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NATIONAL REPORT — Keeping track of hundreds of beverage flavors and their popularity levels is a challenge, but by following "the flavor curve," foodservice operators can offer their customers the best options, according to the latest webinar hosted by The Coca-Cola Co.'s CokeSolutions Monthly Marketing Insight Series.
Presenters for the June 9 webinar, titled "Key Flavor Themes and Trends in Beverages," included Food IQ's Lucy Howell, Melissa Gelner and Chef Cristi Shipley. Food IQ's proprietary flavor curve tool combines analysis of market evidence with updated consumer behavior to determine creative culinary observation.
The flavor curve tracks flavors through the foodservice lifecycle and involves three steps:
1. Emerging flavors — These flavors are ready for trial, but "too far out for wide acceptance by consumers," and are usually chef-driven, according to Shipley. They are most commonly found in the fine-dining sector.
2. Becoming popular — They are not yet mainstream, but these flavors are recognizably gaining acceptance and represent a sweet spot for opportunity. They are frequently found in casual-dining and fast-casual establishments.
3. Mainstream — These everyday flavors have traveled the curve and are well known to most consumers in most segments. They appear in heavier numbers at quick-service restaurant chains and retail grocery.
The webinar presenters examined three standout flavor curve themes of 2015 in closer detail.
"Trendy Teas" are popular as tea grows across all segments on the foodservice industry. It is also heavily represented across the flavor curve, with the top flavors including various fruits. "[Consumers] like the concept of fruit juice and tea blended together," Howell said. Consumers also expect to be able to find these teas in retail stores, casual dining and fine dining.
"Handmade Nation" beverages include a variety of handcrafted, craft and restaurant specialty or house-made beverages, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic. Examples include real/fresh fruit smoothies, fresh-squeezed/pressed juices, coffee "made for me," and craft beers and sodas. While these beverages can be found in convenience stores, consumers also expect to see them in casual dining, bar and grill restaurants, and fine dining.
"Subtly Savory" beverages feature non-sweet flavors, with the most popular being flavored water, cold-pressed juice, organic ingredients in beverages, green smoothies/juice and herbs in beverages. This flavor theme is most commonly seen at full-service restaurants.
Other top flavor curve themes for this year are:
- Specialty Citrus
- Bountiful Botanicals
- Return to Classics
- Better-for-You Beverages
Food IQ's flavor curve is updated quarterly to reflect constant changes in the marketplace, according to the speakers. The tool is continuously available to foodservice operators through their Coca-Cola team.