to be as concerned with brand-name beverages as older generations, with just over half considering a brand name to be either somewhat or very important.

However, the two most important factors are price and taste.

A statement from Technomic said that consumers were no longer simply looking for a convenient meal compliment but instead they were “coming to foodservice operations seeking fulfillment of diverse beverage occasions like snacks, pick-me-ups or meal replacements”.

As a result, eatery operators need be prepared with multifunctional items that can serve a variety of dayparts.