CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – In an effort to tap evolving consumer tastes and preferences, restaurants are increasingly turning to premium craft soda, QSR Magazine reports.
“Customers are looking for things that seem like specialties — new, innovative options you can’t get everywhere,” said 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.”
The magazine reports that these premium sodas are typically made with cane sugar and other natural ingredients, and they’re resonating among health-conscious consumers, as they’re positioned as a more natural option to traditional sodas.
“Around 90% of restaurants currently have something on their menu categorized as ‘fresh,’ and it still resonates with customers,” Webster said. “The perception is that craft sodas are more exclusive and provide higher-quality experiences.”
Most telling of craft soda’s mainstream emergence is the fact that Starbucks is now experimenting with the product. It has commissioned in-house research and development teams to create recipes for its own proprietary line of sodas, which are being tested at 150 stores in Atlanta and Austin, Texas.
“Starbucks is known for custom beverages — our baristas make a variety of handcrafted, made-to-order coffee and tea drinks every day,” said Linda Mills, a spokeswoman for Starbucks, told the news source. “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.”
As more restaurants tap into craft soda options, the industry implications are clear: Premium beverages are able to affect a restaurant’s overall strategy.
“Craft sodas represent a huge opportunity for quick-serve operators right now, and especially with these customers,” Webster told the news source. “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.”