Whether they’re at home or work, dining out, or on-the-go, one category today’s consumers’ deem top priority is health and wellness. These two components have driven the recent transformation of the beverage category. There’s no longer a one-size-fits-all solution for drinks, as consumers are demanding more variety from their beverage experience. From cold-pressed juices and nutrient-infused smoothies to vitamin-filled coffees and fermented teas, consumers are seeking mindfully produced, transparent refreshments that nourish their bodies and taste great, too.
Value-added beverages can no longer be an afterthought for operators, as they attract customers and drive profits (especially during breakfast). With a little creativity and innovation, you can enhance your customers’ dining experience, cultivate their health, and increase your bottom line with functional, health-forward beverages.
FUN AND FUNCTIONAL
Serving customers juices, smoothies, coffees, or teas that will enhance their overall wellness is the key to raising the bar in your beverage program. Instead of eliminating components from drinks such as sugars, calories, and fats, today’s consumers have shifted their focus to adding nourishing, functional elements like proteins, herbs, nuts, seeds, and probiotics. The fascination with functional beverages has created a platform for operators to get creative using nutrient-rich ingredients, seasonality, and intriguing add-ins.
According to the Beverage Industry, 62% of U.S. consumers are seeking natural beverage options. Beyond natural, seasonal produce as a platform, try utilizing plant-based milks such as soy, cashew, almond, and coconut milk. These nut milks allow you to promote the benefits of plant-based foods, nodding to the concern for sustainability. You can also merchandise these items as dairy alternatives to cater to vegan and lactose-free diners.
According to Mintel, 51% of consumers are willing to try an unfamiliar ingredient if it provides a functional benefit. Boost the nutritional value and appeal of your natural libations by incorporating lesser-known ingredients with healing properties. A vitamin-rich superfood of the sea, spirulina (freshwater algae) has between 55-70% protein (more than beef, chicken, and soybeans) along with 10 non-essential amino acids. Powdered spirulina is the perfect addition to naturally sweet citrus juice that also adds a vibrant blue-green hue. According to Google’s 2017 Beverage Trend Report, earthy flavors such as ginger and turmeric are top of mind for beverage-loving customers. Ginger is an increasingly popular ancient root that contains spicy, bold flavors and helps lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, and relieve muscle soreness. Turmeric, another trending, nourishing spice, has grown 154% on menus over the past four years (according to Datassential) and gives beverages an earthy flavor and deep, orange color. Turmeric also offers a range of health benefits including detoxifying the liver, strengthening ligaments, reducing bad cholesterol and risk of blood clots, and improving digestion.
Creative, nutritional garnishes can do wonders in differentiating your health-centric beverages. A drizzle of organic apple cider vinegar, cacao nibs, goji berries, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are all nutrient-rich add-ins that can enhance the appeal of beverages while adding another layer of beneficial attributes. Bee pollen, an on-trend, functional ingredient that captures the attention of health-conscious customers, pairs well with nut-milk based drinks, green pick-me-ups, and drinks containing cinnamon or honey.
The trend of ethnic-inspired items doesn’t stop at your food menu. Incorporate global ingredients into your beverage selections to enhance their appeal, taste, and functionality. Camu camu, a berry superfood from the Amazon, fights inflammation and detoxifies the body with its high vitamin C content. Pair camu camu with orange, lemon, and grapefruit juices and turmeric for an immunity-boosting drink. Pitaya, also known as dragon fruit, is another superfood indigenous to Central and South America with a taste similar to kiwi that adds unique textures to fresh juices and smoothies. Consuming pitaya nourishes the body from the inside out – the omega-3 fatty acids contribute to glowing skin and shiny hair.
BOAST ABOUT THE BENEFITS
According to Technomic Inc., health descriptors such as “fresh,” “clean,” “organic,” “authentic,” and “natural” drive purchases and encourage customers to spend more money on an item. List these terms on your beverage menus, and don’t be hesitant to list the functional benefits too. Nekter Juice Bar, located in Santa Ana, CA, names their beverages based on functional abilities and depicts how it impacts the body in the drink descriptions. For example, its “Toxin Flush” that contains parsley, spinach, apple, lemon, and ginger is said to “help the body naturally rid itself of toxins in the blood and liver and soothe the tummy too.” Its “Fusion Blends” category describes that all of these beverages are “packed with an entire day’s serving of purifying fruits and veggies that are high in fiber, suppress the appetite, and provide long-lasting energy!” According to GlobalData, 60% of consumers are influenced by how trustworthy a product sounds when choosing non-alcoholic beverages, and making these health-benefiting claims can be the key to locking in their decision to purchase your functional beverages.
JUICE ON THE GO
The juicing industry has grown to a $9 billion per year industry worldwide ($2.2 billion in the U.S.) and continues to grow at a rate of 7% per year. The combination of health consciousness and hectic lifestyles has led to customers craving convenient, nutrient-rich beverage and snacking solutions. According to research by Datassential, 91% of respondents had a snack beverage the day prior to taking the survey, many of which were during the morning hours. Creating functional juices with substantial nutritious ingredients can help your operation maximize on the grab-and-go snacking trend and strengthen your beverage and takeout programs. Even for those who prefer food items for snacks, Datassential claims 64% of all snack orders include a beverage, reinforcing the importance of offering health-focused juices as to-go items across all dayparts.
To differentiate your to-go juice category, consider offering trending shot-sized juices that provide consumers with a range of benefits all in one gulp. Offer fresh squeezed as well as ready-made shots to reach a broader range of customers including those who want a healthy, convenient shot to-go. Ensure your juice shots pack a nutritious punch; serve a shot with beetroot and ginger; a vitamin K-rich wheatgrass shot; or a mild, citrusy juice shot containing orange, ginger, and cayenne.
Kombucha is a fermented, fizzy, chilled tea that has become a health food craze in recent years and has gained popularity for its probiotics and beneficial bacteria. According to research firm, MarketsandMarkets, the kombucha market is poised for tremendous growth by 2020 and is predicted to grow 25% each year. Loaded with beneficial bacteria, kombucha has been associated with improved digestion and boosted immune systems. Not only do the plethora of benefits capture the attention of health-conscious diners and create great appeal for kombucha, but its fizzy texture and tart, slightly sweet taste drive kombucha enthusiasts to continue enjoying this beverage. See the latest issue of essence for item numbers and contact a Maines Beverage Specialist to learn more about serving kombucha at your operation.
Several restaurants source kombucha from local partners, but it also has house-made appeal. If producing kombucha in-house, always take precautions as brewing kombucha involves working with live bacteria. To make kombucha, a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is added to a base of sweetened green or black tea, then fermented for seven to ten days at room temperature. From there, fruit juices, herbs, and flavorings are added to give it a unique flavor profile. Popular flavors of this chilled, carbonated, low-calorie drink include mango, passion fruit, hibiscus, coconut, apple, and black cherry.
As consumers continue to embrace beverages with healthy halos, consider how your operation can present diners with beverage options that offer functionality, convenience, and memorable tastes. To get started, experiment with our simple-to-produce Coconut-Turmeric Twist and Blueberry-Lemon Zing recipes coming this week and offer as healthy, vibrant refreshments. With health and wellness driving the beverage trend, there are countless ways to align healthy beverages with your brand while serving customers the beneficial glass they’re looking for.