8 Beverage Trends to Watch in 2019

By Helen Griffith

From gourmet lemonades and craft sodas to nitro cold brew coffee and functional teas, this past year offered a range of fresh, exciting beverages. So what can we expect in the year ahead? Going forward, consumer demand for healthier choices, convenience and functional benefits will continue to influence beverage sales.

Looking to ramp up your beverage offerings next year? Here are 8 trends to keep in mind when building your 2019 beverage program.

For many consumers, it’s not enough to drink something to quench their thirst; they want their beverages to offer a health benefit.

1) Function matters. For many consumers, it’s not enough to drink something to quench their thirst; they want their beverages to offer a health benefit. In the ready-to-drink category, Mintel found that consumers seek choices that include antioxidants (47 percent), promote brain health (40 percent), are anti-inflammatory (35 percent) or have added probiotics (30 percent).1  Functional beverages will showcase adaptogenic ingredients such as mushrooms, maca, ashwagandha and kava while superfood ingredients like turmeric, ginger, charcoal, collagen and spirulina will continue to be top inclusions for health-forward consumers.

2) Quality to go. Sales of ready-to-drink beverages remain on a steady upward curve. But fans of those beverages have upped the ante. “We predict the rising segment of consumers who are often on the go, yet want to spend more time at home, will increase demand for upscale, ‘speed scratch’ solutions and restaurant-quality, ready-to-consume products,” says Jenny Zegler, associate director for food and drink at consumer research firm Mintel. 2

Low and no-alcohol cocktails continue to capture the imagination, especially as more mixologists embrace the subcategory

3) Hold the booze, please. Low and no-alcohol cocktails continue to capture the imagination, especially as more mixologists embrace the subcategory. Technomic’s most recent Beverage Consumer Trend Report found that 23 percent of consumers consider a restaurant’s nonalcoholic drink options “very important,” up from 18 percent two years ago.3 Younger audiences have been drawn to mocktails, especially when they are expertly crafted and made with fresh ingredients.

4) Sweet on sour tastes. Tart, tangy beverages are winning over more fans. Fermented beverages like kombucha and kefir are rising in popularity; sour beers such as goses and wild ales are turning up on more menus; vinegar is turning up in unexpected places; and pickle juice is adding an extra kick to typically sweet drinks.

According to Technomic, orders for cold and iced coffee are trending up, especially at full-service restaurants

5) Cold coffee: still hot. According to Technomic, orders for cold and iced coffee are trending up, especially at full-service restaurants. It’s the second-most-consumed coffee or tea variety, after hot coffee.3 Since making cold brew coffee from scratch can be labor intensive, many operators are opting for pre-made concentrates and draft systems that provide consistent quality, 100% yield and zero waste. Consider offering nitro cold brew, which is simply cold brew coffee pumped through a special device that infuses it with pure nitrogen—or a combination of nitrogen and CO2—resulting in a creamier, foam-topped cold brew.

6) Sparkle without the sugar. Sales of sparkling water are on the rise, fueled by soda lovers who want to avoid high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners. Restaurants can capture that demand by menuing signature flavored bubbly water guests will be happy to pay more for—whether you make them in-house with fresh fruit, botanicals and herbs, or dress up on-trend RTD beverages like La Croix or Spindrift.

The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino was an extreme example, but social media mavens still love to share visually striking drinks on Instagram and other image-driven social media platforms.

7) Picture-perfect sells. The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino was an extreme example, but social media mavens still love to share visually striking drinks on Instagram and other image-driven social media platforms. Use of colorful garnishes and ingredients, innovative glassware and imaginative/seasonal recipes all help make a drink special enough to share—and the exposure can be priceless.

8) Share the story behind the cup. Sustainability and traceability will become more important to many coffee drinkers who are not only willing to pay more, but also willing to go out of their way for a better-quality cup of coffee. These consumers feel good about their purchase because they believe it helps support the farmers and the community where the coffee is sourced.

Beverages are playing a huge role in people’s lifestyles—from healthy elixirs to on-the-go meal replacements. There’s never been a better time to start taking advantage of these beverage trends and capturing more beverage sales.

1 Mintel, “Functional benefits top off attributes US consumers look for in ready-to-drink cold coffee,” Sep. 25, 2018

2 Mintel, “Mintel announces three global food and drink trends for 2019,” Nov. 14, 2018

3 Wirth, Sara Rush, Driving Drink Sales, Restaurant Business Online, Nov. 15, 2018