Although consumers order a beverage 70 percent of the time when visiting restaurants and other foodservice outlets, beverage orders have declined 4 percent or 2 billion servings over a five-year period, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Consumers’ changing tastes and cost consciousness are behind declines, finds a new NPD foodservice market research report.

There are more growing beverages at restaurants in the last five years than declining, but the declining beverages, like carbonated soft drinks, are larger in servings volume, according to NPD’s Beverages at Foodservice: Satisfying our Thirst for Beverages report, which examines consumers’ beverage choices, what and where they order, and the importance of variety in driving their decisions. Iced/frozen coffee, specialty coffee, tap water, and bottled water top the list of growing beverages. Diet and regular carbonated soft drinks, milk, and brewed coffee have lost the most servings of the declining beverages.

The growing beverages, like iced and specialty coffee, get a boost from the fact that consumers “love” these beverages and will make a special visit to get them. These beverages are also more likely to be ordered for a snack. Also behind growing beverages, like tap water, is cost consciousness, consumers will forego a purchased beverage and opt for tap water instead, or visit another location in order to get a lower-priced beverage, finds the NPD report.

Declining beverages, like carbonated soft drinks and milk, which account for nearly 50 percent of all beverages ordered at foodservice, have lost 4 billion servings since 2010. Though declining beverages are down overall, they are purchased with the most frequency of all beverage categories—about two-thirds of these beverages are purchased at most or every foodservice visit. These beverages are typically ordered at dinner or lunch.

“Despite recent declines in beverage servings, the fact is that beverages are still an important part of foodservice visits—whether by themselves or as part of a meal,” says Warren Solochek, president of NPD’s Foodservice Practice. “In order to drive beverage orders, foodservice operators will need to understand consumers’ changing tastes and offer an array of quality beverage choices, including healthy options.”

Consumer Trends, News, NPD Group