As nonalcoholic beverages continue to soar in popularity and to make a diverse impact on menus, it’s imperative that quality cues and leading formats exceed the expectations of today’s consumer.
Nonalcoholic beverages afford operators the opportunity to increase purchase occasions, especially with younger generations. These drinks are a huge growth area with health-conscious consumers—perhaps even more than is the case with food, as they play an increasing new role in our nourishing lifestyles.
They also spark the adventurous curiosity of this consumer, one who is often seeking to discover new drinks.
Beverage menu positioning is ripe for innovation. Drinks can serve as a meal replacement (a.k.a. drinkable breakfast, lunch or dinner), as a snack, as an immunity booster, for overall wellness and/or fitness goals—or simply as delicious refreshment. Here are 10 fresh takes for actionable innovation.
Soda continues to get a makeover. A modern, craft-style approach to soda can diversify your operation and attract consumers looking for something fun or even healthy-ish, yet still reflective of what they have loved for so many years.
Sparkling Italian Soda Creamosa: Blackberry, strawberry, orange, blueberry or pomegranate, whipped cream
—Blazing Onion, multiple locations in Washington
Cherry Cola: Made in-house with cola nut, vanilla, orange and bergamot
- Huckleberry Hound Soda: Huckleberry soda + yuzu + apricots
- Egg Cream: Seltzer + dark chocolate syrup + whole milk
Of all the beverage trends, look to florals and botanicals to lead your future drink menus—these are next-gen recipe flavors. They are bright, deep, big-impact ingredients that add unique character and can transform traditional beverages.
Grapefruit, Hibiscus Sparkler: Fresh grapefruit juice, hibiscus syrup, lavender syrup, elderflower tonic
—Joséphine Wine Bar, Charleston, S.C.
Housemade Roasted Rosemary Lemonade
—Pie Tap, Dallas
- Moringa Almond Refresher: Elderflower syrup + orange blossom water + almond milk + moringa powder
- Holy Limeade Slushie: Fresh tulsi basil + lychee limeade + bullet ice
Desire for wellness has shifted some attention to digestive health and interest in powerful probiotics. Kombucha, shrubs, switchels and kefir have paved the path for fermented drinks.
ACV Tonic: Apple cider vinegar, water, ginger, turmeric, lemon, honey
Ginger & Berry Probiotic Kombucha on Tap
—Darwin’s Ltd., Cambridge, Mass.
- Beet Kvass: Fermented beet juice + blood orange juice + cinnamon
- Probiotic shot: Liquid from sauerkraut + cherry purée
The proven retail success of these vibrant beverages lends itself to housemade applications. The bigger play is the opportunity to showcase local and/or seasonal produce in your drinks. Tout your ingredients and heightened approach to freshness.
Fresh Strawberry Mango Cooler: Fresh strawberries hand-shaken with Fresca and mango/guava/ginger syrup
—California Pizza Kitchen, based in Los Angeles
Cool Hand Cuke: Dry sparkling cucumber soda, ginger-lemongrass syrup, lime juice
—The Henry, Las Vegas
- Sparkling Cantaloupe Agua Fresca: Cantaloupe, frozen + jasmine + sparkling mineral water + agave + mint leaf garnish
- Blackberry Spritzer: Fresh blackberries + orange-blossom honey + sage leaves + citrus sparkling water
The rise in functional beverages reflects the increasing impact of consumer wellness needs. Hybrids that combine beloved attributes from different beverage categories are a menu-development sweet spot. Consider fruit and vegetable juices, teas, plant milks and energy boosters for inspiration.
Morning Meditation Fresh Juice: Orange, lemon, turmeric, organic ginger, agave nectar and beet
—First Watch, based in University Park, Fla.
Skinny Lemonade T’s: Classic or blood orange with blue butterfly pea-flower tea
—Lemonade, based in Los Angeles
- Green Dragon: Coconut milk + matcha + clover honey + pickled ginger slices + mint garnish
- Power Potato Smoothie: Roasted/chilled sweet potatoes + pear juice + maple syrup + hemp seeds + maca powder
Water is the most consumed beverage in the world. Capitalize on this with the addition of simple, health-inspired trending flavor additions. We’re talking subtle hints that add light and natural refreshment. Look to culinary techniques as well as maple, birch, coconut, cactus, aloe, citrus and more.
Agua Fresca: Purple corn, pineapple, apple, cinnamon, sugar, lime
—Amara at Paraiso, Miami
Menta Miel: Raw honey, birch bark, CO2
- Neptune Water: Coconut water + spirulina + bloomed chia and pomegranate seeds
- Bark and Bite: Birch or maple water + ginger ice cubes + juice beverage
As plant-based beverage claims continue to rise, there is an opportunity to attract flexitarians who want a simple way to incorporate more plant-based options into their diet. Consider pulses, oats, nuts, grains and seeds to add intrigue to classic and trending beverages.
Some Like It Hot – Spicy Hot Cacao: Cacao powder, agave, housemade cashew cream, cayenne pepper
—The Juice Standard, The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas
Hummus Milkshake: Chickpeas, tahini, dates, bananas and almond milk, available in chocolate, strawberry, pistachio, butter pecan
—The Hummus & Pita Co., New York
- Vegan Topper: Aqua faba + pure maple syrup
- Harvest Cider: Hot apple cider + pure vanilla + Chinese five spice + foamed oat-milk topper
Whether psychologically comforting or nutritionally fulfilling, sipping medicinal style beverages hits all the macro wellness trend cues. Think outside the box on what you can reclassify as a beverage, and tap into the modern consumer focus on better-for-me, personalized nutrition.
Fungi Palmer: Cold-pressed lemon juice, Assam tea, Cordyceps, reishi, chaga, lion’s mane, monk fruit, erythritol
—Lifehouse Tonics & Elixirs, Los Angeles
Bone Broth: Filtered water, roasted bones butchered in-house, organic vegetables, simmered for a minimum of 48 hours and strained
—Blackbelly Market, Boulder, Colo.
- Souper Summer Sipper: Puréed/chilled sea buckthorn + summer gazpacho
- Bone Broth Elixir: Pure carrot juice + reishi mushrooms n-bone broth with collagen
Savory is the New Sour
Sour paved the road for savory, breathing new life into unexpected beverage experiences and modern flavor profiles. Evolved culinary palates of younger generations provide a platform for forward-thinking emerging beverages. Bold flavors can transport the guest experience.
Fizzy Hoppy Tea: Cold-brewed oolong, beer hops and magic
—G&B Coffee, Los Angeles
—True Food Kitchen, based in Phoenix
- Pickled Mango Lassi: Kefir + rose water + wildflower honey + cardamom + pickled mangos + chamoy drizzle
- Gingersnap Iced Coffee: Cold-brew coffee + vanilla cashew milk + buckwheat honey + cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger/clove
Textured Coffee & Tea
A wide array of innovation—on-tap offerings, cheese tea, cold brew, carbonated, nitro-infused, airy frothed or whipped toppings, butter—has been tempting our palates. Consumers have a new interest in the texture complexity of their coffee and tea beverages, especially in fun formats.
Blanco y Negro: Cold-brewed iced coffee, espresso granita, housemade Madagascar vanilla bean ice cream
—Lamill, Los Angeles
Pistachio Rose Latte: Pistachio-butter base, rose water, honey syrup, steamed milk and espresso on top
—Demitasse, Santa Monica, Calif.
- Silky Peanut Mocha: Espresso + peanut milk + dark chocolate + ghee
- Peachy Keen Tea: Premium oolong tea + black jelly + peach juice + bits of fresh peaches