ew market research from Y-Pulse LLC shows that today’s preteens and teens are interested in more sophisticated and trendy beverages, including those served up in convenience stores and even their school cafeteria.
In a recent online survey, Y-Pulse asked middle and junior high school students to share what types of foods and drinks would be available in a “dream kitchen” at their school. “Interestingly enough, right behind pizza as a dream food, certain types of beverages came up frequently in our survey. Soda, milk and water are still staples of young people’s diets, but if they had a choice, they’d like the opportunity to fill their cup or grab a bottle of other types of beverages,” said Tami Cline, a longtime foodservice industry consultant and co-founder of Y-Pulse.
According to Dr. Jen Sun, president of Numedeon Inc., the parent company of Whyville, the findings from the survey are an accurate reflection of young consumers’ perspectives and can provide keen insight into that demographic for those who develop and market youth-oriented products. “This represents a new potential area for growth for foodservice operators trying to gauge the pulse of their young audience and boost incremental sales at the same time,” Sun said.
Smoothies were a frequently-cited beverage in the Y-Pulse online survey. Several respondents indicated they enjoy drinking fruit-based smoothies outside of school and would like to see their cafeteria mixing up smoothies or putting in some kind of smoothie dispenser.
Moreover, beyond basic strawberry and banana flavors, young school cafeteria patrons expressed a taste for exotic smoothies. As one participant wrote, “I want smoothies with unusual, colorful fruit, such as mangoes, passion fruit, kiwi and star fruit.”
It’s no secret that frozen beverages has been one of the hotter categories in the convenience store industry over the past three years. The good news is that NACS is predicting a sunny forecast for the years ahead.
For one, the beverages are a cost-effective indulgence that naturally complement foodservice programs. Second, the average convenience store enjoys a big 52% margin at its frozen beverage bar, according to NACS 2010 State of the Industry Data.
The outlook is definitely strong,” said John Notte, category manager for Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz. “We can expect the category to flourish over the next couple of years.”
Survey respondents also indicated a desire for different types of juices and juice-based drinks, such as cranberry and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Other beverages frequently mentioned in open-ended replies to Y-Pulse’s dream kitchen poll included: frozen energy drinks, iced and hot teas and coffee drinks.
“Quite a few students thought it would be a good idea to bring in a partner—a national frozen beverage provider and a coffee brand were mentioned by multiple survey respondents—to provide some of their favorite blended fruit drinks and coffee drinks,” Cline said.
There was also an overall demand for customization. Several respondents replied they’d like to see dispensers that would allow them to fill (and refill) soda, water, juice and milk. “Choice is very important to this age group and we saw that repeatedly in this survey, with their comments about being able to pick and pour their own drinks for breakfast and lunch,” Cline said.
Students also offered a few recommendations for traditional beverages. A number of respondents, for instance, emphasized that they wanted cold milk and fresh juice, underscoring this generation’s growing knowledge of and interest in food quality and freshness.