Seven out of 10 consumers (71 percent) now purchase beverages away from home twice a week or more often, up from 66 percent in 2010.

According to market research firm Techmomic, as the economy continues to stabilize from the recession, restaurants and retail foodservice locations are well-positioned to boost beverage sales. Beverages act as a high-margin add-on that can help increase check averages for operators and also increase the overall dining experience for consumers by providing an added element of flavor to a meal.

Specialty coffees, specialty teas and smoothies exhibited growth in Technomic's Top 500 limited-service restaurants. Specialty coffee offerings increased by 10 percent on limited-service menus throughout the past two years, emerging as one of the segment's leaders.

Buoyed by the rise of sweet tea, specialty tea listings nearly doubled on menus. Smoothies, including fruit smoothies, grew by 8.5 percent, while protein-enhanced varieties jumped by 123 percent.

"Today's foodservice consumers continue to base dining decisions on their perception of value," said Darren Tristano, Technomic's executive vice president. "Innovative operators are creating value by crafting new and unique beverages including specialty lemonades, handmade sodas and 'mocktails' that are uniquely flavorful, fresh and a better-for-you option."

With nearly a third (29 percent) of consumers saying they like to try new and unique beverages, operators can build their credibility and bottom line by leveraging trending flavors with more creative beverage offerings, he added.

Some highlights from Technomic's new Beverage Consumer Trend Report, include:

  • The number of menu items offered at leading coffee cafes has increased by 18 percent throughout the past two years, as non-beverage menu development becomes a major focus in this category;
  • Forty-nine percent of women aged 18–24, and 41 percent of all consumers, agree that their beverage preferences tend to change depending on the season/time of the year;
  • Two-thirds of consumers said they drank regular hot coffee (68 percent) and regular soft drinks (66 percent) at least once in the past month. Roughly half of consumers say they purchased regular hot coffee (46 percent) and regular soft drinks (53 percent) from foodservice at least once in the last month;
  • New and unique beverages are a strong traffic driver for young consumers; 47 percent of consumers aged 18-24, compared to 29 percent of consumers overall, said they like to try new and unique beverages offered at restaurants.

Technomic's Beverage Consumer Trend Report examines beverage purchasing decisions, attitudes and preferences based on survey results from 1,500 consumers.

This latest report echoes similar research recently released from The NPD Group that shows beverage-only occasions at restaurants are on the rise.

Read more about foodservice trends.

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