On-Premise Opportunities
Sarah Theodore

The threat of economic slowdown is all over the news these days, leading some to theorize that certain beverage categories may be challenged as consumers opt to stay home rather than spend money dining and drinking out. But the restaurant industry says despite a slow economy, it expects sales increases of 4.4 percent in 2008. According to Dawn Sweeney, president and chief executive officer at the National Restaurant Association, “...while the overall economy is slowing, the industry will still show respectable growth.” That will bode well for beer, wine and spirits companies, but it looks like the trend will extend to non-alcohol beverages as well.
Snack and non-alcohol beverage bars will post the biggest gains, the NRA says. In the full-service realm, expanded menu choices will drive sales. “Specialty alcohol” is expected to be among the hot items at the bar, and food will focus on bite-sized desserts and tapas, or small plates.
Mintel International’s Menu Insights restaurant tracking service offered similar thoughts in its early-year predictions. According to its findings, restaurants will be putting more emphasis on their bar areas, creating new cocktails and beefing up appetizer menus to entice consumers to linger. “Look for beverage lists to grow longer than entrée lists, while appetizers occupy more of the menu in coming months,” the company says.
Don’t expect everything to be brand new. After all, in tough times people tend to look to the familiar for comfort. “Everyone’s looking for the next breakthrough item, the next mini burger, mojito or pomegranate flavor,” said Maria Caranfa, director of Menu Insights, in the announcement. “This year, we expect to see more twists on already popular items, giving people more flavors and options for the foods they love.”
As an example, classic cocktails are set to make a comeback, Mintel says. While the “Sex and the City” girls might have liked their fruity martinis and Cosmos, the Sidecar, Manhattan, Bellini and Tom Collins will be the thing this year. And the company predicts non-alcohol “mocktails” will be nearly as popular at the bar as their high-octane counterparts. But the key to the trend is “better non-alcohol drinks” that use ingredients such as lemonade with strawberry puree, fresh ginger or crushed mint leaves.
Both groups included the use of more locally produced offerings in their predictions for the new year. But don’t think those items don’t have to be limited to locally grown produce or meat — the opportunity could very well hold true for beverage companies that can play up their community connections.
Cover Story — Manhattan Beer Distributors
Category Focus — Wine & spirits
Special Report — Health & wellness
Beverage R&D — Product safety
Packaging — Shrink and stretch labels

2008 Soft Drink Report
Beverage R&D — Probiotics and Prebiotics
Packaging — Case Packers and Wrappers
Operations — Processing Automation