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Top Ten Beverage Trends 2011

The Food Channel® presents its Top Ten Beverage Trends for 2011. The list is based on research conducted by The Food Channel in conjunction with CultureWaves®, the International Food Futurists® and Mintel International.

Our Food Channel readers also weighed in, responding to our Beverage Survey. You can view the results here.


1.  D.I.Y. Flavor. Flavored waters have proliferated on grocery shelves in recent years, and now many of us are taking flavor matters into our own hands. We’re adding a touch of floral or citrus to H2O and (mostly) leaving out the sugar—creating refreshing and light beverages such as watermelon-infused or basil-mint drinks using garden-fresh produce. We’re  adding powdered and liquid flavor enhancers, such as Crystal Light powders and Kraft's new MiO liquid. We’re also expanding our coffee palate, using creamers in new flavors like honey-vanilla crème and white chocolate caramel latte (from Nestle Coffee-Mate). The customization craze even extends to vending, where new Coke machines let us hem and haw over a choice of 125 flavor variations. 

For evidence, read:

Making Your Own Low-Cal Flavored Waters

Kraft Hopes to Make a Splash with New MiO

Coke Celebrates 125 Years with 125 Flavors

Recipe evidence:

Watermelon-Infused Water

 

2.  Parental Discretion Advised. We’re still seeing lots of buzz around beverages and kids. Bowing to pressure from parents (and Jamie Oliver), the L.A. school district has banned chocolate and strawberry milk from the cafeteria, and restaurant chains are striving to offer more healthy kid drink options such as 1% milk and fruit juices instead of soda. On the other side of the coin, there are new fun things for kids like Magic Milk Straws that turn plain milk into a chocolate or strawberry treat without adding a lot of calories and sugar. Speaking of buzz…for adults who never outgrew their love of chocolate milk and are looking for something with a kick, there’s new Adult Chocolate Milk, a 40-proof, vodka-spiked beverage that aims to mimic the taste of your favorite elementary school beverage. Gives new meaning to the term "chocoholic."

For evidence, read:

Lots of Buzz Around Chocolate Milk

LA School District Bans Flavored Milk

Olive Garden Makes Healthy Changes to Kids' Menu

 

3.  Iced Coffee Is Scalding Hot. Consumption of this cold caffeinated beverage in restaurants has heated up to the tune of a 20 percent gain in the last five years. Premium beans and advances in cold brewing technology have upped the flavor quality and fueled the trend—iced, frozen, and slushie coffee drinks are available everywhere from Starbucks to McDonald’s to the local java joint. Now the trend is coming home with the introduction of new single-cup home brewing systems and special blends. Starbucks just launchied its Via Iced Coffee Blend, now in supermarkets nationwide. We’re even starting to see cold-brewed “Joe” in bottles.  

For evidence, read:

Iced Coffee a Hot Commodity

Coffee Drinkers Warm Up to Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee Gets Its Day in the Sun

Recipe evidence:

Iced Coffee Caramelatte

 

4.  For Medicinal Purposes Only. There’s so much going on in the category of health-related beverages, we could probably do a whole top ten list on that alone. We could start with enhanced waters that continue to flood the market, offering choices with added vitamins and targeted nutrition. We’re seeing fortified waters that make claims for anti-​ageing, bone health, cardiovascular health, diabetes, digestion, cognition and mood. In the “energy” category, you can choose a shot that keeps you going for five hours, or one of the new anti-energy drinks that make you mellow and relaxed. Then there’s the “sugar reshuffle” that finds some people switching back to drinks sweetened with pure cane sugar, while others opt for the natural zero-calorie plant-based sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar, both now commonly found in low-calorie drinks like Oogavé. There’s certainly no shortage of ways to “drink to your health.” 

For evidence, read:

Sisters Team Up to Offer Teas that Comfort

Hydrive Launches Decaf Energy Drink

Stress-Busting Drinks Take Off

Sleep in a Can

New Truvia-Sweetened Drinks Hit the Market

Health Watch: Neuro Drinks

Restaurants Putting Dietitians on Staff

 

5.  Sipping Seasonally and Simply. In much the same way we’re eating local and choosing foods when they’re in season, we’re making a more conscious effort to drink that way, too. Bartenders pour refreshing summer cocktails made with fresh, locally grown fruit, or ripe and healthy vegetables—and we’re not just talking garnishes anymore. It’s Market Fresh Mixology—to borrow the title of a recently published beverage recipe collection in bookstores now. Seasonal beers are bigger than ever now, too, as are the so-called “session beers,” defined as so drinkable and light, you could quaff them for a good long session. Beer cocktails have become fashionable on both coasts. We’re also finding a return to uncomplicated cocktails made with a minimum number of ingredients, none of them obscure. Back to the land, back to basics. 

For evidence, read:

Summer Cocktails Made Simpler

Beer Cocktails Making It Big

Trendwatch: It's a Bloody Revolution

Trend Watch: Even the Hotel Mini-Bar Is Going Local

Recipe evidence:

Market Fresh Caipirinha Cocktail 

 

6.  Fast Food Beyond the Fizz. While fountain drinks will probably always be king in the quick-service restaurant category, there are changes happening here, too, with specialty drinks getting as much play as burgers and fries. McDonald’s touts its new frozen strawberry lemonade while Steak’n’Shake and Sonic shout about their “happy hour” deals on milkshakes and frozen drinks, available during the mid-afternoon snack period. Sonic and Burger King are even experimenting with alcoholic beverages, adding beer and wine to the menu in select locations. Will McDonald’s soon be offering a Big Mac & Beer combo? It could happen. 

For evidence, read:

Burgers & Fries & Booze

McDonald's Frozen Strawberry Lemonade Boosts Profits

Steak 'n Shake Happy Hour

 

7.  Craft Beers: The Buzz Is Back. While overall beer sales are flat these days, sales of craft brews are seeing double-digit increases. New breweries and new craft beer festivals are bubbling up around the country. Even a wine-oriented metropolis like Los Angeles is becoming a beer-brewing town, with several new small batch breweries opening up this year. Some 600 craft breweries are expected to open nationwide within the next year. Home brewed beer is enjoying a resurgence as well. Sales of home brewing equipment are up—way up. With unemployment still high, it seems more people have extra time on their hands and are taking up the hobby of brewing beer in the basement. 

For evidence, read:

Craft Brewing Boom Reaches L.A.

2 Live Brews - New Local Beer Makers

Need a Six-Pack? Hit the Basement

 

8.  Bourbon Booming. The retro revival of the classic cocktail, perhaps inspired at least in part by the popular period TV series Mad Men, has hip young consumers bellying up to the bar for whiskey—specifically bourbon whiskey. Small batch premium and super premium bourbons are super trendy among the twenty- and thirty-something crowd, not just in the U.S., but around the world. So much so that Kentucky distilleries, where 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is produced, are scrambling to keep up. Expansion efforts are underway with an estimated $150 million spend on new construction. It’s the biggest bourbon boom since Prohibition, and quite a turnaround for a liquor that was largely disrespected in recent times. 

For evidence, read:

Kentucky Distilleries Expand Amid Bourbon Boom

Jack Daniels Launches Tennessee Honey

Wild Turkey Ad Says "Give 'em the Bird"

Recipe evidence:

Classic Manhattan

 

9.  Show Biz. While the food generally takes center stage in restaurant exhibitionism, beverages are being offered more starring roles. The American Bounty restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., does tableside prep with fresh-squeezed lemonade in summer, blending in a guest’s choice of pureés such as white peach, blackberry or strawberry. A similar offering is made with apple cider in autumn. On the other end of the “dinner theater” spectrum is the kitschy tiki trend with its retro Polynesian-style drinks loaded with fruit juice and rum, garnished with flowers and those cute little umbrellas—the difference is today you’re more likely to encounter fresh, locally-grown fruit than during the 70’s heyday of Trader Vic. Fancy glassware has a role in this trend, too, with vessels like the hand-blown gallone and lovely drinkware fashioned from recycled glass helping drinks to look their best.

For evidence, read:

A Glassy Kind of Girl

Red Hot Food Trends: Cheeky Tiki

Recipe evidence:

Singapore Sling

 

10.  Drinking Ourselves Thin: Many consumers, especially women, want to enjoy all of the above without drinking in extra calories. Syrup providers and beverage developers are responding with no- or low-cal versions of bestselling drinks, from Applebee’s Skinnybee Mojitos” to the “Northern Lites” coffee drinks at Caribou Coffee and “38 Smoothies Under 300 Calories” at Smoothie King. For the craft-minded mixologists who want to avoid bottled syrups or sugar substitutes, better sweeteners, like agave, honey and maple help add sweetness from more natural sources. In retail, light beers have reached record-low calorie counts and low-cal mixers are crowding shelves.

For evidence, read:

Former "Housewife" Bethenny Frankel Sparks Skinny Cocktail Trend

Skinny Cocktails Become Summer Craze

More Cocktails Get Skinny. How Low Can You Go?

Low Calorie Liquor Drinks

When Does a Beverage Become a Healthy Snack?

Morton's Spa-Tinis Aimed at Health-Conscious Tipplers

 

We're Also Keeping an Eye On...

  • Other flavors to watch include pisco (from South America), green apple, and honey. Also, fruit and mint combinations.
  • Soy-based beverages, including lattes
  • New coffee-making equipment such as burr grinders
  • Mid-calorie soft drinks, like the upcoming Pepsi Next
  • Kitschy new flavored liquors: rose, root beer and bubble gum