The 10 Beverage Trends to Watch in 2020

Homemade blackberry lemonade

From brain-enhancing energy drinks to next-level frozen options, beverages are getting a new level of flavor, technique and even science as consumers grow savvier and operators get more creative. In collaboration with Nation’s Restaurant News, we’ve identified 10 trends that are quenching consumers’ thirst from a survey of more than 400 restaurant operators across the nation. Here’s a sampling of the top three, with a link below to download the complete report.

1. Nitrogenation nation

Beautiful texture and layers of Nitro Cold Coffee served in a dubble wall glass close up.

If 2018 was the year of cold brew, 2019 was the year of nitro. Beloved for its smooth, creamy mouthfeel (similar to that of a stout beer), nitro cold brew is made from dissolving nitrogen into cold coffee. This coffee chemistry was loud and proud this past year, making its way from indie shops to big chains and even 7-Eleven. Nitro’s moment is far from over. As cold brew continues to satisfy caffeine cravings everywhere, expect to see it appear in new and surprising formats. Be on the lookout for other cold beverages getting the nitrogen treatment in 2020, such as tea, lemonade and aguas frescas.

2. Sustainably yours

Coffee Beans

About 20% of the operators we surveyed said sustainability issues factor into their decisions about what to serve; almost 40% said they recognize sustainability is a growing trend. This focus comes directly from the demands of customers. American roasters are shifting towards beans sourced directly from farmers or farming collectives, so they can proudly tell their customers the values that their cup of joe represents. As we move into the future, responsibly sourced beans will be just the beginning. Operators are already finding ways to reuse everything from avocado pits to exhausted cocktail garnishes, a trend we expect will only gain steam.

3. Sparkle and shine

Sparkling water with raspberries and blueberries

2019 was the year of sparkling water, particularly the kind that comes with a buzz. Non-alcoholic sparkling beverages are also evolving. According to Datassential, “craft soda” appeared on 211% more menus in 2019 than in 2015. Operators are making low-sugar, low-calorie sparkling drinks from natural ingredients and extracts to satisfy customer cravings for better-for-you beverages that contain a carbonated kick. The fixation on sparkling drinks hasn’t fizzled out though. Our survey indicates that this year, customers will look for new ways to add a kick to their caffeinated libations in the form of sparkling tea—identified by 20% of operators as an emerging trend for 2020.

Other trends we’re seeing include the use of brain-enhancing nootropics in energy drinks and the growth of the “value-added water” category. Immersing yourself in these beverage trends can help you add excitement, and margins, to your menu. Learn more by downloading the full Future of Beverages: 2020 Trend Forecast report.