Flavored or infused waters and agua fresca have been poised to flood the market with a healthier alternative to sugary soda for some time now. Last year, menu and product development company Food & Drink Resources listed “no soda” as one of the top beverage trends to come, predicting that hydration stations would overtake pop machines on consumers’ thirst radar.
And if you picture flavored water as just a glass of water with a lemon wedge thrown in, fasten your seatbelt. Today’s flavored water takes the plunge into the botanical, with herbal twists, whole spice (pineapple-peppercorn) and even floral accents (hello, lavender and rose water). By changing agua fresca flavors by the day and by the season, you’re creating a healthful option that quenches customers’ thirst for something different and exciting.
Sipping through the seasons with pops of color, shots of vinegar for gray days
Citrus is the chef’s traditional bright spot in the winter months…a hit of acid and a bright, cheery color to wake up the grayest of February days. When paired with water, citrus can provide a gorgeous pop of color that energizes the whole dining area and works with the décor to convey the overall freshness factor.
The hydration station in William and Mary College’s brunch setup is shabby chic done right, with jars on top of wooden platforms and cute chalkboards that are changed up with seasonal flavors, like pink grapefruit and strawberry flavored water. The waters pair perfectly with a selection of made-to-order omelets, chicken and waffles, pancakes and granola bowls.
Flik Hospitality Group’s accounts offer seasonally synched-up housemade agua frescas as well. As cold weather hits, citrus takes center stage in the form of grapefruits, lemons and oranges paired with fresh herbs and whole spices. Other sips of sunny agua fresca developed by Flik include honeydew melon-ginger, lemon-basil, rosemary-pear, watermelon-lime and even pineapple-peppercorn.
They’ve also veered into shrub territory, which means vinegar is invited to the party. A cider-ginger green tea shrub is miles away from plain water and perfect for winter.
Vid Lutz, product development chef with Nestle Professional, suggests using “cardamom, nutmeg and coriander to keep warm during winter, then switch to lighter, fruiter flavors for your summer beverage menu,” Lutz says.
Hydrate for wellness, keep hydrating for flavor
Staying hydrated is important for every living body, but it’s a special concern for our elderly population.
“We have infused water stations set up in all of our assisted living and healthcare floors,” says Drew Ward, executive chef with Morrison Community Living at Sharon Towers, a CCRC in Charlotte, N.C. “Hydration is huge with that population.”
Staff members also have access to the big dispensers of water, which are fitted with a tube inside to place fruit and herbs to be infused into the liquid. The move is part of a culture change at Sharon Towers, Ward says. “We’re working a lot on the vitality aspect. This account really wants to be at the forefront of wellness. We have a wellness director trying to get the whole campus involved…not only educating the residents, but educating the employees, too.”
The flavored waters change every day, with combinations like cucumber-lime and strawberry-basil. The variety encourages residents to drink the water they need.
“With the fruit, you’re getting your sweetness, and the herbs brighten it up and give it that little pop,” Ward says. “There’s more to it than water, so that helps them want to drink it.”
Unexpected flavors to sip on
Since 2010, lavender as a beverage flavor has grown 58 percent, according to Datassential’s beverage trend research. And lavender’s not the only unexpected flavor to get noticed lately. Here are more flavors identified by Louisville-based beverage development company Flavorman as ones to watch:
·Maple: “Like bourbon, but sweeter,” maple is identified by Flavorman as one of the top beverage trends for 2018. “Maple flavors can be both deliciously complex and subtle.”
·Honey: With more than 300 varieties of honey in the U.S., and more and more onsite facilities featuring rooftop beehives, Flavorman identifies honey is a natural for adding sweetness to drinks.
·Grapefruit: According to Flavorman, “The popularity of grapefruit drinks continues to trend upward,” thanks in part to the health benefits associated with citrus fruit.
·Herbs, plants and flowers: Mint, juniper, rose, basil, rosemary, sage and more are just waiting to be mixed and matched with fruits for flavored water with depth.