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US: 2011 Top 10 Beverage Trends

The Food Channel, in conjunction with CultureWaves, the International Food Futurists, and Mintel International, released its 2011 “Top Ten Beverage Trends” identifying the most significant beverage trends for 2011 in the American market, from adding flavours to water, to new adult beverages, to drinking for enhanced nutritional benefits.

1.DIY flavour: Flavoured waters have proliferated on grocery shelves in recent years, and now consumers are taking flavour matters into their own hands by adding a touch of floral or citrus to H2O and eliminating some sugar to create refreshing and light beverages like watermelon-infused or basil-mint drinks using fresh produce. Powdered and liquid flavour enhancers also are trending, and new takes on coffee creamers using new flavours like honey-vanilla crème and white chocolate caramel latte are gaining popularity.

2. Parental Discretion Advised. Bowing to pressure from parents (and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver), the Los Angeles school district banned chocolate and strawberry milk from cafeterias, and restaurant chains are offering more healthy kid drink options, such as 1% milk and fruit juices instead of soda. On the flip side, 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. For adults, new alcoholic drinks incorporating chocolate are making inroads.

3. Iced Coffee Is Scalding Hot. Consumption of this cold caffeinated beverage in restaurants has heated up 20% percent in the last five years. Premium beans and advances in cold brewing technology have upped the flavour quality and fueled the trend — iced, frozen and slushie coffee drinks are available everywhere from Starbucks to McDonald’s to the local java joint.

4. For Medicinal Purposes Only. Health-related beverages are booming as more people jump on the wellness wagon. Enhanced waters, fortified waters and energy drinks continue to thrive to varying demographics. On the sweetener side, the “sugar reshuffle” is gaining ground with consumers choosing drinks sweetened with pure cane sugar, stevia and agave nectar.

5. Sipping Seasonally and Simply. Eating locally and seasonally is taking root in the beverage side. Bartenders are pouring refreshing cocktails made with fresh, locally grown fruit, or ripe and healthy vegetables. 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. Uncomplicated cocktails made with a minimum number of ingredients are bringing back the basics.

6. Fast Food Beyond the Fizz. While fountain drinks will probably always be king in the QSR category, specialty drinks are 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. Some QSRs are experimenting with alcoholic beverages, adding beer and wine to the menu in select locations.

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.

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 20- and 30-something crowd. So much so that Kentucky distilleries, where 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is produced, are scrambling to keep up. It’s the biggest bourbon boom since Prohibition.

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 fruit pureés. 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.

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, 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.

Source: The Food Channel: Top Ten Beverage Trends 2011

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