Beverage TrendThe latest thing in the beverage world is bubbles. Sure, carbonated beverages have been popular for decades, but the latest versions add fizz in new formulations and are positioned to capture new dayparts, like breakfast and afternoon pick-me-up snacking.

A July 5, 2012 article in USA Today reported how some chains are promoting traditional soft drink sales for morning consumption. Mintel’s Menu Insights‘ LTO Tracker shows that other chains have crafted carbonated juice, tea and coffee concoctions and have debuted these beverages just in time for an early summer heat wave. While Starbucks’ new Refreshers, described as low-calorie, sparkling fruit drinks combined with green coffee extract, are garnering a lot of attention, other breakfast-centric chains are also offering up some morning bubbles.

  • Caribou Coffee recently launched drinks including “sparkling” carbonated teas and juices in Berry Black Tea, Mint Lime White Tea and Very Berry Juice are limited-time offers (LTOs) available through the summer.
  • Honey Dew Donuts is adding zip to smoothies with Red Bull Energy Drink, available in Strawberry and Lemonade flavors.
  • Taco Bell is carbonating mornings with The MTN Dew A.M., which blends Mountain Dew and orange juice and is available at restaurants until 11 a.m.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts is testing a Fruit Juice Sparkler Beverage Line with mixed berry and tropical fruit options sweetened and topped with real fruit. Also in test is a lightly sweetened raspberry sparkling water.

Hand-crafted carbonated beverage trend also gaining momentum

For anytime refreshment, hand-crafted carbonated beverages are also popping up more and more, including spiked varieties.

  • At health-minded 5-unit True Food Kitchen, (of which P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. has acquired a 51% majority interest), a “natural refreshment” beverage menu includes an Apple-Carrot-Ginger tonic and an Elixir of Sea Buckthorn (a nutritious berry), agave nectar and soda, among other grown-up, non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Seasons 52 Strawberry Kir Royal Cocktail mixes strawberry-infused organic vodka organic agave nectar and gets a splash of sparkle from Prosecco.
  • 99 Restaurants’ Malibu Vacation blends Malibu Rum, Midori and Absolut Vodka with Sierra Mist and pineapple.
  • At cocktail mecca Harry Denton’s Starlight Room in San Francisco, a classic Negroni, is refreshed when the gin, sweet vermouth and Campari is finished with a blast from a handheld beverage carbonator.

These examples prove that, for operators and beverage suppliers, it’s easy to jump on the bubble bandwagon. Think beyond the usual carbonated flavors and add some sparkle to green tea, natural juice blends and even smoothies. Adding seltzer, ginger ale or lemon-lime soda to fruit juice or lemonade is an easy way to refresh a beverage list, and letting kids mix and match fruit soda flavors creates some interactive fun. For cocktails, carbonation can help support the “skinny” trend: finishing mixed drinks with seltzer or diet soda adds volume and calorie-free fun.

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