Trends in non-alcoholic beverages

By John Noble Masi
March 21, 2022

Childhood memories

What are your favorite beverages you remember drinking growing up? 

My favorite memories of different beverages I drank growing up centered on my summer camp experience. I remember having milk drinking contests at almost every meal. I remember that the alternative at camp to drinking milk was fruit punch, which we all affectionately called “bug juice” because it was so sweet that it attracted the bugs! I remember that after camp, while in culinary school, I moved from one culinary job to another because the price of Diet Coke was less at the new place.  I remember while working that new culinary job, while out at a restaurant, that I asked for English Breakfast tea, only to be served Earl Grey….and the ensuing argument that arose with my server about what I wanted. My beverage likes at that time were shaped by my culture, the product availability, and the location where I was raised.

Those early examples of what I drank while growing up are not what I consume now. My drinking habits have evolved over time. I find myself drinking a short list of delicious beverages that were not even available to me while growing up.

The non-alcoholic beverage business has changed significantly over the past several years. Here, at Florida International University (FIU), we have long been the leaders in beer and wine education. Our Bacardi partnership has driven our education program in spirits.

Just this year, we had our inaugural class in Coffee, Tea, and Non-alcoholic beverages. Our students learned so much in that class. I will share key takeaways from that class in three areas of the non-alcoholic beverage business. I will share the changes we have seen in recent years and where things might be headed in the future for these key non-alcoholic beverage categories: water, coffee, and tea.

Water

Let’s start our discussion with water. Americans consume on average about 8 cups of water a day which make it the most widely consumed beverage in the United States. Various studies have estimated that our current consumption is about 50% of plain water from the tap and the balance from bottled water. In 2020, bottled water consumption grew by 4.2%. This growth has been consistent from 1977 to 2020, growing each year except for the two recession years in 2008/2009. Portability, affordability, and the healthy aspects of water have driven this growth. 

Now we are starting to experience more significant growth in the sparkling and flavored sparkling waters. That growth has seen double digit increases the past several years. We can look for this to continue moving forward as well as the growth of other enhancements and additions to water, like fresh lemon and other juices, caffeine, electrolytes, hydrogen, as well as a focus on alkaline water. 

Coffee

Outside of water and carbonated soft drinks, Americans consume coffee more than any other beverage. While water represents just under 24% of beverages consumed in the United States, coffee represents just under 11% of that consumption. Most coffee consumed in the United States is drank at breakfast time with almost half of U.S. adults having a cup at that time. As you might imagine, more coffee is consumed in the colder Northeast areas of the United States versus the South. Age and gender also play a role in coffee consumption, as adults aged 60 and older consume more than their younger counterparts. Women also spend 20% more than their male counterparts for coffee when they purchase it outside the home.

Trends in coffee consumption are numerous. The pandemic has driven more experimentation with both flavors and types of coffee, as well as with coffee brewing equipment. Over 40% of Americans have bought coffees that they had not previously tried this past year.  We are seeing international influences from Vietnamese coffees that are decadent with the addition of sweetened condensed milk. The area of cold brew coffee has been booming for several years now with its perception of being healthier and having less harsh of a taste. We are also seeing nitrogen infused coffees that give the coffee a creamy head, like what you would see on a beer. Artisanal roasts, organic, fair-trade certification, and single origin coffees are all adding premium offerings to enhance our current selections.

Tea

While tea consumption per capita in the United States is less than water, coffee, and carbonated soft drinks, its consumption has grown more broadly these past couple years. The data reflects that 23% of people in the U.S. drink tea daily, which is less than half of the estimated 64% that drink coffee daily. We consume tea differently in the U.S. than the rest of the world. Hot tea only represents 15-20% of the tea consumed at home. Americans purchase more tea away from home than many other countries driven more by iced tea and ready to drink teas. The recent pandemic resulted in Ready To Drink or RTD tea consumption dropping by 11%. Americans also consume more black tea than green, white, oolong, or herbal teas by a significant margin.

Tea consumption trends are typically focused on the health and well-being benefits of its consumption. We are seeing greater growth in green tea consumption which has outpaced other varieties growing 60% since 2004. We have seen teas used as the base for the fermented kombuchas promoting immunity and other functional health benefits via the addition of superfoods like turmeric, ginger, and goji berries. There has also been growth in ready to drink sparkling teas. More recently, we have seen significant growth in the Asian bubble teas which offer unique flavors and customization of cold brewed packaged teas which fit nicely with current U.S. tea consumption habits.

Wrapping it all up

There has been a significant change in what we consume as beverages and how we consume them over the past several years. Historically, we have consumed a lot of carbonated soft drinks estimated to be at a peak of 53 gallons per person in 2000. Since that time, US consumers consumption of these beverages have decreased by more than 25%, trading out the sugar-laden sodas for the healthier bottled waters, teas, and coffees. This trend will continue as we see more focus on the above beverages as well as healthier natural energy drinks, non-dairy milks, and other beverages that focus on improving one’s health.

Our beverage consumption habits have changed considerably over the years, as have my own. I am not sure how I would do in a milk drinking contest these days, but perhaps that is for the best. A nice espresso or a freshly brewed whole leaf Sencha green tea is a how I start my mornings these days. I think that is a much better way to start the day!

Please join in on our discussion. What are your favorite non-alcoholic beverages? What are you seeing as the next trends in this area? 

 


References

Coffee Consumption Statistics: 2021. (2022, March 1). https://urbanbeancoffee.com/coffee/usa-coffee-statistics/

Rodwan, J. G. (2020). BOTTLED WATER 2020: CONTINUED UPWARD MOVEMENT U.S. and International Developments and Statistics.

Says, M. (2021, February 11). 32 Tempting Tea Statistics for a Healthier 2021. https://comfyliving.net/tea-statistics/ 

Topic: Tea market in the United States. Statista. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/topics/1513/tea-market/