Sponsored by Smucker Foodservice.
Whether you’re running a busy neighborhood restaurant or feeding crowds in a large onsite operation, understanding the trends is essential for daily business decisions and long-term strategy. The following insights into the fast-changing and lucrative world of beverages may help operators chart a successful course in the New Year.
Staying spicy but balanced
Tongue-tingling heat remains in fashion in beverages as well as cuisine, but there is a move toward more balanced flavor profiles. “Ramping up the spice … and then offsetting it” will be a hot trend in 2017, predicts Baum+Whiteman, a New York-based international consulting firm. Look for juices, soft drinks, lemonades and cocktails laced with zingy additions like chilies, lemongrass, turmeric and ginger, but tempered with a touch of honey or maple syrup.
All hail cold brew
Cold brew coffee — smoother and less bitter than hot-brewed java — is a must in specialty coffee shops now and a smart menu addition for many other operations, especially those serving millennial and Generation Z clientele. Cold brew ranked fifth among top non-alcoholic beverage trends in the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2017 Culinary Forecast.
Healthy beverage enhancements
Consumers seek good nutrition and wellness as well as flavor from beverages. Prominent choices include protein-enhanced flavored waters and lattes made with matcha green tea, billed as a superfood. Tartine Manufactory, a San Francisco restaurant, menus Turmeric Ginger Kefir, a drink with three healthful agents. Andrew Freeman & Co., a San Francisco-based restaurant and hospitality consulting company, pegged switchel — a tart mixture of vinegar, ginger and molasses with purported health benefits — as the Beverage of the Year for 2017.
Coffee’s the No. 1 draft pick
Cold brew coffee on draft, widely available in coffee shops, is splashing into other foodservice outlets. Especially trendy is nitro coffee on draft, which is cold brewed, kegged and infused with nitrogen to create a creamy head like beer. Andrew Freeman & Co. foresees nitro coffee and flavored lattes “coming soon to a draft line near you.”
Shakes go to extremes
Ready to emerge as indulgent beverages/desserts in 2017 are “freakshakes,” Baum+Whiteman predicts. These fully loaded, over-the-top milkshakes feature extravagant mounds of ice cream festooned with more whipped cream, sauces and candy garnishes than you can shake a straw at.
Sour hits the sweet spot
Sour beers are furthering the appreciation for pucker-inducing flavors that started with sour foods like house-fermented pickles and kimchi, and moved on to drinking vinegars and shrubs. Andrew Freeman & Co. named sour brew “the beer of the year” in 2017, hailing the rise of Flanders red, Berliner Weisse and gose on beer lists. The Chicago-based research firm Datassential called gose, a German wheat beer with a distinctive tart-salty taste, “one of the fastest-growing options on alcoholic drink menus today” in its flavor trends roundup for 2017 and beyond.
Sourcing close to home
Consumers appreciate beverages, just as they do foods, that are sourced nearby. Thus locally produced wine, spirits and beer ranked third among alcoholic beverage trends in the NRA's What’s Hot 2017 forecast. When it comes to coffee, which grows in far-flung lands, the solution is for operators to partner with local coffee roasters on distinctive roasts and blends. Local/house-roasted coffee placed 12th in overall non-alcoholic beverage trends in the What’s Hot forecast.
Moving to non-dairy milks
Growing interest in plant-based eating is spurring trial of dairy alternatives like almond milk, soy milk and coconut milk. Andrew Freeman & Co. cited the Los Angeles eatery Sqirl for making almond milk in-house daily. The housemade half and half at by CHLOE., a vegan restaurant New York, is a cashew and almond cream blend.
Water swamping soda
With carbonated soft drinks slumping, flavored water is the go-to quencher and mealtime beverage for many. Food & Drink Resources, a Colorado-based menu and product development company, gave “no soda” a place on its 2017 trends list, predicting its replacement by sparkling water. On college and university campuses, students flock to hydration stations featuring jugs of plain water with cut fruits, herbs and cucumbers.
Banking on coffee at breakfast and brunch
Breakfast foods are in play all day in many restaurants and onsite operations. At the same time, traditional breakfasts are morphing into heavier, heartier brunch-style fare, notes Baum+Whiteman. Both scenarios portend greater opportunities for merchandising coffee, including styles of brew which take more time to appreciate.