Beverages That Fit Today's Consumer

June 16, 2016

When I recently took a trip to the grocery store, I noticed an incredible amount of options for ‘functional’ beverages – beverages that include ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, fruits, vegetables, protein and probiotics, to name a few. Fruit juices and soda were losing shelf space to these trendy, better-for-you beverages and it got me thinking about the consumer.

Consumers want more from their beverages. Drinks no longer simply quench thirst, but should also have other functions.

This includes the vending consumer.

As you’ll read in our State of the Vending Industry report soon to be released, energy drinks grew the most in the vending industry in terms of cold beverages last year in both revenue and unit sales. The second strongest cold beverage category was large non-carbonated drinks including ready-to-drink iced teas, coffees, water and flavored water.

Operators and purchasing personnel, are you offering beverages that fit today’s consumer?

Here is a short list of products that show lots of potential:


Earlier this week, ran a news item that showed that bottled water consumption more than doubled since the turn of the century. “Bottled water already outsells, by volume, carbonated soft drinks in many U.S. cities, and we expect that it will very soon become the most consumed beverage product nationwide,” noted Gary Hemphill, Managing Director of Research, Beverage Marketing Corporation.

Sparkling water as an alternative to soda is a trend that continues to grow. In fact, sparkling water sales in the U.S. grew 16.2 percent to more than $1.4 billion, according to Food Dive and IRI Worldwide. Sparkling water comes in many varieties and flavors, with all the carbonation of soda but without the high levels of sugar. Checkout the Amazon Best Seller list (updated hourly) of sparkling and mineral water for ideas of what to offer. (It’s OK if it sparkles and/or has functional features such as added minerals!)

Energy Drinks

It seems like we’re always on the go, which has helped energy drink sales globally skyrocket. Last year Mintel forecasted strong growth in the U.S. energy drink market, stating that U.S. Millennials increased energy drink consumption from 55 percent to 61 percent from 2014 to 2015. Older Millennials are the core consumers of the U.S. energy drinks/shots market, with 64 percent consuming energy drinks. Not to mention as stated above, energy drinks grew the most in our industry alone last year. It’s a safe bet that offering some type of energy drink would be beneficial. And these products contain multiple functional purposes as well. Recently Living Essentials launched its 5-hour ENERGY® Protein Shot that has 21 grams of protein and comes in many flavors. (Not one flavor fits all consumers!)

RTD Teas, Coffee

This category is full of functional beverage choices. Have you heard of kombucha? It’s a variety of fermented, effervescent sweetened black/green tea drinks that consumers love for its supposed health benefits. It’s available in literally dozens of ready-to-drink (RTD) forms.

RTD tea is an interesting and growing category and one in which some major players are betting. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi reportedly told investors that they expect the company’s bottled tea business to drive sales in the future.

But coffee hasn’t gone by the wayside. Consumers are completely fueling the cold brew and RTD coffee buzz that’s going around. At the NAMA OneShow alone I saw at least a half dozen cold brew/RTD coffee options available in our market and I’m sure I missed some. And companies are being unique about their offerings, too. For example, Stumptown Coffee offers cold brew in 16 ounce cartons…with chocolate milk.

It’s not an easy thing to try new products, but I do encourage you to take a look at retail/c-stores in your area and see which kinds of functional beverage they are offering. It could be worth a shot. 


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