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Consumers are thirsty for exciting new beverage experiences. From ultimate shakes that take toppings and add-ins to delectable new heights to protein drinks and other beverages with strong nutritional profiles, the market is brimming with opportunities for foodservice operators to help drive higher check averages.

RAISE THE BAR ON BEVERAGES

3 out of 4 consumers surveyed in a Technomic dessert trends report feel beverage quality is “important to very important,” and a major deciding factor when choosing an establishment.1

As the definition of “dessert” continues to broaden depending on personal preference, consumers increasingly look to sweet beverages as their desserts of choice. Technomic research found that the younger the consumer, the more likely he or she is to consider nontraditional items like sweet beverages as a dessert. 42% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 define such beverages as dessert when consumed after a meal, while 31% view them as a dessert to be enjoyed anytime.1

Bottoms Up: How Beverages Help Boost the Bottom Line

Technomic data indicates that beverage innovation is becoming a determining factor in attracting restaurant customers, and advertising brand-name ingredients can help increase interest in dessert beverages and drive repeat traffic.2 Trusted brands increasingly encourage dessert orders. Recognized as the leading brand item for ice cream, OREO cookie has also been one of the fastest-growing ice-cream flavors1 and proven popular in hybrid shake concepts.3

Milkshakes rank high among consumers’ most preferred desserts at limited-service restaurants and full-service restaurants, with a greater proportion of milkshakes versus ice cream items at both.3 More than half of consumers surveyed about their dessert preferences said they would order milkshakes.3

In its Dessert Consumer Trend Report webinar, Technomic attributed the predominance of milkshakes to their versatile applications across dayparts and the trend of beverages “becoming more intertwined in dessert occasions, as we see floats and sodas are also top dessert offerings at FSRs.”3 According to the research firm’s analysis of its dessert beverage survey results, a product assortment of milkshakes and hot regular and specialty coffees can satisfy 75% of consumers.3

Functional Beverages: Fuel for On-The-Go Millennials

While millennials tend to seek out rich, eclectic flavor experiences, they are also the consumer group with the greatest consumption of functional beverages like energy drinks and smoothies that help them live highly active, wellness-oriented lifestyles.4 With 57% of consumers aged 25–34 engaged in all segments of the beverage category, including sports, weight loss and meal replacement, millennials consume a greater range of beverages than other consumer groups.4 From performance-enhancing sports drinks to hot cocoa, coffee and tea to flavored milks, millennials have an unquenchable thirst for beverage products. Ready-to-drink functional beverages are well-suited for their on-the-go lifestyles and are often viewed as quick sources of nutrition and substitutes for time-consuming meals.

“Nutritional and performance drinks are the apex of convenience for the modern American lifestyle and diet, as consumers are moving away from three meals per day and are snacking more often,” said Beth Bloom, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “These beverages deliver on convenience, affordability and efficacy, a trio of positive advantages that appeal to today’s on-the-go consumers who are simply too busy to eat a sit-down breakfast at home.”5

With the right blend of trusted brands, better-for-you ingredients and satisfying flavor, beverages can double as snacks, desserts and even meals to help foodservice operators boost business.

1 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report, Q3 2015
2 Technomic, Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, 2016
3 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Report Trend webinar, Nov. 12, 2015
4 FONA International, 2015 Trend Report, Millennials: Functional Beverages, 2015
5 Moloughney, Sean, “Healthy Beverage Market Overflowing With Opportunities,” Nutraceuticals World, Jul. 1, 2016