The annual National Restaurant Association (“NRA”) show in Chicago is the premier foodservice conference. With nearly 45,000 attendees and over 2,300 exhibitors, this is a “must attend” event for restaurant operators.
Seeing everything at the NRA show is almost impossible, but specific to beverages, there were a few items that stood out.
Here are our top three observations from 2019’s show.
#1: Drink Delivery
With the ever-growing delivery space, a topic on everyone’s mind is how to keep consumers buying a beverage with their to-go meal (and, how to ensure quality and safety control).
We all know that beverage sales help keep the business growing, but are bottles and cans the only option?
A few large chains have adopted the trend of using beverage bags for fountain drinks. This keeps it closer to fountain margins, while delivering a great product that feels like that it was meant to be that way.
Some observations about beverage bags:
- They don’t sweat for a few hours
- Some options come with a tamperproof seal while smaller options have zip to close
- Storage is easy since they lay flat
- They don’t spill easily like a fountain cup.
“One of the biggest benefits our customers like is the bags allow them to capitalize on high margin beverage sales with an item that uses minimal space since they are stored flat/empty; they are also fully branded which is great brand promotion. They are also becoming very popular with delivery order since it can be inconvenient to order/deliver multiple cups,” said Omar Khalid of RP & Associates
With delivery visits up by 20% in the last 6 years, it may be time to take a second look at how you deliver drinks. After all, you want the food they receive to be fresh – so why wouldn’t you want their drink to be the same?
The tea trend continues to grow, and at this years’ show it was definitely the center of attention. Tea was on display even at some of the larger soft drink company booths.
Tea has great margins, and it pairs well with almost everything. On any given day, over 159 million Americans are drinking tea.
We saw it everywhere at NRA. There are companies with the usual flavors and companies with exotic flavors; there are sugary options, options with less sugar, and then those who claim zero sugar added. No need to have a “one tea fits all” with all of the options.
According to World Tea News, “Convenient ready-to-drink tea earned $10.7 billion in 2018, leading all tea categories in growth in value and volume.”
People are consistently looking for an alternative to a “sugary drink”. They might choose diet soda, but trends are showing that they are leaning to tea.
#3: Craft Beverages
The phrase “craft beverage” is working its way into many companies. The fresh and new option for soda is something we’re seeing not just from the large beverage companies, but also many smaller beverage companies who are now basing their portfolio on “craft” categories.
The flavor options range from the normal cola and root beer flavors to flavors with lavender, orange blossom, cranberry, cucumber, and more.
Our caution: remember that the word “craft” doesn’t mean it’s delicious. Taste it. Test it. Pay attention to the price tag. Don’t be afraid to pull it off the menu if it is not performing.
Some of our clients ask, “Is craft here to stay or is it just a trend?” Our response is, “Does it matter?”.
If you build in the capability to test products and can add or remove a limited amount of products at your choosing, then you have the freedom to play in the craft beverage space without the worry of what is to come.
The interest in craft beverages could be something that sticks around for 50 years, or it could be a limited offering. Either way, you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity at hand if your concept would benefit.
Overall Highlights for Beverages
These were just a few highlights gleaned from the show. Whether it was sustainable straws, organic energy drinks, plant-based milks, sparkling water dispensers, or robots who will make and deliver your craft beverage, it was clear that the beverage industry is in the midst of tremendous innovation. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to build flexibility into your beverage agreement. Before you launch your next beverage RFP, schedule a free consultation and explore how you can strategically leverage these changes to improve your beverage program.
If not before, we’ll see you in Chicago next year at the 2020 NRA show.