Diners are looking for lots of options from brand names they already trust.

The world of drink experiences has changed dramatically over the last couple of years—and it’s about to change again. 

Many people were more or less stuck at home for the better part of two years as COVID-19 forced lockdown after lockdown. They started looking for little ways to brighten their lives, from trying out a new exercise program to making really good coffee for themselves.

“To make their situation a bit better during this time at home, one thing people did was to start making high-quality drinks really tailored to their specific tastes,” says Peter Biondi, assistant brand manager for beverages and sweeteners at The J.M. Smucker Co. Away From Home Division. “This really elevated their expectations for coffee and other beverages—and as people venture out again in 2022, those expectations are at an all-time high.”

Total revenue for the foodservice industry is still down from pre-COVID levels, according to the National Restaurant Association, although certain channels are showing promise. It’s clear that consumers have a great deal of pent-up demand for restaurants—the Association found that 51 percent of adults aren’t eating at restaurants as often as they’d prefer, increasing 6 percentage points from before the pandemic. 

So how can operators inspire these consumers to safely leave their homes and change their typical beverage experience? “To set apart a great in-house drink experience from a great at-home experience, operators can serve what consumers can’t reasonably get anywhere else,” Biondi says. “A consumer may not want to buy a whole bottle of pistachio syrup to use at home, for example. But they may be intrigued by an on-trend flavor on the menu.”

This is a new twist on the strong pre-COVID trend of increasing customization. “We already know most people modify their beverages in some way in and out of the home,” Biondi says. “So by giving plenty of options to meet consumers’ tastes and dietary needs, operators can have a better chance of creating a satisfying experience.”

Along similar lines, the resurgence of comfort food over the last two years shows no sign of slowing down. A recent Datassential report found that 54 percent of consumers are seeking comfort in their food choices since the onset of the pandemic. Studies have also shown that, in uncertain times, consumers demonstrate a preference for brands they already trust. “We know that people turn to brands they know and love for some comfort and consistency during uncomfortable and inconsistent times,” Biondi says. “Operators are turning to established brands over private-label generic counterparts to get a leg up on competition.”

Smucker Away From Home, for example, offers sweeteners that carry significant name recognition among consumers: Their brand Sweet’N Low, for example, has been around since 1957. Another line, Sugar In The Raw, is the most well-recognized turbinado sugar brand, according to a 2018 report from Datassential. Variations of this brand, like Sugar In The Raw Organic White, Stevia In The Raw, and Monk Fruit In The Raw, offer customization based on preferences and diet. “Consumers know and trust the quality of our sweetener brands,” Biondi says. “Our operators leverage the power of our brands to create an elevated unique experience for their consumers.”

It’s clear that consumers want trustworthy sweeteners. Global sweetener sales increased in 2021 by more than $2 billion, according to a report from Statista Research Department. And wherever consumers drink beverages, they want to be able to customize them in familiar yet inspired ways.

“In 2022, diners are expecting the elevated experience they had at home, which means premium brands they know and trust, with a variety of options to meet their needs,” Biondi says. “As an operator, you’re trying to make sure your beverages come with options that satisfy your guests and deliver the premium experience they expect.”

To learn more about how restaurant operators can maximize profits from beverage orders in 2022, visit the Smucker Away from Home Sweeteners website.

Sweet’N Low®, Sugar In The Raw®, Sugar In The Raw Organic White®, and Stevia In The Raw® are registered trademarks of CPC Intellectual Property, Inc. used under license. 

By Kara Phelps

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