Consumers taking active role in beverage flavors

by Staff
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CHICAGO — Do-it-yourself flavor and debate over what beverages should be given to children top The Foods Channel’s “Top Ten Beverage Trends for 2011” list. The trend list was developed along with CultureWaves, the International Food Futurists and Mintel International.

The top beverage trends are:

1) Do-it-yourself flavor — Many consumers are taking flavor into their own hands, adding floral or citrus flavors to water and leaving out most of the sugar. Crystal Light’s powders and Kraft Foods’ new MiO liquid are popular.

2) Parental discretion advised — With the Los Angeles school district banning chocolate and strawberry milk from the cafeteria, restaurant chains are working to offer healthier options for children, including 1% milk and fruit juices instead of soda.

3) Iced coffee is scalding hot — Consumers have increased consumption of cold caffeinated beverages in restaurants by 20% during the past five years. There are iced, frozen and slushie coffee options pretty much everywhere, and there are even single-cup brewing systems and special blends for home consumption.

4) For medicinal purposes only — Enhanced waters are growing in popularity and offer added vitamins and nutrition for different aliments. There are energy and relaxation beverages as well, and there is a trend of consumers switching back to beverages sweetened with cane sugar.

5) Sipping seasonally and simply — Beverages are no exceptions to consumers choosing foods that are in season and local, and consumers are choosing seasonal and local ingredients for their beverages.

6) Fast food beyond the fizz — Beverage options at fast-food restaurants are expanding beyond just fountain drinks with McDonald’s marketing its new frozen strawberry lemonade and Steak’n’Shake and Sonic offering happy hour deals on milkshakes and frozen drinks.

7) Craft beers: The buzz is back — Overall beer sales are flat, but sales of craft beers are growing at double-digit rates. Sales of home brewing equipment are also up.

8) Bourbon booming — Bourbon is popular again, and $150 million has been spent on new construction at Kentucky distilleries, where 95% of the world’s bourbon is produced.

9) Show biz — Presentation of beverages is becoming more important with tableside prep of freshly squeezed lemonade in the summer and tableside prep of apple cider in the fall coming in vogue.

10) Drinking ourselves thin — While consumers are enjoying all types of beverages, they want to do so with the least amount of calories. This has led to “Northern Lites” drinks at Caribou Coffee and “38 Smoothies Under 300 Calories” at Smoothie King.

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