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    What’s Shaking with Fast-Food Milkshake Innovation

  • Americans are still loving these rich and creamy treats. Here’s what to expect in 2019.

    Burgerville
    One of Burgerville’s most favored milkshakes in sales during the cooler months and requests during the warmer months when it is not available is the Chocolate Hazelnut Milkshake.

    Despite the growing interest in non-dairy milks—as well as the shift toward healthy and functional foods—rich, creamy, and dairy-full shakes are still doing well, and quick-serve restaurants are experimenting with them now as much as ever.

    Sonic Drive-In, for example, still holds up its hand-mixed Master and Classic shakes on par with the brand’s famous slush and drink stop offerings. The drive-in restaurant with more than 3,600 locations stresses that its shakes are made with real ice cream—from fresh milk and cream for a richer taste. “This rich and creamy base for our shakes and can be added to our slushes to create cream slush treats, giving our frozen drink lineup a distinct edge,” says Scott Uehlein, vice president of product innovation and development.

    Wisconsin-based, 92-unit sandwich chain Cousins Subs has been testing shakes since January 2017. Currently, Cousins customers can grab vanilla and chocolate treats made with Wisconsin-based dairy at seven locations. And Cousins plans to expand the shake test to additional markets like its newest Chicago location soon. The brand has experienced great results, says Justin McCoy, vice president of marketing, with data skewing favorable. “On average, just over 5 percent of guests ordering a sub are ordering a shake in Cousins’ test locations. So, shakes are serving as an alternative to traditional beverages,” he says. “Cousins also has seen guests purchasing shakes outside of its traditional dayparts as a midday dessert or snack.”

    In terms of popular milkshake flavors, real fruit flavors over artificial are trending, says Becky Westby Oregon Fruit Products senior director of sales. She sees concepts moving to present clean ingredients even in their most decadent offerings.

    Cousins Subs

    Cousins Subs has been testing shakes since January 2017.

    This is true of Sonic, for example. In July 2018, the brand launched its Real Fruit Berry Shakes in flavors like Strawberry, Blueberry, and Triple Berry with strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries.

    Regional berries, like the huckleberry, are also expected to be featured more prominently on shake flavor selections. In the summer, 42-unit chain Burgerville offered a Marionberry Milkshake made with Oregon’s state berry, a plump, sweet blackberry-hybrid named after Marion County, Oregon.

    Another popular fruit flavor is apple combined with spices like cinnamon to create a fresh fall spice offering. In fall 2018, Burgerville offered a Apple Spice Milkshake, describing it as “apple pie a la mode in a cup!”

    “Washington’s apples are world-famous, and our shake was released at the peak of harvest season to make the most of the freshest Granny Smiths around,” says Becky McGrath, head chef.

    A&W Restaurants also offered a seasonal Apple Crumble Polar Swirl following a very successful Peach Pie polar swirl and milkshake LTO that tasted very much like peach pie, Westby says.

    And, diverging from the fruit path, one of Burgerville’s most favored milkshakes in sales during the cooler months and requests during the warmer months when it is not available is the Chocolate Hazelnut Milkshake featuring the Oregon state nut, hazelnuts, blended with chocolate for a flavor reminiscent of the candy Ferrero Rocher or Nutella. This seasonal delight is available at Burgerville’s locations until the end of February 2019.