beverage trends

Cheers to this year’s top beverage trends

Spring has officially arrived, so let’s celebrate with this year’s top beverage trends! While some of the popular choices from last year continue to dominate diner demand, 2024 offers a few new directions for restaurateurs looking to broaden their beverage menus to get creative and build a buzz.

Alcoholic beverages make up about 21 per cent of average restaurant sales, and non-alcoholic sales have been on the rise, predicted to grow 8.4 per cent in Canada this year. So, paying attention to the trends can raise the bar on your beverage menu while building your bottom line.

A nod to non-alcoholic

Mocktails have continued to gain popularity in recent years, with 49 per cent of consumers interested in low-alcohol cocktails. Whether the demand comes from the desire to live healthier, decrease alcohol consumption, or simply try something new, guests are craving everything from sparkling teas to non-alcoholic beer to alcohol-free versions of their favourite cocktails.

RELATED: Why non-alcoholic beverages are a must for your menu

Health and wellness

Consumers are looking for healthy options to lean into wellness while still treating themselves. Mushroom drinks with adaptogens as coffee alternatives, probiotic inclusions, and cleaner versions of energy drinks top the list, but there is also a demand for CBD-infused cocktails as a way to reduce stress and increase relaxation. Part of this trend has consumers looking for pure ingredients, natural sweeteners, and limited artificial colours and flavours.

Part of the wellness trend also includes the rise of ‘functional beverages.’ Gaining traction in the last few years, consumers are increasingly looking for beverages containing health benefits as part of their health and wellness journey. Fermented drinks like kombucha, kvass, and tepache could be great additions to restaurant menus for consumers looking for health benefits beyond hydration from their favourite beverages.

Looking abroad

Cocktails will be going global with Latin and Asian influences this year. Latin influences are prevalent on beverage menus, from mezcal to falernum to the classic margarita. Asian flavours are also making their mark, with Japanese whisky, Shochu, and Soju popping up on restaurant drink menus.

This trend is more than simply adding an ethnic ingredient to an existing dish. As Claire Lancaster, head of food and drink at WGSN explains, “This new generation of chefs is creating products that reflect their unique, multi-layered cultural identities.”

Spotlighting sustainability

With 69 per cent of consumers confirming that sustainability is more important to them that it was last year, they are looking for environmental commitments from restaurant menus. This means using real ingredients, processing to limit environmental impact, and providing sustainable packaging for pre-packaged beverages. This is a developing trend, with consumer interest increasing for options like upcycled spirits and zero-waste bar programs.

As part of leaning into nature, experts predict that blue drinks will be all the rage, and flowers and floral flavours like rose, lavender, and violet will influence drink and food menus throughout the year.

New experiences

Diners are looking for elevated experiences from restaurants, and beverages are also part of that trend. Whether it’s smoke, over-the-top garnishes, colour-changing options, or flower infusion, guests are looking to wow the senses with their drinks of choice this season. Culinary integration is also part of this trend, with striking combinations like ice cream with fizzy drinks and integrating culinary flavour profiles into beverages to up the sensory experience.

Looking back

28 per cent of customers look for flavours that remind them of their childhood, and the demand for flavours from yesteryear was a 2023 trend that’s continuing into this year. Rainbow sherbet, rocket pop, and s’mores flavours continue to be popular, with milkshakes also making a comeback on menus in 2024.

As patio season approaches and beverage orders tend to rise, operators need to keep these trends in mind to appeal to diner demand, get people talking about the menu, and increase those guest cheque totals.