5 Beverage Trends for Challenger Brands

January 5, 2016 | blog | By Mike Sullivan


More than just a meal accompaniment, crafted beverages are money makers for most restaurants, so knowing these 5 beverage trends for 2016 can help your bottom line.

San Francisco-based hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. and London-based market research firm Mintel, have both made predictions for next year’s “it” beverages. Here’s our take on which are the best bets for Challenger Brands.
1 – Mocktails
This is a hot trend that works for practically all target demographics from kids to seniors and has special appeal for designated drivers, pregnant women and non-drinkers. From a classic Shirley Temple to Abstinence on the Beach, you can create an entire menu of fun, creative drinks aimed at every target customer. For Challenger Brands, this is an opportunity to show your personality – just what you need to
set yourself apart from the established brands.

2 – House Sodas
Carb- and health-conscious diners might be steering clear of traditional sodas, accounting for a recent downturn in sales, but Andrew Freeman & Co. predicts a spike in “fancy house-made sodas” and high-end carbonated drinks, including craft ginger beers, hard sodas and adult root beer. Sonic Drive-In jumped on board in 2014 by introducing a line of Splash Hand-Crafted Sodas that are low-cal and less
sweet than traditional sodas.
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3 – Frozen cocktails
With restaurant equipment like sub-zero icemakers that can freeze alcohol, you can forget Jell-O shots – boozy popsicles are what the cool kids want. The trendy Loopy Doopy rooftop bar at the Conrad Hilton hotel in New York City boasts ice “People’s Pops” served upside-down in wine glasses containing chilled Prosecco. Grownup flavors include strawberry lemongrass. If you’re going to bring the humble Popsicle into adulthood, you may as well elevate its flavor palate as well, so abandon cherry and grape in favor of something a bit more sophisticated.

4 – Refreshed Coffee Styles
Millennials are still a prime target in the coffee market and this group loves something new. Two San Francisco establishments have a new take that trending well. Coffee Bar created a sort of coffee horchata – a blend of cinnamon, vanilla-infused cold brew coffee, ice and milk; and the Kaffe Tonic at Saint Frank, combines tonic water and espresso. Another new trend is nitro-coffee, iced coffee infused with nitrous oxide to give it a creamy texture similar to Guinness beer.

5 – Tea Time
Both kombucha, the fermented tea drink, and matcha, Japanese powdered tea, and tea in general, are gaining in popularity. Kombucha is being used in cocktails to create more botanical beverages. Both Crooked Stave in Denver, and Flower Child in Scottsdale, Ariz. keep kombucha on tap. Matcha, considered a healthy, albeit highly caffeinated green tea, is popular in its many forms as a traditional tea (hot, iced, latte, etc.) and is being incorporated into everything from cocktails to ice cream.

Trying out any of these beverage trends in the coming year should give you a boost over regular beverage sales, owing to the greater markup you’ll be allowed on what consumers view as a hand-crafted, higher-end product. Just ensure that you tailor your beverage designs and marketing plan to match your Challenger Brand personality and your customers will drink it up.


Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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