Non-alcoholic drinks: Top trends for 2014

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Soft drinks Soft drink Caffeine Coffee

Liquid assets: Consumers are becoming more and more discerning when it comes to buying non-alcoholic drinks
Liquid assets: Consumers are becoming more and more discerning when it comes to buying non-alcoholic drinks
The second instalment of our special feature serves up some fresh insight and intelligence with 10 top trends in the vital non-alcoholic drinks arena. 

As the first part of this feature concluded, raised standards in high-street coffee shops have pushed restaurants, pubs and hotels to focus on their drinks offering - serving high-quality coffee prepared by properly trained staff is fast-becoming a necessity for a successful F&B offering. 

But operators need to 'wake up and smell the coffee' in other areas too. There is no better time to push drinks without alcohol - beer duty, changing drinking habits and the growth of brands and retail outlets focusing on premium hot beverages and soft drinks have all had an impact on the hospitality industry. 

So, take five and catch up with the key trends in non-alcoholic drinks with BigHospitality's round-up of some of the latest developments - from energy drinks to in-house smoothies, we've got it all covered.

Provenance prevails 

People are becoming more and more discerning when it comes to the ethical decisions they make as consumers when buying drinks.

So says Ian Macdonald, Nespresso's B2B commercial manager for the UK and Ireland. "In the light of recent scandals in the food industry, consumers are extremely aware of the provenance of what they consume and this is as important for coffee as it is for meat, fish and other products,” says Macdonald.

Tolley from Harris & Hoole agrees. “Consumers also want to know much more about where their coffee comes from," he says. "Provenance impacts quality as well as ethics. By identifying farms and coffee producers, we hope to introduce our customers to the people behind the beans; to extend the relationship beyond the cup to the farm itself. 

"This relationship is important, as it helps to remind both the customer and the barista of the awesome responsibility we have to the farmers who’ve invested so much in the quality of our coffee.  And this is particularly important for those consumers who are becoming more aware of their responsibilities in buying ethical products."


“There is a huge global trend moving towards quality and craft," explains Andrew Tolley, the co-founder of coffee shop chain Harris & Hoole. "We see it in beer, wine, whiskey, cheese, bread and even burgers. Coffee is the same but consumers are currently only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

"For example, the climates in which coffee beans are developed, and the beans’ origins, are two of the main characteristics that affect a coffee’s taste, but this isn’t yet widely known by customers. Give us 10 years and we will have consumers as educated about coffee as they are about wine."

Soft selling

The soft drinks market has really taken off over the past five to 10 years, but according to Mintel research a striking 41 per cent of consumers who have bought soft drinks in the on-trade currently consider their quality as poor, and only one in three users are satisfied with the range available.

Gabriel David - head of Luscombe Drinks - believes restaurants often don’t appreciate how much it could mean to their business if they started offering more soft drinks.

“If 10 per cent of the population don’t drink alcohol for health reasons and many other people don’t want to drink it at lunch time, restaurants are certainly missing a trick if they’re not offering something non-alcoholic to go with a meal," says David.

David - who's soft drinks business has released its own set of tasting notes for its entire range of fruit-based beverages, with food matching ideas for each – believes the concept of marrying food and soft drinks is overlooked by operators who choose to stick with stocking the lower GP, more mainstream brands.  

“When you think of soft drinks, the first thing you will think about is probably Coca-Cola and you might think about a J2O. Nobody in their right mind is going to offer either of those as a food matching proposition.

“It is possible to match soft drinks with food, but you’ve got to put in quite a lot of effort trying to convince people of that in the first place. You can’t just match any old soft drink with a dish, but you could match the more premium soft drinks."

Feeling energised?

Energy drinks served on their own, and not just as a mix, are gaining popularity in pubs and bars. Recent figures from CGA  Strategy highlight the fact that, while total soft drink sales in pubs and bars are down by 1.1 per cent, total energy drink sales are in fact up, by 1.6 per cent.

Monster Energy's commercial brand manager Mike Swingwood says that pub and bar operators should take advantage of this growing consumer trend for standalone energy drinks to maximise sales.

"As well as standard and popular drinks offerings, operators should look to the versatility and different flavours that a product like Monster can offer to customers," says Swingwood. "More than ever, customers are looking to associate themselves with brands that are creditable and relevant to their lives.

"Monster offers this through its association with music and sport, so that when people order a Monster Energy drink, they are also buying into the lifestyle."

Monetising Mocktails

One drinks market which has arguably not seen the same growth as others is non-alcoholic cocktails - guests looking for a pre-dinner drink in a restaurant or for something to sip in a bar while their friends enjoy a boozy tipple are often left with the choice of fruit juice or soda water.

But there is money to be made from these so-called mocktails, according to leading mixologist and bar owner Tony Conigliaro. "There is always a need for non-alcoholic cocktails," says Conigliaro when BigHospitality met him at his famous 69 Colebrooke Row bar.

"Some people don't drink, some people can't drink and some people shouldn't drink. It is important that you have that offering because for those three kinds of people it is very boring otherwise. There is obviously a mark-up, we run a business after all, but it is obviously not as big as the alcoholic mark-up - but it is still there."

Tea party

According to global market research firm Mintel, the tea market is estimated to reach £683 million in value sales in 2013 and grow by 0.6 per cent over 2013-17 to reach £687 million. This follows a decline in sales in 2011 and no growth in 2012 – The afternoon tea revival is back, driven in part by the growing consumer interest in baking, with tea houses and afternoon 'salons' now springing up all over the country.

Ordinary teabags dominate, accounting for more than 70 per cent of the market in value terms and more than 80 per cent in volumes. But segments such as instant, green and decaffeinated tea have experienced the fastest growth of late, appealing to time-pressed and health-conscious consumers and continuing to hold a niche share in the overall market.

Mintel's senior food and drink analyst Amy Price said: "The onus remains on operators to support usage by reminding consumers about tea and continuing to update their proposition to meet consumers’ changing expectations.

"Encouraging experimentation and trading up within the market remains key for driving growth.”-

Cocoa popularity

Last year, hot chocolate was added to the Office for National Statistics’ Basket of Goods and Services - proof that the drink has become mainstream rather than an occasional treat.

Elaine Higginson, managing director of United Coffee UK & Ireland - which recently launched a new hot chocolate range​ - says: "Operators need to take advantage of this growing demand by creating an extensive hot drinks menu, which includes a premium-tasting hot chocolate - our new Lyons hot chocolate fills that gap."

The latest Tea and Hot Drinks report from Mintel concludes that a wider investment in healthier varieties of hot chocolate would have marked potential in the UK market, with only just over a fifth saying that low-calorie hot chocolate does not taste as food as standard varieties. "A broadening of choice should help to mitigate the fact that a fifth of consumers are limiting the amount of hot chocolate they drink for health reasons," says the company.

"With the number of new products marketed as containing low/no/reduced fat/calories falling in 2012, this would indicate that the industry is cutting back on developing healthier varieties. Hot chocolate’s positioning as an indulgent treat is, however, a popular benefit that the market can effectively promote, with more than two fifths of consumers describing hot chocolate as comforting and indulgent."

Functional beverages

“The interest in non-alcoholic drinks that offer functional benefits - such as boosting the immune system or providing an energy boost - among a large pool of users, suggests promising opportunities for brand differentiation," says food & drink analyst Heidi Lanschützer.

Tim Chater from Future Drinks Co - which recently launched new healthy soft drinks brand Koji​ - said: "There is a major surge in demand for products like Koji from both the trade and the consumer in response to the concerns around sugar consumption, creating the perfect storm for us.

"We know that within the soft drinks market (5.5 billion litres and up 2 per cent year-on-year), the growing segments are adult soft drinks (valued at £163m and up 4 per cent) and the bottled water market (954 million litres and up 9 per cent). 

"But it is healthy products that are set to drive growth in the soft drinks category. We are also well-positioned to capitalise on the current anti-sugar campaign and with the government proposing to introduce a sugar tax and have the subject high on its health agenda, we are confident that Koji is relevant and will rouse significant interest.”

Smoothly does it

In the world of non-alcoholic drinks, making your own juices and smoothies is one way of standing out from the crowd - and for a successful all-day operation it's pretty much become a necessity.

Sam Harrison put freshly squeezed juices and smoothiees on the menu at his two all-day-dining restaurants - Harrison's in Balham and Sam's Brasserie in Chiswick - from day one. "I lived in Sydney for two years where every great cafe does amazing fresh juices and smoothies, and that's what I wanted to offer in my restaurants," says Harrisson.

"If you do breakfast and brunch seriously, which we do, then you've got to make juices and smoothies to order."

London's calling

For anyone who doesn't want to drink alcohol when they go out, the choice of alternatives on offer is often limited to fizzy pop and (often low-grade) fruit juices. But more and more restaurants, pubs and hotels are spotting an opportunity to upgrade their non-alcoholic offerings - and London is where it's at. 

Ludovic Rossignol, organiser of the London Coffee Festival, which takes place from 3-6 April, says: “The exciting coffee journey London has been experiencing for the last decade is an indication that it is fast becoming one of the most advanced coffee cities on earth. “The informal environment at The London Coffee Festival provides exhibitors with the opportunity to engage with our industry vistors in an interactive and memorable way."

For all the articles in our non-alcoholic drinks feature, click here.

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