‘Better-for-you’ Beverages in Demand, Says RFDC Speaker
Drinkable aloe vera waters are part of the next wave of beverages, said George Hiller, of Hiller & Associates, speaking at RFDC.
Two years ago George Hiller talked about the “sugar water revolution” at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference and, speaking this morning at that same event, “nothing has changed,” he said.
“The cola wars, they are alive and well—it’s a thing of beauty,” said Hiller, of Hiller & Associates, sharing his beverage forecast with an audience of restaurant operators constantly looking to maximize drink sales.
Sales of bottled water continue to exceed those of carbonated beverages, and Hiller noted that restrictions on soda sales are gaining steam, such as a new ordinance in Baltimore that restricts restaurants from including sodas and other sugary drinks on kids’ menus.
“Consumers are demanding better-for-you beverages,” said Hiller, and what he termed “non-establishment brands” are crucial for attracting millennial consumers. Drinkable aloe vera water in coconut and strawberry banana flavors are part of the next wave of beverages, already popular in retail and quickly making their way to restaurant menus. The same goes for turmeric-infused beverages.
As for other “what’s hot” items, iced tea and lemonade “are on fire,” Hiller noted, either as the base for specialty drinks or on their own.
The major beverage players aren’t sitting idly by, either. Coca-Cola owns natural beverage company Blue Sky, and recently acquired Costa Limited, Europe’s largest coffee company, while Pepsi has craft soda line Stubborn Soda.
Restaurant operators, Hiller stressed, need to start demanding more from their beverage suppliers and structure their contracts more favorably, such as shorter agreements, 24-36 months, so they can adapt as consumer preferences shift.
“Think of what selling additional beverages can do for your bottom line,” said Hiller.
The Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, presented by the Restaurant Finance Monitor, Franchise Times' sister publication, continues through Wednesday at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.