Better Sodas Bubbling Up!

This is such great news!  I get tired of the same diet soda or iced tea.  Then restaurants started carrying the flavored lemonade.  You get the glass with this sweet syrup at the bottom and you just know it can’t be good for you.

Handcrafted. Natural. Artisan. Signature. These foodie buzzwords may have once described decadent pizzas or burgers featuring grass-fed beef, but they’re increasingly featured on the beverage side of quick-serve menus, too.

Freshness and originality are becoming increasingly important buying factors for today’s restaurant-goers, and operators have begun bolstering their drink programs with premium craft-soda options, which offer customers a more enhanced beverage experience than traditional mass-market picks.

“Customers are looking for things that seem like specialties—new, innovative options you can’t get everywhere,” says Maeve Webster, director at food industry market research firm Datassential. “We’re also seeing consistent demand for offerings that are local, small-batch, rare. Custom-soda programs are helping restaurants address these niche demands, and can be a real differentiator for Millennial buyers, who have endless choices.”

This new breed of craft sodas, which some industry experts believe is an alcohol-free outgrowth of the popular craft-beer movement, has several distinct characteristics. The sodas are made with cane sugar and other natural ingredients and are typically brewed in small, locally sourced batches. Craft soda also has the attention of health-conscious consumers, since they’re positioned as a more natural option to traditional sodas.

“Custom-soda programs can be a real differentiator for Millennial buyers, who have endless choices.”

“Around 90 percent of restaurants currently have something on their menu categorized as ‘fresh,’ and it still resonates with customers,” Webster says. “The perception is that craft sodas are more exclusive and provide higher-quality experiences.”

For restaurants already emphasizing natural ingredients and original experiences, craft-soda programs are a natural fit. Take Live Basil, for example. The fast-casual pizza concept launched in Denver earlier this year with a focus on fresh options, and debuted with a Boylan craft-soda fountain to give customers a more diverse beverage selection. Products from Boylan Bottling Company, a small soda brand that was founded in 1891, are only available in 20 states, and the brand has a passionate grassroots following.

Despite having only been open for a few months, Live Basil has already seen excellent customer response for the Boylan fountain, and executives believe the sodas actively reaffirm the brand’s key messaging.

“Live Basil was conceived to meet the needs of the next generation of restaurant guests, with a focus on fresh, authentic food people can feel good about eating,” says Tom Ryan, Live Basil’s founder and chief concept officer. “Craft sodas really align with that message—they’re a premium offering with robust, natural flavors.”

Beverages are becoming an area of increasing importance for the fast-casual segment, Ryan adds, and should be leveraged as part of a concept’s overall branding efforts.

“Boylan sodas give Live Basil an added dimension. We make sure to mention them in our outreach and marketing materials, since that’s what customers are looking for,” he says. “We feel they give our brand more energy and new panache. I’ve actually sat in stores and watched customers taste each flavor.”

Perhaps most telling of the craft-soda trend’s staying power is the fact that Starbucks is now toying with the product. The coffee giant recently commissioned in-house research and development teams to create original recipes for its own proprietary line of sodas, which are now undergoing pilot testing at 150 stores in Atlanta and Austin, Texas. The sodas come in three retro flavors—a lemon ale, spiced root beer, and ginger ale—and are individually measured, mixed, and carbonated by baristas on the spot.

“Starbucks is known for custom beverages—our baristas make a variety of handcrafted, made-to-order coffee and tea drinks every day,” says Linda Mills, a spokeswoman for Starbucks. “Craft sodas seem like a natural extension for our refreshment platform, which inspired this concept testing. Our sodas are made with natural ingredients and are fairly low-calorie, so they’re something customers can feel good about drinking, too.”

While Mills says it’s still too early to tell when or if the Starbucks soda program will launch company-wide, initial response to the testing has been positive.

“Customers are really enjoying the sodas, and are even experimenting with carbonating some of our core beverages,” she says. “We’re very pleased with feedback to date and look forward to evaluating customer response as the test progresses.”

As more restaurants develop craft-soda options, experts say, the immediate industry implications are clear: Gone are the days when beverages simply play a supporting role at mealtime. Premium beverage options can stand on their own two feet and affect a restaurant’s overall strategy going forward.

“Craft sodas represent a huge opportunity for quick-serve operators right now, and especially with these customers,” Webster says. “You can take a familiar menu item, soda, and offer a heightened experience—yours is fresher, original, more flavorful—and you have something your competitors don’t.”

 

 

Back

What Clients Say About Patrice & Associates

  • Corina was wonderful to work with.

    She was very persistent and even convinced me to take the second interview, after I had accepted another offer. It was well worth it to me. I am very excited to get started in this new position. Brian Willis Corina was wonderful to work with.
  • Corina helped me find a new position in my chosen field.

    The process was efficient, enjoyable and achieved the outcome I was looking for. I'm thankful I was able to work with Corina through this process, and would recommend her to anyone. Brad Stoffel Corina helped me find a new position in my chosen field.
  • Matthew Lopez gave me a top-notch professional customer service experience.

    Not one time through the whole process of getting me on board with a potential work opportunity did he fail to follow up and deliver. When the first company didn't work out, he followed up immediately with another opportunity. In addition, Matt helped me through each step of the process of interviews and on job evaluations. He is persistent, consistent, well spoken, and he really took time out of his day to follow up, coach, motivate, and lead me in the right direction. His work anniversary has just come and he deserves every ounce of success and happiness because I can tell that he loves what he does and he makes sure that he delivers the best customer service experience. Richard Ford   Matthew Lopez gave me a top-notch professional customer service experience.
  • Matt is focused and understanding in what I was looking for and spent time with me and my references to ensure I was able to land something that I was looking for. Damien Coughlin Matt is focused and understanding
  • Milton is an amazing mentor and coach.

    I really can’t thank him enough for his genius care and advice. He gave me confidence by giving me tips and talking points for my interviews and by reminding me to stay true to myself because I have the talent and drive to snag any opportunity that comes my way.

    I am extremely grateful for you Milton! Thank you for believing in me.

    Michael Raney

    Milton is an amazing mentor and coach