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Hamilton Beach Commercial Blog


Gen Z Beverage Trends Explained

11:00 AM on June 17, 2024

Gen Z Beverage Trends ExplainedYou’ve probably heard that Gen Z — those born between 1997 and 2012 — drinks much less alcohol, compared to older generations. But that doesn’t mean they’re not thirsty.

Driven in large part by younger consumers, beverage consumption in the United States has recently seen robust growth. This “could be due to consumers increasingly seeking out specialty beverages away from home — the average number of beverages purchased from foodservice has increased since 2020 — as a more affordable way to treat themselves,” Katie Belflower, associate editor at Technomic, told The Food Institute

They’re drinking punch. Mocktails. Slushies. Iced coffee drinks. Bubble tea. Arnold Palmers. Refreshers. Energy drinks. Gen Z’s taste in drinks is adventurous, wide-ranging, and insatiable. Let’s take a look at some of the beverage trends they’re defining.

Gen Z loves novelty + customization.

In 2010, entrepreneur Nicole Tanner founded Swig and popularized the concept (invented in Utah) of “dirty soda”: custom concoctions of soda spiked with syrups, fruit flavors, and cream. The Heartbreaker (Dr. Pepper + blackberry + coconut + half & half) is a popular morning option; Polar Punch (a blended frozen drink with an energy drink + ginger ale + blackberry + strawberry + raspberry + vanilla cream) is an afternoon pick-me-up. Every three months, Swig introduces two new drinks in each category, such as water-based refreshers or energy-drink revivers.

Customers can also create their own, which is key for Gen Z. “We really want your drink to be yours,” Tanner explained on the “Rock My Restaurant” podcast.

Gen Z loves “little treat” drinks.

“me when i have a bad day: i think i deserve a little treat,” music coordinator Jules Zucker wrote in a viral tweet. “me when i have a good day: i think i deserve a little treat.”

That pretty much sums up Gen Z’s feelings. “Little treat” culture refers to the practice of buying small, fun, pretty and delicious things to lift your mood or reward yourself… and a special drink fits the bill. “We want people to buy into the brand, that we are more than a drink shop. We are your favorite part of the day,” Tanner said.

CosMc’s, the beverage-focused spinoff from McDonald’s, is a perfect illustration of what the “treat drink” trend looks and tastes like. The menu at the first location (which will be refined over time) features something for every taste. The Sour Cherry Energy Burst is tart cherry slush with caffeine and fruity popping boba. Island Pick-Me-Up Punch is caffeinated lemonade with dried strawberries. Drinks can be customized with sprinkles, toppings, drizzles, dried fruit, and other add-ins.

Gen Z loves cold and frozen coffee drinks.

Gen Z consumers buy more cold coffee drinks than hot coffee, and chains like Starbucks now get a majority of their revenues from cold drinks. Restaurants old and new are doing their best to meet the demand.

Taco Bell recently tested its first ever frozen coffee drinks in Dallas, Texas. Coffee Chillers are blended iced coffee topped with a layer of cold foam and swirled with the customer’s choice of flavor: Mexican Chocolate, Caramel Churro or Spiced Vanilla. The Churro Chiller is a blended sweet shake topped with cold foam and churro crumbles that’s available in Mexican Chocolate, Dulce de Leche Coffee, Wild Strawberry and Sweet Vanilla. CosMc’s, too, is capitalizing on the foam + toppings trend. Its S’mores cold brew is finished with cold foam topped with toffee sprinkles.

Want to get in on the cold foam craze? The AirWhip™ Frothing Jar from Hamilton Beach Commercial makes it easy. Compatible with our high-performance blenders, the AirWhip™’s unique agitator froths skim milk into cold foam topping in less than 20 seconds.

Gen Z loves convenience.

Drive-thru-only is one of the biggest trends in the beverage industry. It makes sense: operating as a drive-thru speeds service and reduces the real estate footprint. Swig's top TikTok, with more than 2 million views, shows the massive flow of cars at a Texas location. With a small average check size of $4-$8, Swig maximizes profits by keeping the lines moving.

CosMc’s is drive-thru-only as well. So are 7 Brew and Dutch Bros., two fast-growing beverage chains that serve coffee drinks as well as smoothies, shakes, infused sparkling water, teas and frozen energy drinks.

Gen Z loves energy drinks.

Have you noticed how all the aforementioned beverage-only chains serve energy drinks on the menu? They know their Gen-Z audience well. One of the main energy drink trends we’re seeing is serving them frozen, or juicing up a frozen beverage with an energy boost.

Hamilton Beach Commercial has all the beverage-making equipment you need to keep the drinks coming. Explore our high-performance blenders, bar blenders, beverage automation solutions and more.

Topics: High Performance Blenders, Beverage Trends, cold foam, drink trends, Energy drink trends

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