As foodservice does its best to cope with this pandemic, operators are especially facing an uphill battle to get beverage purchases back to pre-COVID-19 levels. With weekly beverage consumption from foodservice currently down 24% compared to 2018, restaurants are increasingly highlighting trend-forward ingredients in non-alcohol drinks as a way to appeal to consumers and drive further traffic.
Non-dairy milks are gaining swift momentum, with oat milk menu mentions growing an outstanding 300% in the past year. Concepts are featuring non-dairy milk mostly in coffee and espresso-based beverages. Coconut and almond milk are also rising, with significant usage in energy- and immunity-boosting smoothies, often paired with superfood ingredients. For example, Jugo Juice menus its Jugo Java Energy Smoothie, featuring unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, and dates. These enhanced smoothies are especially appealing to younger consumers ages 18-34, with over a quarter (26%) expressing that they’d be likely to order beverages that offer functional benefits.
With three in 10 younger consumers also reporting that they would like more restaurants to offer globally inspired flavours in beverages, enter Taiwanese boba tea. Brands are spotlighting several boba flavour varieties, including brown sugar and mango. Restaurants are also highlighting lychee (another growing ingredient, up 13%) in boba tea. For instance, Pho Khang in Richmond, British Columbia, offers Lychee Milk Tea with rainbow jelly. Besides boba tea, operators are also featuring lychee in green teas, lemonades and smoothies.